Research: Traditional classrooms depend largely on testing to gauge student learning and achievement. Teachers present a lesson to a large group of students and use tests or quizzes to determine whether or not it stuck. Termed “summative” testing, this practice gives answers to what a student knows or doesn’t know at a particular moment in time. Researcher Thomas Haladyna notes that its use as a final outcome of learning is largely biased and even dangerous, as student progress is glossed over or minimized by scores that are based on arbitrary and often developmentally inappropriate criteria.
Practice: When working with small groups or one-on-one, the need for these impersonal forms of assessment is negated. We can constantly gauge what our students know by assessing them in a variety of ways to determine the breadth and depth of their knowledge. It’s not to say that we don’t use testing as a form of assessment. Students may take tests or quizzes, but they are used to inform our teaching–where we need to focus next, what lessons we need to re-teach, and so on. We do take care to prepare students for the SAT and college by introducing test-taking strategies along the way, but we refuse to tie their success to a single number.