Overview of Assessment
The terms test and assessment are frequently used interchangeably. Technically, however, there are important differences between them. A third term, evaluation, is sometimes used interchangeably also but is actually distinct. To avoid confusion, the three terms are defined below.
Test, the narrowest of the terms, usually refers to a specific set of questions or tasks that is administered to an individual or to all members of a group and measures a sample of behavior. It is highly structured and can be administered and scored consistently within and across groups of students, thus making it highly reliable. It requires a relatively limited period of time to administer.
Assessment is more encompassing and includes the collection of information from multiple sources. A test is one kind of assessment. Assessment may also include rating scales, observation of student performance, portfolios, individual interviews, and other procedures. Assessment may refer to groups or individuals. Group assessment may involve administering different performance tasks or subsets of items to different samples of students and reporting the results for groups but not for individuals. In addition, assessment often refers to a planned program or system.
Evaluation refers to making a value judgment about the implications of assessment information. This process is necessary for school improvement planning. While assessment involves obtaining achievement data through a variety of means, evaluation goes a step further - interpreting the data from an informed perspective. That perspective should also be informed by knowledge such as that about instructional content, community context, school climate, and dropout rate. Although this Handbook includes some material about interpreting assessment results, for the most part it does not address evaluation.
In summary, testing provides one isolated glimpse -- analogous to taking a picture with a camera -- of student achievement (individual or group) in specific skills or knowledge at a specific time. Assessment provides more comprehensive data from multiple measures administered over a period of time or, preferably, a variety of data-gathering approaches. Evaluation produces value judgments about the results of assessment.
Testing, assessment, and evaluation are strongly interdependent; the quality of one affects the quality of the others. Good tests strengthen assessment; well-planned assessment increases the probability of valid and accurate evaluation.
What is Assessment?
Assessment is the process of documenting (usually in measurable terms) knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs (Wikipedia, 2007).
"Assessment" means to gather and interpret information about students' achievement, and "achievement" means the level of attainment of learning goals of college courses. Assessing students' achievement is generally accomplished through tests, classroom and take-home assignments, and assigned projects. Strictly speaking, "assessment" refers to assignments and tasks that provide information, and "evaluation" refers to judgments based on that information (Brookhart, 1999).
According to Tom Angelo (1995), assessment is “an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves:
Making expectations explicit and public;
Setting appropriate criteria and high expectations for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards;
Using the resulting information to document, ...