Our first post in breaking down the definition of assessment literacy, we detailed the purpose of assessment. In this post we’ll dive into learning targets and assessment quality. But first, it’s important to understand the overall definition of assessment literacy as defined by The National Task Force on Assessment Education:
Assessment is the process of gathering information about student learning to inform education-related decisions. Assessments can reflect a wide variety of learning targets using a range of methods serving many important users and uses at a variety of levels from the classroom to the boardroom. In this sense, assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning process.
Our assessments work best in contexts of strong assessment literacy, and they fail us when assessment literacy is lacking. One becomes assessment literate by mastering basic principles of sound assessment practice, coming to believe strongly in their consistent, high-quality application in order to meet the diverse needs of all students, and acting assertively based on those values. The specific nature of those applications vary with one’s role in the educational process.
When it comes to learning targets, assessment literate individuals understand that they need to be assessed form the foundation of the tasks, items, or exercise and scoring procedures that will make up the assessment. Indeed, the target(s) of interest determine the assessment method(s) to be used. Therefore, assessors must begin assessment development and use with those learning expectations clearly and unambiguously defined. Finally, those engaged in assessment understand that learning targets vary profoundly in type and complexity across subjects and ascending grade levels, as well as according to individual student needs. For this reason, a variety of assessment methods must come into play in classrooms, in schools, and across local assessment systems.
Assessment literate individuals believe that intended learning target(s) must be clear, appropriate, and available for all involved—most importantly students—to see from the outset of instruction and assessment. In addition, they believe that assessors themselves must be confident, competent masters of the learning targets to be reflected in the assessment.
When it comes to the assessment quality, assessment literate individuals understand that the assessment is comprised of exercises that present challenges to the examinee and elicit a response to be evaluated in terms of performance criteria. They understand that, regardless of their origin (inside or beyond the classroom) or format (e.g., oral, written, or performed), assessments must be valid; that is, tailored to fit the context as defined by the purpose to be served, target to be reflected, and the needs of students. Given this, they understand that assessors must rely on methods capable of providing the evidence needed to support a strong inference about student mastery of the learning target(s) in question. Everything from item or exercise selection to scoring or evaluation procedures must allow the assessor to draw sound conclusions about student learning at that point in time. To that end assessment literate individuals are expected to design assessments that are responsive and engaging for students of all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Assessment literate people believe the results of high-quality assessments accurately reflect the extent of student mastery of the learning target. Assessments must do so if sound instructional decisions are to be made on the basis of those results.
Come back for our last post in the series and we’ll finish our detailed definition of assessment literacy by diving into the communication of assessment results and assessment and motivation.