Categories of Evaluation
The majority of data gathered in summative evaluation comes from teacher-made tests. However, writing good tests is a skill that you must learn and practice if the instruments are to yield data of any use to you or your students.
Preparing Measuring Instruments
Construction of a good test takes careful planning. You must design the instrument to measure the objectives you have established for a specific unit of work. The objectives might be …
The particular skills you want the students to perform (design a scientific experiment).
The body of knowledge you've established for the class (knowing state capitals).
The level of knowledge you desire your students to achieve (the application of specific forms of punctuation on a written assignment).
The attitude or value you want your students to acquire (using relationships to defend answers on an essay examination).
In addition to evaluating the objectives you've established, you'll need to measure how well your students have acquired the body of facts, concepts, principles, and generalizations appropriate for the material you're presenting. The source of this body of information might be the curriculum guide you're following, the textbook you're using, or a unit you've designed.
Types of Product-Oriented Tests
Essay exams have their disadvantages. They require more time to evaluate than is required for objective tests, and the “halo effect” (expecting better students to do well) may also influence your evaluation of essay responses.
You're probably familiar with two types of examinations: objective tests and essay tests. These two tests are widely used; however, you have many other assessment options:
Short answer completion
There's often a tendency for teachers to over-rely on written or summative type evaluation procedures. Remember that good evaluation includes a multiplicity of options and strategies.
Evaluating Product-Oriented Evaluation
It's important to keep in mind that evaluation, to be thorough, must occur before, during, and after instruction. One of the dangers of some of the more formal methods of evaluation is that they often take place at the conclusion of a lesson or activity. This tends to underscore learning as simply an accumulation of facts and figures to be memorized and regurgitated on various written instruments.
Much of what you will assess or evaluate in your classroom will be oriented to the products of learning. However, to have a well-rounded evaluation program, you must give equal attention to process-oriented evaluation as well.
A process approach to evaluation can provide both you and your students with valuable and useful information to gauge progress and assess the effectiveness of the entire curriculum. In so doing, you can help your students assume an active role in the evaluation process and can help make your classroom program more of a collaborative effort, instead of one in which you assume all the responsibilities for teaching and evaluating.
There are many forms of process evaluation, but here I will concentrate on just a few. I don't mean to imply that these are the only forms and formats, but rather that these have been proven over time to yield important data for teachers and students alike. Consider these (or modifications thereof) for your own classroom. You should also be willing to attempt other evaluative measures in keeping with your philosophy of teaching and your students' abilities and attitudes.
Teachers often use a grade contract with secondary students. This agreement between the teacher and students stipulates that when a specified event(s) has occurred, a particular positive consequence will follow. For example, students can obtain a specific grade in a course (A, B, C) when they complete a certain number of assignments satisfactorily.
Performance assessment can easily be built into almost any lesson. It is, in effect, a “hands-on” form of evaluation allowing students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding or mastery of important concepts through the manipulation of objects and concepts.
In a lesson on simple machines, for example, you can provide students with inclined planes (ramps), a weight, and a spring gauge. They can demonstrate their understanding of the inclined plane by pulling a weight up different ramps of different lengths and different heights. In other words, students have opportunities to apply their scientific knowledge in real-life events as opposed to a paper-and-pencil test, which may only indicate the factual data memorized.
You can do this form of assessment when students are relatively independent and can work by themselves or in small groups. In this evaluative procedure, students are provided access to all sorts of materials and supplies, and using their creativity, they must design or devise a project that illustrates a specific principle or concept. This form of assessment is long term and allows students to formulate plans of action and carry them out to their conclusion. Science fair projects, for example, are an excellent example of the project approach to evaluation.