Weeks 10-11: Assessment and Evaluation – Winter 2023


In the first section of this course, we considered the importance of congruence in educational design: the idea that anticipated learning outcomes should be supported by the activities students are asked to do and that evaluation of learning should follow logically from anticipated learning outcomes and activities. Assessment and evaluation are the final pieces of this puzzle. There are two separate areas to think about when we talk about assessment and evaluation: course evaluation and evaluation of learning.

For the purposes of this course, since you have been asked to prepare a module using technology but not to deliver the module, we will not focus on course evaluation. We will spend some time thinking about the evaluation and assessment of student learning.

Learning Resources

Clark, D. (2015). Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains. The performance juxtaposition site

Mueller, Jon. (2018). Authentic assessment toolkit

Province of British Columbia. (2018). Changes to assessment. Assessment and reporting info: BC’s new curriculum

Province of British Columbia. (n.d.). Foundation skills assessment. Kindergarten to Grade 12 information for administrators: Assessment

Province of British Columbia. (n.d.). Provincial assessments and examinations. BC Ministry of Education: Provincial exams

Province of British Columbia. (n.d.). Steps to inquiry lesson outline: Instant snow

Summey, Dustin. (n.d.). Authentic assessment strategies for online learning

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the section, you will be able to:

  • Define assessment and evaluation
  • Define authentic assessment
  • Select an appropriate assessment technique for a unit of learning

Learning Activities:

Evaluation of Learning

You will notice the two terms “assessment” and “evaluation.” Because there is often confusion and overlap between them, it is useful to distinguish them from each other. Here are some possible usages of the two terms:

Assessment Evaluation
… is of the process of learning. … is of the product of learning.
… is of the student (e.g., comments, effort grades). … is of the performance (e.g., letter grades, scores, percentages).
… includes formative (i.e., in-progress) appraisal. … is synonymous with summative (i.e., end-result) assessment.
… measures progress or improvement. …measures against a standard.

Reflect on:

  • Do you consider Assessment and Evaluation different? Why or why not?

Consider the following

Standardized evaluation practices are becoming the norm in the school system. They are very common in adult learning situations, too. Consider, for example, the myriad of qualifying and registration exams for nurses, physicians, and allied health professionals of all types, the bar exams written by lawyers, and the qualifying exams taken by accountants are all examples of standardized evaluation.

The Ministry of Education in British Columbia requires both the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) and provincial examinations be written yearly. For the FSA, BC students in Grades 4 and 7 write the annual assessments to determine their skill level with literacy and numeracy. Grade 10 students write provincial exams in Mathematics, English, and Science. Grade 11 students write a provincial exam for Social Studies, and Grade 12 students must write a provincial exam for English to graduate. It should be noted that other Grade 11 and 12 provincial exams can be written based on the graduation path of the individual student.

Over the past few years, both the Foundation Skills Assessment and provincial exams have been moved to an online format, either in part or in whole. As a result, students now write their assessments or exams mostly online, even if the course outcomes being assessed have been taught/offered in either a high school classroom setting or an online distance learning school.

Read the following quick summary of some of the issues of standardized testing outlined in an article from the EdCan Network: “What is the value of standardized testing?”).

Questions to reflect on:

  • What are these tests measuring?
  • Are they assessments or evaluations?
  • Many educators and researchers in the field have indicated that the way they teach is influenced by the type of assessment they are required to use. More and more often, standardized tests are required as a summative evaluation. A quick online search can reveal the conflicting viewpoints currently under discussion with regard to mandatory standardized testing.
  • Is curriculum best designed around meaningful tasks, or is curriculum designed to focus on facts and knowledge to prepare students for standardized assessments and exams?

As of 2018, with the new curriculum in British Columbia, changes have come to evaluation processes in the K–12 system; refer to BC’s New Curriculum “Changes to Assessment” webpage. It is reasonable to assume, though, that debates about assessment and evaluation will continue.

Authentic Assessment

Authentic assessment is the term used to describe various strategies that attempt to assess the abilities of students in completing authentic tasks, rather than just writing tests.

Authentic assessment methods are often designed to focus on students’ analytical skills: their ability to integrate what they learn, to create, to work collaboratively, and to use written and oral expression skills. Fundamentally, authentic assessment seeks to use and build upon a students’ higher order thinking skills. Often, the process is valued as much as the product in authentic assessment.

We saw examples of this earlier when we looked at the Grade 3–6 science lesson Instant Snow from BC’s New Curriculum. You likely recall that the lesson involved students working together to plan experiments to identify a substance. The Assessment section of the lesson plan mentions that:

Assessment for, as, and of learning can take place throughout the investigation.

For example, you can assess process skills (observing, explaining), use of vocabulary, and understanding of concepts behind curricular experiments. Students can reflect on the process, identifying areas of difficulty, problem-solving strategies, learning that has taken place, and additional questions they have. Criteria for strong observations, explanations, hypotheses, and so on can be generated with students, and should be explicit and visible. Generating what it looks like to meet expectations is crucial for both the formative and summative assessment processes. (Province of British Columbia, n.d., p. 7)

Notice that the skills being assessed—specifically observing, explaining, and problem-solving—are real, authentic skills. The assessment approaches being recommended here do not address the actual content of the lesson itself; the content is really just intended to help the elementary science students practice their skills.

Authentic assessment is not relevant in most cases for lower-order thinking skills like recalling/remembering or comprehension. It is not that these skills are unimportant; they are often critical building blocks of more complex understandings. In general, though, they are not skills that are used to do meaningful tasks. For example, think about the difference between memorizing vocabulary words in a new language (recall, or possibly comprehend) and using the words in meaningful sentences (apply). Recalling vocabulary words is useful, but it is not a skill that is used on its own in daily life; it is part of reading, speaking, or understanding language. When you are planning assessment, it is usually best to focus on the highest-order skills included in the lesson’s intentions.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is useful for thinking about the continuum from lower-order to higher-order thinking and also useful in designing assessment approaches. A description of both the original taxonomy and a revised version can be found at Donald Clark’s webpage about Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Within each domain are several categories that allow an educator to develop and evaluate assessment strategies and to reflect on the degree to which the assessments achieve the desired goal of providing appropriate feedback.


Authentic Assessment Strategies for Online Learning

Created by Dustin Summey, an instructional design specialist at the University of Southern Arkansas, Authentic Assessment Strategies for Online Learning provides some valuable guidelines, linking levels of learning with assessment and evaluation methods, for both formative assessment and summative evaluation.

Authentic Assessment Toolbox

One very common approach to authentic assessment is to give feedback according to a rubric. A well-designed rubric provides students with a clear description of the requirements they must meet to be successful in completing an assessment task; students can refer to rubrics to see if they are meeting the criteria for success. Rubrics are often used for formative assessment, since they provide guidance on the types of improvements that are required. A rubric is also a terrific way to unpack the “black box” of summative evaluation for students, making it clear why they received the evaluation they received.

Jon Mueller’s Authentic Assessment Toolkit provides some good examples of rubrics.


Discussion: Standardized tests and authentic assessment

Standardized tests and exams have often been a contentious issue, particularly in K–12 education. There are standardized tests and exams used at all levels, though, and there are often debates about their effectiveness.

What do you think? Is it better for curriculum to prepare students for standardized exams, or is it better for curriculum to focus on authentic tasks?

Go to the class discussion forum to make your post.


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