Unlocking the Power of the Teacher-Made Test

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Unlocking the Power of the Teacher-Made Test

Log On. Let’s Talk.
www.ets.org/letstalk

Listening. Learning. Leading.

Introduction
Classroom assessment ranks among a teacher’s most essential educational tools. Well-constructed teacher-made tests can: • provide teachers with the means to gather evidence about what their students know and can do • help instructors identify students’ strengths and weaknesses • keep tabs on student learning and progress • help teachers plan and conduct future instruction • motivate and shape learning and instruction • guide students toward improving their own performances • gauge whether students are mastering district, state, and national education standards • determine if students are prepared for the high-stakes state or district tests By unlocking the power of effective classroom assessment, teachers can accomplish all of the above and more. In the era of accountability and highstakes decision making, teacher-made tests can no longer be viewed as simply a means to gather grades for the end of the marking period report cards.

process, providing the evidence teachers need to determine whether or not their students have achieved the educational goals set out for them.

Capturing the Evidence
Classroom assessments can be thought of as evidence capturing devices or tools. The evidence the teacher seeks to gather is used to show or prove the students’ knowledge and ability. Just like a good detective, the classroom teacher must consider several things in selecting the tools used to gather the evidence: • What do I think my students should know? What are my expectations for their knowledge base? This could be based on lesson goals and objectives, curriculum or course content goals, district or state standards, etc. • How would I describe my students after they experience these teaching episodes; how would I capture this description? • Of all the things I’ve taught, what are the most important concepts and what should be assessed? • What is the best tool for capturing this evidence? • How will I use this evidence in the future? Is it simply to “keep score” or will it cause me to reflect on my teaching and my future planning? • How will I report this evidence and to whom?

Formative vs. Summative Assessment
In general, all tests can fall under one of two major subheadings: formative assessments or summative assessments. Formative assessments are those tools teachers use to monitor student performance on an ongoing basis. These can range from something as simple as the daily judgments teachers make about a student’s oral response to questions that arise in classroom discussions to more formal paper and pencil tests. Summative assessments, on the other hand, gather evidence about cumulative student learning at the end of an activity, unit, marking period or school year. These types of assessments would include, among others, the final exam or the chapter test. Whether they use formative or summative methods, effective teachers constantly monitor and revise instructional plans based on their students’ educational progress and needs. Assessment, whether formal or informal, plays a vital part in this ongoing page 1

Elements of an Effective Teacher-Made Test
In reflecting on these questions, teachers begin to realize the power of classroom assessment, and that this tool can be as important in the teaching and learning process as class discussions, small group activities, or any other teaching strategy. To unleash this power, and to ensure that classroom instructional time devoted to the assessment is used wisely, teachers must carefully plan and design the test. A poorly chosen or designed assessment will fail to provide the evidence of student learning, or worse, will provide misleading information. It is imperative that the teacher employs a systematic process for developing and using the assessment tool. That process should begin with the instructor asking a few basic but...
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