Assessment can be used to support learning, as well as validate it. Assessment is a daily ongoing part of teaching, but can also be scheduled to occur at certain critical points during or at the end of the school year. Which type of assessment you choose should match the purpose behind the questions you’re trying to answer about student learning. With the numerous assessments available to educators comes the abundant streams of student data that can easily inundate teachers and administrators alike (not to mention students).
What to do with all this rich data? Good question! Here are some ways that teachers that can help them interpret assessment data.
- Offer at-a-glance insight into the strengths and weaknesses of student learning. Best paired with other sources of information, such as classwork, additional assessments (or quizzes) and communication to frame a complete picture of student understanding.
- Helpful when setting goals with students, monitoring student growth and learning patterns over time.
Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) – an estimate of the achievement of a test score.
- A low SEM highlights how much confidence should be associated with a score. The lower the SEM, the more likely the data is accurate. Useful for following up with students to discuss their results after an uncharacteristically low or high performance on an assessment.
Percentiles – where a student’s score falls in relationship to the proportion of students used in the norming sample who had a lower score.
- Useful to understand how students in a class are performing relative to their peers, particularly when setting goals with students, creating flexible groupings, or evaluating program effectiveness.
Mean and Median – mean is the arithmetic average of a group of scores, and median is the middle score in a list of scores.
- Provides central points of reference when setting goals with students or reviewing performance of a group, whether a class, grade or larger sample.
- Valuable when comparing and organizing student assessment results to inform instructional groupings or programs.
Standard Deviation – the homogeneity/heterogeneity of the instructional level within a group of students. The higher the standard deviation, the more academically diverse the group.
- Can be useful when determining how diverse student performance is within a group. An important factor for understanding why an average (mean) score is higher or lower for a group, and whether whole group or small group instruction might be more effective.
For teachers and administrators, assessment data can be cumbersome to parse and connect back to instructional strategies. That said it’s valuable, and applying data to instruction can be instrumental in moving student learning forward. Assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning process and understanding the data it provides is essential.