When educators are assessment literate, they are informed, reflective, and proactive practitioners. Educators in classrooms actively seek out evidence of student misunderstanding to address during the course of instruction; all educators actively seek out evidence of student needs to inform educational practice and policy. All educators regard both formal and informal assessment as means to continuously improve their own practices. Assessment-literate educators are aware of the harm that flawed assessment practices do to students and they collaborate with colleagues to make programmatic and personal changes that increase student learning and sense of self-efficacy.
Sound assessment practice is an essential component of successful teaching and learning. As Bonner shared about research from Stiggins, Conklin and the US Office of Educational Research and Improvement, “… the frequency with which teachers are involved in assessment-related activities, estimated at as much as one-third of their professional time.” (McMillan, James H., Editor. SAGE Handbook of RESEARCH ON CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, 2013) Considering how much time teachers spend on these activities, we believe the development of assessment literacy and sound assessment practice is key to making this time commitment prove as beneficial as possible.
If you asked educators what their definition of Assessment Literacy is, you could get numerous answers. The National Task Force on Assessment Education defines Assessment Literacy as follows:
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.
Assessment-literate educators understand the importance of:
- Beginning assessment with a clear purpose
- Starting with clear and specific learning target(s) to be assessed
- Building high-quality assessments to fit this intended context
- Communicating results in ways that assure understanding by recipients
- Linking assessment and student motivation in ways that keep all students striving for academic success
The National Task Force on Assessment Education has provided a much more in depth definition of assessment literacy, diving into assessment purpose, learning targets, assessment quality, the communication of assessment results, and assessment and motivation – critical components that help form the foundation for overall assessment literacy. We’ll be diving into these foundational components in greater detail in subsequent blogs.