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Assessment Philosophy

Vanessa Noel

March 1, 2017

Every teacher has their own philosophy when it comes to assessment, and there are

conflicting opinions in educational research on the topic. My goal is to use assessment to help

students reach their full potential, and produce their best work. The main focus will be on

formative assessment and options will be provided for summative pieces. Students will be

actively involved in the assessment process through self and peer assessment and co-constructing

the criteria for summative assignments. The process of grading will include conferencing with

students and providing descriptive feedback.


Formative assessment allows the teacher to see if their students are on the right track and

should occur frequently in the classroom for the benefit of both the student and the teacher. Class

discussions, checklists, entry/exit slips, and journals are just a few examples of formative

assessment tools that teachers can use to see where students are in need of clarification or

support and where they are strong before moving on to the next concept. Providing students with

feedback along the way may seem like more work for the teacher, but I believe it is necessary

and worth the effort.

While it may appear to be a lot of work, teachers have always been formatively assessing

their students without labelling it as such. Also, the burden of formative assessment need not fall

entirely upon the teacher. Self and peer assessment are valuable forms of assessment because

they support student learning in a way that teachers cannot. Self assessment allows students to

reflect on their work and become increasingly self-regulated, meaning they will take control of
their own learning. Peer assessment allows students to receive feedback from students who are at

their level. One form of peer assessment I have found to be effective is the two likes and a

wonder strategy. I have used this strategy for presentations and written work and have found that

students responded positively because criticism is softened by praise. Students who were often

discouraged by feedback were excited to see what their peers liked about their work and were

less likely to take the criticism personally because it was phrased as a question. Feedback from

the teacher is necessary, but the top-down approach can be confusing or discouraging for

students. By including students in the process, formative assessment practices become stronger

and students are more informed about their learning.


I believe that formative assessment deserves more emphasis than summative assessment,

but summative assessment should not be avoided. However, summative assessment does not

need to be a test at the end of the unit or year. When tests are the only method of summative

assessment it tempts the teacher to teach for the test, and the students to see their learning as

preparation for the test. By relying on tests to provide an accurate picture of student learning

teachers become ineffective and unfair because tests tend to reward those with the ability to

memorize and regurgitate information and penalize those who experience test anxiety or those

who cannot express what they have learned in the way that the test is formatted.

I am in favour of a project-based approach which allows teachers to evaluate student

learning far more accurately than tests. Projects allow teachers to assess more than what they

would on tests, and increase the likelihood of student success through conferring with them

along the way. In my class, students will be able to choose from a variety of projects. When

possible and appropriate, students could come up with their own project as long as it aligns with
the curriculum outcomes. The success criteria for projects will be co-constructed with the

students so that they can be assessed, at least in part, on what is important to them.

While I do not believe that they are the best tool for assessing student learning, there are

times when tests are unavoidable. I believe in setting students up to be successful, which means

that tests should not be intended to trick students. Test reviews should always be given in

advance with questions similar to the ones that will be seen on the test. In the case of essay

questions, a list of topics should be given to students, and the teacher should use questions from

the review on the actual test. Furthermore, there should be time in class dedicated to answering

questions about the upcoming test.

Another component of setting students up to be successful on tests is giving them the

proper tools. If students have been given a tool before the test they should be able to use it during

the test. For math, this may mean a calculator or formula sheet, and for language arts it could be

a dictionary or a thesaurus. Whatever the tool, it should be permitted during testing because not

only is it fair, but it is realistic to assume that in the real world people have access to tools to help

them solve problems.


In order for students to be successful, they must have an understanding of the criteria the

teacher will be assessing. Co-constructing assessment criteria with students ensures success

criteria will be clear to students and makes students agents in their learning instead of passive

receivers of grades they may not fully understand. Co-constructing criteria is also beneficial to

teachers. My students may think of things that I had not considered, but are criteria that would

result in stronger products. It also takes some of the pressure off of the teacher. Instead of

needing to justify or explain to each student why they received a particular grade, I will be able
to direct them to the criteria that we constructed and agreed upon together. There are a number of

different ways that students can be involved in this process, but the outcome is always the same:

engaged students that have been set up for success.


Giving a student a zero on an assignment is not beneficial to them in any way. When a

student receives a zero it only causes them to think less of their ability, and there is no

opportunity for growth. Late, incomplete, or plagiarized assignments should be seen as

opportunities to provide a struggling student with support. In my class I will aim to reduce the

occurrence of these issues by providing adequate time in class to work on projects, explicitly

teaching students how to properly cite, and also by offering extra help during lunch and after

school. Students in my class will also be permitted to resubmit assignments that they have

improved based on feedback given by myself or peers. Assessing for growth is important, and

resubmitting assignments allows the student to improve, and the teacher to see growth.


When a student receives feedback on an assignment that they know includes a letter or

percentage grade, they will usually ignore the comments to immediately find the grade. Often, if

they consider the grade high they will not read the comments because they see no need for

improvement, and if the grade is low they will read each comment as if it were mean spirited. I

have witnessed this phenomenon in my teaching experience, and can confirm it is true from

personal experience. For this reason, I believe that students should be provided with descriptive

feedback on their assignments, and provided with their grade during a conference. Conferring

with students allows teachers to make grades secondary to descriptive feedback. For the students,

the grade is explained to them instead of scrawled on their work in permanent ink.
My opinions on the best assessment methods may, and hopefully will, evolve as I gain

experience. However, the philosophy I describe here is the one I hope to carry with me

throughout my career. My role as a teacher is to care for my students and my philosophy of

assessment reflects that. I believe in building students self esteem and fostering a love of

learning. Working alongside them to help them reach their academic potential is a goal that will

be best reached by using the strategies discussed here.


Davies, A. & Herbst. (2013). Co-Constructing Success Criteria. Education Canada, 16-19.
Marzano, R. (2006). The Case for Classroom Assessment. Classroom Assessment & Grading
That Work. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
Nichol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2007). Formative assessment and selfregulated learning: a
model and seven principles of good feedback practice Studies in Higher Education
31(2), 199-218.