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ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION IN EDUCATION
By: Tomás de Aquino Caluyua Yambi
Unleashing the potential of continuous improvement in teaching/learning
requires an appreciation of the difference in spirit between assessment and evaluation.
Assessment is frequently confused and confounded with evaluation. The purpose of
an evaluation is to judge the quality of a performance or work product against a
standard. The fundamental nature of assessment is that a mentor values helping a
mentee and is willing to expend the effort to provide quality feedback that will
enhance the mentee's future performance. While both processes involve collecting
data about a performance or work product, what is done with these data in each
process is substantially different and invokes a very different mindset. This paper first
looks at what assessment is and the various aspects involving. Then attention will be
turn to evaluation and its components. Furthermore, it will look at testing as a tool
used by both assessment and evaluation, lastly some differences between assessment
and evaluation will be presented.
2. Epistemology of Assessment and Evaluation
Assessment and Evaluation are two different concepts with a number of
differences between them starting from the objectives and focus. Before we go into
details about these differences that set assessment and evaluation apart, let us first pay
attention to the two words themselves. According to the Webster Dictionary (2017),
assessment means appraisal. Then, according to the same dictionary, evaluation is
estimation or determining the value of something. So, these processes are used in the
field of education very often to test the quality of teaching and learning processes.
That is done to let the educational institutes find out what more can be done to
improve the education offered by those educational institutes.
3. What is Assessment
As stated above, and according to Brown, (1990) assessment refers to a related
series of measures used to determine a complex attribute of an individual or group of
individuals. This involves gathering and interpreting information about student level
of attainment of learning goals.
Assessments also are used to identify individual student weaknesses and
strengths so that educators can provide specialized academic support educational
programming, or social services. In addition, assessments are developed by a wide
array of groups and individuals, including teachers, district administrators,
universities, private companies, state departments of education, and groups that
include a combination of these individuals and institutions.
In classroom assessment, since teachers themselves develop, administer and analyze
the questions, they are more likely to apply the results of the assessment to their own
teaching. Therefore, it provides feedback on the effectiveness of instruction and gives
students a measure of their progress. As Brown (1990) maintains, two major functions
can be pointed out for classroom assessment: One is to show whether or not the
learning has been successful, and the other one is to clarify the expectations of the
teachers from the students (Brown, 1990).
Assessment is a process that includes four basic components:
1) Measuring improvement over time.
2) Motivating students to study.
3) Evaluating the teaching methods.
4) Ranking the students' capabilities in relation to the whole group evaluation.
3.1. Why Assessment is Important
First and foremost, assessment is important because it drives students learning
(Brown 1990). Whether we like it or not, most students tend to focus their energies on
the best or most expeditious way to pass their ‘tests.’ Based on this knowledge, we
can use our assessment strategies to manipulate the kinds of learning that takes place.
For example, assessment strategies that focus predominantly on recall of knowledge
will likely promote superficial learning. On the other hand, if we choose assessment
strategies that demand critical thinking or creative problem solving, we are likely to
realize a higher level of student performance or achievement. In addition, good
assessment can help students become more effective self-directed learners (Darling-
Hammond 2006). As indicated above, motivating and directing learning is only one
purpose of assessment. Well-designed assessment strategies also play a critical role in
educational decision-making and are a vital component of ongoing quality
improvement processes at the lesson, course and/or curriculum level.
3.2. Types and Approaches to Assessment
Numerous terms are used to describe different types to learner assessment. Although
somewhat arbitrary, it is useful to these various terms as representing dichotomous
poles (McAlpine, 2002).
3.3. Formative vs. Summative Assessment
Formative assessment is designed to assist the learning process by providing
feedback to the learner, which can be used to identify strengths and weakness and
hence improve future performance. Formative assessment is most appropriate where
the results are to be used internally by those involved in the learning process
(students, teachers, curriculum developers). Summative assessment is used primarily
to make decisions for grading or determine readiness for progression. Typically
summative assessment occurs at the end of an educational activity and is designed to
judge the learner’s overall performance. In addition to providing the basis for grade
assignment, summative assessment is used to communicate students’ abilities to
external stakeholders, e.g., administrators and employers (Darling-Hammond, 2006).
