Developing a deep understanding of the relationship between assessment and evaluation is critical for teachers. There is a section in all curriculum guides published by the PEI Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture that begins to address this relationship. The section below is taken from the Grade 9 Science curriculum.
Assessment and evaluation are integral components of the teaching and learning process. They are continuous activities that are planned for and derived from specific curriculum outcomes (SCOs) and should be consistent with instruction. Effectively planned assessment and evaluation improves and guides future instruction. It also promotes learning, builds confidence, and develops students’ understanding of themselves as learners.
The critical understanding is to ensure both assessment and evaluation activities are derived from, and align to, the curriculum outcomes. Understanding the intention of specific curricular outcomes enable teachers to prepare and design assessment and/or evaluation tools to help move the learning process forward. It is important to recognize the difference between these two essential processes.
- Assessment is the process of gathering evidence about student learning.
- Evaluation involves analysing and reflecting upon various forms of evidence of student learning and making judgments or decisions regarding student learning based upon that evidence.
Teachers often ask during curriculum in-services how a particular outcome is to be graded. This is a question that requires some deconstruction as the focus should not be on the grade, but rather on the learning. During my own teaching experience I recall the moment when I was forced to reconcile these two processes.
A large number of students in my class were functioning at or below grade level as we neared the first reporting period. The students who were struggling had worked hard during the term but had not not yet demonstrated proficiency on the grade level standards. The grades that would have gone home on their report card would have indicated that their last few months were a failure. This had the potential to shut down the learning that was happening. I decided at that moment that putting grades as a form of a evaluation on the report card was not in the best interest of the learners in my classroom. This also applied to the students who are functioning at grade level to enable me to begin the process of creating a community of learners in the room and try to remove some of the stigma attached to those who can and those who can’t.
In the blogpost Teachers Going Gradeless, Arthur Chiaravalli argues that it is, “Good to open the conversation around grading and assessment practices fostering communities built around growth, trust, and mutuality.”
He goes on to make a critical distinction between not grading and grading less.
For some of us, the word gradeless means to grade less, that is, limiting the impact of grades within the context of current constraints. Some are just trying to get away from toxic assessment and grading practices, like assessments with no opportunity to redo or retake or zeroes on the mathematically disproportionate 100-point scale.
For others, gradeless means without grades, that is, avoiding the damaging and demotivating effects of grades entirely. These teachers are trying to put the focus squarely on learning, eliminating grades in favor of feedback and growth.
This was a critical distinction for me in my practice as removing the grade from students papers tests and report cards did not relieve me of my responsibility to evaluate students. The challenge was to develop more targeted assessments they aligned to the curriculum standards to indicate clearly when and where students were demonstrating mastery or proficiency at any given outcome.
This particular blog post by Arthur generated a significant amount of interest on social media picking up lots of shares by leaders in the education community such as Marzano, Khon, Willam, and Gonzalez.
Go to the fourth paragraph and look at the “linked letter” and “video” links, both of which show student self-assessment in action. Really compelling, and such a great example of how technology can help us do things instructionally that we’d have a much harder time doing without it. – Jenneifer Gonzalaz -Cult of Pedagogy
One of the common reasons for using grades, and in particular the hundred point grading scale, is that they prepare students for the real world. This however requires a critical analysis and is not something that I support. In my experience teaching in a gradeless classroom, the level of engagement and authenticity of the learning was far more beneficial to, and indicative of, the real world. This is best summed up by Arthur Chiaravalli in a follow up blog post where he states…
Contrary to some accusations, we’re not handing out any trophies here. Under the status quo, a 59.5% D- is enough to move on to the next level. Teachers going gradeless show a staunch refusal to “rubber stamp” students onto the next assessment, unit, or course without the needed skills and understandings. There’s a lot of redoing and revising and going back to the drawing board in our classes. You don’t move on until you get it. And we’ll hang with you until you do.