What Is the Role of Assessment in Learning?

Written by kenneth v. oster Google
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What Is the Role of Assessment in Learning?
Assessment is a tool to measure student learning. (taking test image by Petro Feketa from Fotolia.com)

Teachers use assessments to determined how much students have learnt during a unit of instruction. Since students learn in different ways, teachers develop a wide range of assessments to provide objective measurement of student learning. Student assessments may be in the form of a written test, or may be through assessing student participation in a hands-on activity, such as a lab project.


The definition of assessment contains more meaning that simply the word test. The Southbank Institute of Technology in Australia defines assessment as "the process of gathering and judging evidence in order to decide whether a person has achieved a standard or objective." An assessment must produce a measurable result to know that learning has taken place.


An approach to assessment that is focused on activities that students complete in the classroom is called "learning-centred teaching." This approach to assessment is directed at determining what students are learning in the classroom on a daily basis. According to Virginia Commonwealth University, the teacher should "interject occasional activities that are designed to gather data from the students as to how well they are understanding the material, or how well they are developing a particular skill."

Diverse Learners

American state schools have diverse student populations. Schools have students that are considered gifted, physically challenged and non-English speaking, for example. Each student will learn in different ways. According to an organisation called Developmental Assessment, "assessment should include information about how a child learns, not just what a child is able to do." A teacher will consider the students in her classroom and provide objective assessments that meet the academic needs of each student.


Students enter the classroom with preconceived ideas of what will be required to pass the course. A research paper by The Educause Learning Initiative states that "research has shown that students engage with subject matter based in part on their expectations about how their achievement will be evaluated." A student's engagement in the subject, and preparation for assessments, will be driven by his perception of how success or failure will be measured.

What Is the Role of Assessment in Learning?
A student listening to assessment instructions. (Strawberry blonde taking notes image by Sandra from Fotolia.com)


The challenges that students and teachers will face in the 21st century will be constantly changing. Technological advances are changing the way people live. The educational response to new technologies and social structures will require students to learn in ways that were inconceivable just 20 years ago. Old ways of assessing student achievement are rapidly becoming ineffective and inadequate. For student assessment to remain relevant it must be sensitive to a changing world.

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