3.4. Informal vs. Formal Assessment
With informal assessment, the judgments are integrated with other tasks, e.g.,
lecturer feedback on the answer to a question or preceptor feedback provided while
performing a bedside procedure. Informal assessment is most often used to provide
formative feedback. As such, it tends to be less threatening and thus less stressful to
the student. However, informal feedback is prone to high subjectivity or bias. Formal
assessment occurs when students are aware that the task that they are doing is for
assessment purposes, e.g., a written examination. Most formal assessments also are
summative in nature and thus tend to have greater motivation impact and are
associated with increased stress. Given their role in decision-making, formal
assessments should be held to higher standards of reliability and validity than
informal assessments (McAlpine 2002).
3.5. Continuous vs. Final Assessment
Continuous assessment occurs throughout a learning experience (intermittent
is probably a more realistic term). Continuous assessment is most appropriate when
student and/or instructor knowledge of progress or achievement is needed to
determine the subsequent progression or sequence of activities (McAlpine 2002).
Continuous assessment provides both students and teachers with the information
needed to improve teaching and learning in process. Obviously, continuous
assessment involves increased effort for both teacher and student. Final (or terminal)
assessment is that which takes place only at the end of a learning activity. It is most
appropriate when learning can only be assessed as a complete whole rather than as
constituent parts. Typically, final assessment is used for summative decision-making.
Obviously, due to its timing, final assessment cannot be used for formative purposes
3.6. Process vs. Product Assessment
Process assessment focuses on the steps or procedures underlying a particular
ability or task, i.e., the cognitive steps in performing a mathematical operation or the
procedure involved in analyzing a blood sample. Because it provides more detailed
information, process assessment is most useful when a student is learning a new skill
and for providing formative feedback to assist in improving performance (McAlpine
2002). Product assessment focuses on evaluating the result or outcome of a process.
Using the above examples, we would focus on the answer to the math computation or
the accuracy of the blood test results. Product assessment is most appropriate for
documenting proficiency or competency in a given skill, i.e., for summative purposes.
In general, product assessments are easier to create than product assessments,
requiring only a specification of the attributes of the final product (McAlpine 2002).
3.7. Divergent vs. Convergent Assessment
Divergent assessments are those for which a range of answers or solutions
might be considered correct. Examples include essay tests. Divergent assessments
tend to be more authentic and most appropriate in evaluating higher cognitive skills.
However, these types of assessment are often time consuming to evaluate and the
resulting judgments often exhibit poor reliability. A convergent assessment has only
one correct response (per item). Objective test items are the best example and
demonstrate the value of this approach in assessing knowledge. Obviously,
convergent assessments are easier to evaluate or score than divergent assessments.
Unfortunately, this “ease of use” often leads to their widespread application of this
approach even when contrary to good assessment practices. Specifically, the
familiarity and ease with which convergent assessment tools can be applied leads to
two common evaluation fallacies: the Fallacy of False Quantification (the tendency to
focus on what’s easiest to measure) and the Law of the Instrument Fallacy (molding
the evaluation problem to fit the tool) (McAlpine 2002).
3.8. Approaches to Assessment
In approaches to assessment, two central tendencies emerge which are relevant
to language as subject. One places emphasis on the assessment of learning where
reliable, objective measures are a high priority. The focus here is on making
summative judgements which in practice is likely to involve more formal
examinations and tests with marks schemes to ensure that the process is sound
(McAlpine 2002). An alternative approach is to change the emphasis from assessment
of learning to assessment for learning, implying a more formative approach where
there is much more emphasis on feedback to improve performance. The approach
here might be through course work and portfolio assessment in which diverse
information can be gathered which reflects the true broad nature of the subject
4. Between Assessment and Evaluation
After collecting data from students there is then the need for assigning
students with numbers or others symbols to a certain characteristic of the objects of
interest according to some specified rules in order to reflect quantities of properties.
This is called measurement and can be attributed to students’ achievement,
personality traits or attitudes. Measurement then is the process of determining a
quantitative or qualitative attribute of an individual or group of individuals that is of
academic relevance. A test will serve as the vehicle used to observe an attribute
whether in a written test or an observation or an oral question or an assessment
intended to measure the respondents' knowledge or other abilities. Then if the test is
the vehicle then the test score is the indication of what was observed through the test
and can also be quantitative and qualitative in nature.
A good test should possess not only validity and reliability but also
objectivity, objective basedness, comprehensiveness, discriminating power,
practicability, comparability and also utility (Shohamy 1993). Objectivity is when a
test is to be said objective if it is free from personal biases in interpreting its scope as
well as in scoring the responses. It can be increased by using more objective type test
items and the answers are scored according to model answers are provided. Objective
basedness is that a test should be based on pre-determined objectives. And a test setter
should have definite idea about the objective behind each item (Shohamy 1993).
