What Do We Mean by Testing, Assessment, and Evaluation?
When defined within an educational setting, assessment, evaluation, and testing are all used to measure how much of the assigned materials students are mastering, how well student are learning the materials, and how well student are meeting the stated goals and objectives. Although you may believe that assessments only provide instructors with information on which to base a score or grade, assessments also help you to assess your own learning.
Education professionals make distinctions between assessment, evaluation, and testing. However, for the purposes of this tutorial, all you really need to understand is that these are three different terms for referring to the process of figuring out how much you know about a given topic and that each term has a different meaning. To simplify things, we will use the term "assessment" throughout this tutorial to refer to this process of measuring what you know and have learned.
In case you are curious, here are some definitions:
- A test or quiz is used to examine someone's knowledge of something to determine what he or she knows or has learned. Testing measures the level of skill or knowledge that has been reached.
- Evaluation is the process of making judgments based on criteria and evidence.
- Assessment is the process of documenting knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs, usually in measurable terms. The goal of assessment is to make improvements, as opposed to simply being judged. In an educational context, assessment is the process of describing, collecting, recording, scoring, and interpreting information about learning.
Why is Assessment Important?
Hopefully by this point in your life you have discovered that learning can be fun! You have probably also realized that you are constantly learning, whether you are in a classroom, a car, or a kitchen.
Assessment helps you build confidence in your ability to learn.
Perhaps you have heard that the global work culture is changing. Unlike your grandfather, you will probably have a number of different jobs and careers during your lifetime. In order to be successful, you will need to have confidence in your ability to learn and you will need to become a lifelong learner. Assessment plays a key role in developing your confidence in your ability to learn, as well as in developing your lifelong learning skills.
Student Dialog - Learning to Bake Cookies
Jose: Hi, Brian. What's in the bag?
Brian: These are my world famous chocolate chip cookies. Here, try one.
Sage: Hey guys! What'cha doing?
Jose: Brian made some cookies. Here, try one.
Sage: Wow, Brian! These are great. How did you learn to make these?
Brian: I used to help my mom bake cookies when I was a kid. Then, when I came to college, I brought the recipe with me and started making them for myself. At first they didn't turn out very well, but the more I practiced, the better I got. I have even made some changes to the recipe that I think have improved the taste.
You may be thinking that learning to bake cookies and learning something like chemistry aren't the same at all, and, in a way, you are right. But, the information you get from assessing what you have learned is the same. Brian used what he learned from each batch of cookies to improve the next batch. You learn from every homework assignment you complete and every quiz you take what you still need to study in order to know the material.
Another really good way to understand the importance of assessment is to think about learning skills. When playing basketball, for example, you get immediate feedback about how well you are doing, and this tells you how to adjust to get the ball in the hoop next time. When you are learning a skill, feedback (assessment) is automatic. When you are learning chemistry, the feedback process needs to be made visible through assessment.
Assessment doesn't have to be a written exam. You can determine if you have successfully learned something in a number of different ways, depending on what you are trying to learn. Recognizing that there are many different ways to assess learning and becoming skillful at self-assessment are important lifelong learning skills.