Classroom Assesment

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APPLIED MEASUREMENT IN EDUCATION, 16(1), 27–54 Copyright © 2003, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Classroom Assessment, Student Motivation, and Achievement in High School Social Studies Classes Susan M. Brookhart
School of Education Duquesne University

Daniel T. Durkin
School of Education Duquesne University

The purpose of this case study was to describe a variety of classroom assessment events in high school social studies classes. This study included data from 12 classroom assessment events in the classes of a teacher–researcher in an urban high school. Four assessments in each course of the teacher-researcher’s entire teaching load were studied. The courses were world cultures, honors U.S. history, and philosophy. The total number of students was 96; sample sizes for individual assessment analyses ranged from 11 to 39. Results supported the conclusion that even within the same classroom assessment environment, student perceptions of the assigned task and self-efficacy for the task, reported mental effort invested, goal orientations, and learning strategy use differed by assessment. The mean level of these variables differed by type of student. Observed correlations among these variables differed between paper-and-pencil tests and performance assessments. Potential implications for classroom assessment practices are discussed.

When researchers want to understand what students know, classroom assessment is not the tip but the bulk of the iceberg. Large-scale assessment is more carefully studied, better funded, and higher profile than is classroom assessment—but the lion’s share of assessment that students experience is classroom assessment. It is from frequent and regular classroom assessment and teacher feedback that Requests for reprints should be sent to Susan M. Brookhart, School of Education, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282. E-mail: brookhart@duq.edu

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BROOKHART AND DURKIN

students get a sense of what they know and do not know, what they might do about this, and how they feel about it. Understanding the dynamics of classroom assessment is essential for improving education or even for understanding the current state of learning in classrooms. Each time a particular assessment task is assigned, students experience expectations and the degree to which they meet these expectations; these segments can be called classroom assessment events (Brookhart, 1997b). A classroom assessment event may be considered a special case of an activity segment—a lesson or part of a lesson that has a focus, a beginning and an end, participants, materials, and goals (Stodolsky, 1988)—in which students realize that the degree to which their performance achieves the goal will be judged by the teacher. Many classroom assessment events occur in typical classrooms, all intertwined. The overall sense of expectations that these events build up, the meaning or sense that students make out of this aspect of their classroom, composes the classroom assessment environment (Stiggins & Conklin, 1992). The classroom assessment environment, as Stiggins and Conklin (1992) originally described it, was more about teacher practices than about student perceptions. Important to creating a classroom assessment environment were the purposes for which teachers used classroom assessments; the assessment methods used, the criteria for selecting them, and their quality; the teacher’s use of feedback; the teacher’s preparation and background in assessment; the teacher’s perceptions of students; and the assessment policy environment. All these except the last are under the teacher’s control. Thus, a teacher’s classes had an assessment “character” or environment that stemmed from the teacher’s general approach to assessment. Haydel, Oescher, and Kirby (1999) called teachers’ beliefs about testing and assessment practices “the evaluative culture of classrooms” (p. 1) and found that these beliefs were related to teacher efficacy. In turn,...
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