Assessment for Learning & Primary School

Updated February 21, 2017

Assessing student progress is a very important part of education. Whether you are a teacher assessing an individual student's progress or a school district, state institution or federal agency evaluating groups of students, assessment is one of the primary functions of teaching and education. Learning assessments can take many forms, depending on how the results will be used.


Learning assessments in primary schools have changed over the years. Traditional methods of elementary school learning assessments include student assignments and tests to evaluate how effectively a teacher presents and transmits knowledge of a subject area. Over time, many states began using standardised testing to check learning levels of students statewide. An example of statewide testing programs include the Colorado Student Assessment Program for students in grades three to 10. Scores from CSAP are aggregated with scores from other states into the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).


The function of primary school learning assessments is to establish how much a particular child or group of children is learning. Classroom-based assessments, like teacher-administered tests and assignments given to the students, can assess an individual student's learning progress. Larger testing groups, like CSAP and the results aggregated in the NAEP, can help to establish how groups of students are progressing in certain subject areas, like mathematics, writing, geography and history.


Primary school learning assessments can contain different features, depending on whether they are designed for individual assessment or for the assessment of larger groups of students. Teachers trying to evaluate how much the students have learnt can be creative with tests and learning assessments. Anything from individual interviews--asking a student questions about the material and evaluating the responses--to formal written exams--like spelling exams--can give a teacher a good sense of how a child is progressing. Assessing larger groups of students usually involves multiple-choice examinations, to facilitate machine grading, and short written essays.


It is important for a teacher to assess how each student is progressing. Understanding where a particular child is having trouble or falling behind allows a teacher to adjust teaching styles and to provide additional help to a particular student who is having trouble in particular areas. Larger state and national assessments help to ensure that schools are meeting predefined educational standards.


There are many types of primary school learning assessments. One way of defining the types of assessments is to look at them as either formal or informal assessments. Formal assessments include tests, assignments and homework. Informal assessments include a teacher asking questions in class or talking with students about material previously presented. Teachers in a class have the most flexibility with selecting the type of assessment. Assessing larger groups of children almost always requires the application of formal educational assessments.

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Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.