Even though the words "assessment"
and "evaluation" are commonly used interchangeably in our every day speech,
there are subtle differences between them especially in reference to their
use in education practice. As a general rule of thumb, we can think of
assessment as testing to determine what a child already knows or what she
is learning during the course of instruction while an evaluation
is a final test or indicator of knowledge, such as a formal examination
or a grade given on a report card.
An assessment might be administered
prior to any formal instruction of a particular skill or the even at the
beginning of a year to determine a child's base level of knowledge.
Therefore, an assessment may test a child's knowledge of concepts that
have not yet been formally taught. An assessment helps the teacher
to see what information the child already knows and in turn what knowledge
the child lacks. In this way, the teacher can decide where to begin
instruction. Assessments can also be thought of as ongoing check-ups
to monitor a child's progress or to determine the effectiveness of the
teaching. Assessments do not need to be formal tests at all, although they
can be simple pencil and paper tests. However, they may just be daily
or frequent observations of a child's abilities that help to shape the
teacher’s instruction to meet that particular child's needs. In this
way, assessments can help to inform practice.
Evaluations are more formal appraisals
of a child's general ability, a child's knowledge of a particular subject
area, or even of a teaching method or a formal instructional program.
Evaluations are typically designed to measure what a child has been taught
or the knowledge that the child should have acquired from instruction.
An evaluation is a test that may be given after the completion of instruction
of a specific subject area that will indicate how much the child has learned
over an extended period of time. It may even be a standardized test
that examines how much a child has learned in a year or throughout many
years. An evaluation of a child's performance may be represented
at the end of a grading period by a grade on a test or on a report card.
Such an evaluation can inform a teacher about which skills a child needs
to be taught again. Evaluations also can indicate the effectiveness
of a specific program or a teacher’s instructional methods. Many
instructional programs (such as early literacy programs) are formally evaluated
after a year to determine if they were effective at imparting the knowledge
that they were designed to teach.
The practice of assessment and evaluation
can be thought of as a continuous loop. An initial assessment tells the
teacher what skills the child possesses and what knowledge the child lacks.
The teacher can then use the results of this assessment to mold her instruction
to meet that child's needs. Then throughout the instruction the teacher
can continue to assess the child periodically to monitor the child's progress.
After the teacher feels that the skills have been sufficiently taught or
at the end of a particular program, a more formal evaluation can be given
to determine if the child has learned the necessary skills. The teacher
can then use this information to determine which skills need to be re-taught
or what the child is ready to learn next.
Overall, assessment should be thought
of as ongoing testing used to inform a teacher’s practice or to fine tune
instruction to a specific child. Evaluation, on the other hand, is
a formal test or appraisal to determine or indicate that a particular skill
has been taught or a level of knowledge has been reached. Together
they provide a way to specialize a child's education by determining what
knowledge a child possess and lacks and then assuring that the child has
acquired skills that have been taught.