Opinion
Assessment Opinion

Follow-Up: Why Measure Student Learning?

By Bill Farmer — November 22, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Bill Farmer

In my initial post I posed the question, why measure student learning? The answer to this question inevitably varies depending upon who you ask. Even more complicated than addressing the purpose behind measuring student learning is figuring out how student learning should even be measured.

Learning is an infinitely complex process, yet as a society we seem determined to relegate learning to a single letter grade or percentage score aimed at sorting and ranking students. There can be some useful information captured by a well-written high stakes exam. It provides a snapshot of isolated and specific aspects of a student’s learning at a given point in time.

Unfortunately, the elevated emphasis placed on these types of assessments, several of which are poorly constructed, oversimplifies the intricacies involved in truly documenting and understanding a student’s learning process. It is difficult to ignore the impact that this has on a student’s perception about learning.

In the high school setting where I teach, students appear to be conditioned to focus on the quantified end result. At the beginning of the year, I find myself having to counteract this tendency of students to only pay attention to the total number of points earned on an assessment. I accomplish this by using a detailed rubric void of any point values to “grade” their first formal lab report. Initially, students are extremely uncomfortable with the fact that the rubric doesn’t have a summative grade attached to it. Eventually I am able to direct their attention to the important information that the rubric does provide, which is how they can make their lab report better.

We cannot lose sight of the essential reasons why measuring student learning is so important. Not only does it supply the teacher with valuable, personalized data to inform instruction, but assessments also should be constructed in such a way as to provide students with the critical feedback necessary to guide their continued learning. With all of this in mind, educators should be taking the lead in the development of effective tools to assess and promote student learning.

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Spotlight Spotlight on Assessment in 2021
In this Spotlight, review newest assessment scores, see how districts will catch up with their supports for disabled students, plus more.
Assessment 'Nation's Report Card' Has a New Reading Framework, After a Drawn-Out Battle Over Equity
The new framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress will guide development of the 2026 reading test.
10 min read
results 925693186 02
iStock/Getty
Assessment Opinion Q&A Collections: Assessment
Scores of educators share commentaries on the use of assessments in schools.
5 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Assessment Standardized Tests Could Be in Jeopardy in Wake of Biden Decisions, Experts Say
Has the Biden administration shored up statewide tests this year only to risk undermining long-term public backing for them?
6 min read
Image of a test sheet.
sengchoy/iStock/Getty