Characteristics of Effective Assessments

The purpose of assessment is to gather reliable information for teachers to make informed judgments about the progress of students against specific task criteria and achievement against common standards. Characteristics of assessment that will effectively gather this information are outlined below:

1. The primary purpose of assessment is to improve student performance
2. Good assessment is based on a vision of the kinds of learning we most value for students and how they might best achieve these. It sets out to measure what matters most.
3. Assessment should be based on an understanding of how students learn
4. Assessment is most effective when it reflects the fact that learning is a complex process that is multi-dimensional, integrated and revealed in student performance over time.
5. Assessment should be an integral component of course design and not something to add afterwards
6. The teaching and learning elements of each program should be designed in full knowledge of the sorts of assessment students will undertake, and vice versa, so that students can demonstrate what they have learned and see the results of their efforts.
7. Good assessment provides useful information to report credibly to parents on student achievement
8. A variety of assessment methods fit for purpose provides teachers with evidence of what students know and can do, and their particular strengths and weaknesses. Teachers then can report to parents on how far their child has progressed during the year, where they are compared to the relevant standards, and what the student, the parent and the teacher need do to improve the student’s performance.
9. Good assessment requires clarity of purpose, goals, standards and criteria
10. Assessment works best when it is based on clear statements of purpose and goals for the course, the standards which students are expected to achieve, and the criteria against which we measure success. Assessment criteria in particular need to be understandable and explicit so students know what is expected of them from each assessment they encounter. Staff, students, parents and the community should all be able to see why assessment is being used, and the reasons for choosing each individual form of assessment in its particular context.
11. Good assessment requires a variety of measures
12. It is generally the case that a single assessment instrument will not tell us all we need to know about student achievement and how it can be improved. We therefore need to be familiar with a variety of assessment tools so we can match them closely to the type of information we seek.
13. Assessment methods used should be valid, reliable and consistent
14. Assessment instruments and processes should be chosen which directly measure what they are intended to measure. They should include the possibility of moderation between teachers where practical and appropriate to enhance objectivity and contribute to a shared understanding of the judgments that are made.
15. Assessment requires attention to outcomes and processes
16. Information about the outcomes students have achieved is very important to know where each student ends up, but so too is knowing about their experiences along the way and, in particular, the kind of effort that led to these outcomes.
17. Assessment works best when it is ongoing rather than episodic
18. Student learning is best fostered when assessment involves a linked series of activities undertaken over time, so that progress is monitored towards the intended course goals and the achievement of relevant standards.
19. Assessment for improved performance involves feedback and reflection
20. All assessment methods should allow students to receive feedback on their learning and performance so assessment serves as a developmental activity aimed at improving student learning. Assessment should also provide students and staff with opportunities to reflect on both their practice and their learning overall.

When assessment is addressed in terms of the principles outlined above it not only becomes a key part of the planning process for improved student learning, but a powerful source of personal and institutional professional development and learning as well.