Assessment: A Stool Metaphor
Many people have the same question when it comes to discussing education: What is assessment and what value does it hold? Christopher R. Gareis and Leslie W. Grant, authors of “Teacher Made Assessment”, speak to the value of assessment and why it has merit in the education system. Curriculum is an important part of teaching, in that it outlines the specific learning expectations per subject in grade-level increments. Instruction is where the teaching comes to life. Teachers take the curriculum topics and provide opportunities for students to learn this knowledge. But how do we know that the students have truly learned from these lessons? To what degree have they learned the topic? This is where assessment comes in.
Figure 1.1 displays the three components of student learning (curriculum, instruction, assessment) in a simple metaphor: a stool. Curriculum is what information is being taught, instruction is how we teach this knowledge, and assessment is the nature and degree of student learning. The imagery of the stool metaphor speaks volumes in that student learning can only be stable when all three components are present. Without assessment, education becomes a one-way, teacher-to-student transfer of information with no expectation or accountability of actually learning.
In my experience as a student, I always feared assessment, but understood its value. Assessment typically becomes a grade, which can be intimidating and stress-provoking for many students. Without assessment, though, how does a teacher know we’ve learned? Also, what is the point of learning if we don’t put it into action? Assessment provides us with that opportunity to use our learning to complete a task.
Now, as a teacher, I find myself spending a lot of brain power into creating the assessment component of any lesson or unit. What do I actually want my students to get out of this? How are they going to show me that they’ve learned the information? How can I assess my students without scaring the you-know-what out of them? Assessment serves an important purpose. Let’s continue to explore assessment so that our students learning remains as stable as a stool.