Important Principles of Good Classroom Assessment

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INTRODUCTION

Assessment is a basic function of classroom educators, one that is guided and influenced by a countless factors. Most of the information that learners have about their learning and what that means about the subject, about themselves, and about their futures -comes from classroom assessments. Similarly, most of what parents and educators know about their children’s learning comes from classroom assessments. As well as being directly evident in schools, classroom assessment is linked by extensive research to the professional practice of educators. As well, legislation and policies in South Africa identify assessment as a central role of educators.

It is essential to recognise that educator’s understandings and beliefs about learner learning, and classroom assessment influence the learning environments created for the learners in their schools. Within their schools, educators are the classroom managers with the responsibility of fostering cultures that promote learner learning. Because of the direct nature of the link between teaching practice and learner learning, what educators believe about assessment and how these beliefs shape their teaching practices sheds light on important connections among teaching and learning.

As classroom assessment movement generates important discussions about assumptions, understandings, and beliefs that underpin learner learning, it also challenges both traditional and current methods of assessment and that indicates negative impact on learner’s achievement. As such, assessment influence teaching and learning. To prove this, educational research is producing a significant body of evidence to support assessment for learning as a way to enrich learner learning and improve learner achievement. The intent of this essay is to give a short review of the educator’s context (myself), identify and discuss what the educator consider to be the most important principles of good classroom assessment; evaluate the extent to which the educator’s classroom assessment practice is based on and; on all the theory on assessment and principles; the strategy that the educator will use to improve her assessment practice will be discussed.

CONTEXT

The changes in post-apartheid South Africa have been accompanied by significant changes in the education system. The most notable include introduction of outcomes-based assessment. Established assessment practices appear to be hampering the efforts to transform school education. Educators are unable or unwilling to adapt their assessment practices to the changing demands of South African school education. Although the changes were driven by the government's drive to "redress past injustices in educational provision" (Department of Education, 1996:1) they have not necessarily resulted in major changes at classroom level as some educators still apply the same pedagogical practices they used a decade ago (Vandeyar & Killen, 2003). This problem relates particularly to assessment because, as Collins (1992:36) argues, "curriculum designed on the finest principles with the very best of intentions makes no change to what goes on in the classroom if assessment procedures remain the same". The same could be said of policy, i.e. new policies related to outcomes-based assessment, may be well-intentioned, but established practices seem to be hampering the government's efforts to transform school education.

The reluctance of many South African educators to change their assessment practices in response to new policies and curriculum guidelines may be due to their ingrained conceptions of assessment (Vandeyar & Killen, 2003). Brown (2003:1) provides a strong argument that all pedagogical acts are affected by the conceptions educators have about the act of teaching, the process and purpose of assessment, and the nature of learning. Such conceptions act as filters through which educators view and interpret their own teaching environment (Mason, 2005) and act as...
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