Comprehensiveness is that the test should cover the whole syllabus, due importance
should be given all the relevant learning materials, and a test should cover all the
anticipated objectives. Validity is the degree to which test measures what it is to
measure. Reliability is of a test refers to the degree of consistency which it measures
what is intended to measure. A test may be reliable but need not be valid. This is
because it may yield consistent scores but these scores need not be representing what
is exactly measured what we want to measure (Shohamy 2001). Discriminating power
of the test is its power to discriminate between the upper and lower groups who took
the test. The test should have different difficulty level of questions. Practicality of the
test depends on administrative, scoring, interpretative ease and economy.
Comparability is when a test possesses comparability when scores resulting from its
use can be interpreted in terms of a common base that has a natural or accepted
meaning. Then lastly the utility, a test has utility if it provides the test condition that
would facilitate realization of the purpose for which it is mean.
Educators believe that every measurement device should possess certain
qualities. Perhaps the two most common technical concepts in measurement are
reliability and validity (Weir 2005). Any kind of assessment, whether traditional or
"authentic," must be developed in a way that gives the assessor accurate information
about the performance of the individual (Weir 2005). At one extreme, we wouldn't
have an individual paint a picture if we wanted to assess writing skills. A test high
validity has to be reliable also for the score will be consistent in both cases. A valid
test is also a reliable test, but a reliable test may not be a valid one (Shohamy 2001).
5. What is Evaluation
Evaluation is determining the value of something. So, more specifically, in the
field of education, evaluation means measuring or observing the process to judge it or
to determine it for its value by comparing it to others or some kind of a standard
(Weir & Roberts, 1994). The focus of the evaluation is on grades. It is rather a final
process that is determined to understand the quality of the process. The quality of the
process is mostly determined by grades. That is such an evaluation can come as a
paper that is given grades. This type of paper will test the knowledge of each student.
So, here with the grades, the officials come try to measure the quality of the
programme. Furthermore, Evaluation is comparing a student's achievement with other
students or with a set of standards (Howard & Donaghue 2015). It refers to
consideration of evidence in the light of value standards and in terms of the particular
situations and the goals, which the group or individuals are striving to attain.
Evaluation designates more comprehensive concept of measurement than is implied
in conventional tests and examination. The emphasis of evaluation is based upon
broad personality change and the major objectives in the educational program
(Howard & Donaghue 2015).
Evaluation can, and should, however, be used as an ongoing management and
learning tool to improve learning, including five basic components according to
1) Articulating the purpose of the educational system.
2) Identifying and collecting relevant information.
3) Having ideas that are valuable and useful to learners in their lives and
4) Analyzing and interpreting information for learners.
5) Classroom management or classroom decision making.
Well-run classes and effective programs are those that can demonstrate the
achievement of results. Results are derived from good management. Good
management is based on good decision making. Good decision making depends on
good information. Good information requires good data and careful analysis of the
data. These are all critical elements of evaluation.
5.1. Functions of evaluations
Evaluation refers to a periodic process of gathering data and then analyzing or
ordering it in such a way that the resulting information can be used to determine how
effective your teaching or program is, and the extent to which it is achieving its stated
objectives and anticipated results (Howard & Donaghue (2015). Teachers can and
should conduct internal evaluations to get information about their programs, to know
who passes and who fails so that they can make sound decisions about their practices.
Internal evaluation should be conducted on an ongoing basis and applied
conscientiously by teachers at every level of an institution in all program areas. In
addition, all of the program's participants (managers, staff, and beneficiaries) should
be involved in the evaluation process in appropriate ways. This collaboration helps
ensure that the evaluation is fully participatory and builds commitment on the part of
all involved to use the results to make critical program improvements (Howard &
Although most evaluations are done internally, conducted by local
stakeholders, there is still a need for larger-scale, external evaluations conducted
periodically by individuals from outside the program or institution. Most often these
external evaluations are required for funding and accreditation purposes or to answer
questions about the program's long-term impact by looking at changes in
demographic indicators such as graduation rate, changes n economy and other levels.
In addition, occasionally a teacher may be observed by an external stakeholder with
purpose of assessing programmatic or operating problems that have been identified
but that cannot be fully diagnosed or resolved through the findings of internal
evaluation (Weir & Roberts, 1994).
