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Reflections on Assessment

By Lynne R. Dorfman

In education, the term assessment refers to the wide variety of methods or tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students. A good part of the school year in most districts has focused on student assessment as well as in the teaching and learning in higher education. Student assessment is a critical aspect of the teaching and learning process. Whether teaching in elementary school or at the undergraduate or graduate level, it is important for educators to strategically evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching by measuring the extent to which students in the classroom are learning and applying the concepts and strategies.

Understanding our purposes for assessment and thinking about how we collect rich data to drive our instruction is essential. Assessment should always be purposeful, informative, and useful to us as facilitators of learning. Martha L. A. Stassen et al. define assessment as “the systematic collection and analysis of information to improve student learning.” (Stassen et al., 2001, pg. 5) This is the most important task of student assessment in the teaching and learning process – to improve student learning. Here are some thoughts about assessment. Can you add to these lists?

  1. What do you see as the purpose of assessment?
  • Reteach or expand thinking
  • Identify strength and weaknesses, and growth of students
  • Prior knowledge and misconceptions
  • Accountability of learning
  • Provide information to parent and students
  • Pacing
  • Check for current understanding
  • Does my instruction impact student learning and therefore inform my instructional planning/revision
  • Chance to shine
  • Motivation
  • How are students progressing?


  1. How do you assess student learning?
  • Observation
  • Conversation
  • Standard assessments
  • Portfolio
  • Self/peer evaluation
  • Discussions
  • Performance/ Project assessments (PBL)
  • Listening
  • Conferences
  • Anecdotal records
  • Benchmarks or quarterly assessments
  • Game situations/simulations
  • Participation
  • Homework –accountability
  • Checklists
  • Writing
  • Speeches/Debates


3. How do you use your assessments to drive your instruction?

  • To find what motivates the learner
  • To find levels
  • Retool
  • Reflect on practice
  • What to cover and what not to cover
  • Try a new approach
  • Where I need to go
  • How to differentiate instruction


“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”


Lynne R. Dorfman is a co-director of PAWLP, a fellow since 1989. She currently adjuncts at Arcadia University and is an editor for PAReads: Journal of Keystone State Literacy Association. She looks forward to attending NCTE this November with many PAWLPers to be part of a roundtable discussion about the writer’s notebook.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. janiceewing #

    Hi Lynne, thanks for this menu of ways of looking at assessment. Rather than adding to the lists, I decided to choose one item from each list that especially stood out to me. It was hard to do! From “Purpose of Assessment” I chose “(How) does my instruction impact student learning?” “How do you Assess?” was particularly hard to choose from, but I focused on “Listening.” From “How do you use your Assessments” I chose “Reflect on Practice.” I think this is an important topic for teachers to dig into!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 6, 2019

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