5.2. Principles of Evaluation
Here are some principles to consider for your own classroom summarised
from (Weir & Roberts, 1994; Howard & Donaghue 2015; (Kellaghan & Stufflebean
Ø Effective evaluation is a continuous, on-going process. Much more than
determining the outcome of learning, it is rather a way of gauging learning
over time. Learning and evaluation are never completed; they are always
evolving and developing.
Ø A variety of evaluative tools is necessary to provide the most accurate
assessment of students' learning and progress. Dependence on one type of tool
to the exclusion of others deprives students of valuable learning opportunities
and robs you of measures that help both students and the overall program
Ø Evaluation must be a collaborative activity between teachers and students.
Students must be able to assume an active role in evaluation so they can begin
to develop individual responsibilities for development and self-monitoring.
Ø Evaluation needs to be authentic. It must be based on the natural activities and
processes students do both in the classroom and in their everyday lives. For
example, relying solely on formalized testing procedures might send a signal
to children that learning is simply a search for “right answers.”
6. Assessment vs. evaluation
Depending on the area of study, authority or reference consulted, assessment
and evaluation may be treated as synonyms or as distinctly different concepts. In
education, assessment is widely recognized as an ongoing process aimed at
understanding and improving student learning. Assessment is concerned with
converting expectations to results. It can be a process by which information is
collected through the use of test, interview, questionnaire observation, etc. For
example, having your students to write on a given topic your are collecting
information, this is what we mean here by assessment (Kizlik 2010; Richards and
Schmidt 2002; Weir & Roberts, 1994).
Evaluation on the other hand, is recognized as a more scientific process aimed
at determining what can be known about performance capabilities and how these are
best measured. Evaluation is concerned with issues of validity, accuracy, reliability,
analysis, and reporting. It can therefore be seen as the systematic gathering of
information for purposes of decision-making, using both quantitative methods (tests)
and qualitative methods (observations, ratings and value judgments) with purpose of
judging the gathered information. In other words, when the teachers receive written
assignment from students, some kind of correction and/or response and a possible
mark will be given. Thus we are in presence of evaluation. However, assessment and
evaluation are similar in that they both involve specifying criteria and collecting
data/information. In most academic environments, they are different in purpose,
setting criteria, control of the process, and response. For example, an instructor can
use the results of a midterm exam for both assessment and evaluation purposes. The
results can be used to review with the students course material related to common
mistakes on the exam (i.e. to improve student learning as in assessment) or to decide
what measurement or grade to give each student (i.e. to judge student achievement in
the course as in evaluation) (Howard & Donaghue 2015).
7. Key Differences Between Assessment and Evaluation
The significant differences between assessment and evaluation are discussed
in the points given below summarized from (Weir & Roberts, 1994; Howard &
Donaghue 2015; (Kellaghan & Stufflebean 2003):
1. The process of collecting, reviewing and using data, for the purpose of
improvement in the current performance, is called assessment. A process of
passing judgment, on the basis of defined criteria and evidence is called
2. Assessment is diagnostic in nature as it tends to identify areas of
improvement. On the other hand, evaluation is judgemental, because it aims at
providing an overall grade.
3. The assessment provides feedback on performance and ways to enhance
performance in future. As against this, evaluation ascertains whether the
standards are met or not.
4. The purpose of assessment is formative, i.e. to increase quality whereas
evaluation is all about judging quality, therefore the purpose is summative.
5. Assessment is concerned with process, while evaluation focuses on product.
6. In an assessment, the feedback is based on observation and positive &
negative points. In contrast to evaluation, in which the feedback relies on the
level of quality as per set standard.
7. In an assessment, the relationship between assessor and assessee is reflective,
i.e. the criteria are defined internally. On the contrary, the evaluator and
evaluatee share a prescriptive relationship, wherein the standards are imposed
8. The criteria for assessment are set by both the parties jointly. As opposed to
evaluation, wherein the criteria are set by the evaluator.
An effective, goal-oriented, teaching-learning sequence contains clearly
understood objectives, productive classroom activities, and a sufficient amount of
feedback to make students aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their
performances. Assessment and evaluation are related to both instructional objectives
and classroom learning activities and are indispensable elements in the learning
process. They are useful for gathering data/information needed into various interests.
The data can be used to make decision about the content and methods of instruction,
to make decisions about classrooms climate, to help communicate what is important,
and to assign grades. Among other techniques to do evaluation and assessment, The
teachers can use tests to evaluating and assessing, starting from the small one,
incorporating evaluation into the class routine, setting up an easy and efficient record-
keeping system, establishing an evaluation plan, and personalizing the evaluation
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