5 Expert Views on Assessment

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5 Expert Views on Assessment

Based on the Book
World Class: Tackling the Biggest Challenges Facing Schools Today
Edited by David James and Ian Warwick

Note: These summaries rely on the author’s words; some have been abridged for readability. They are based on a synopsis at

Carolyn Adams and Matt Glanville
“Assessments which require students to think and which demand higher-order cognitive skills are not only for high-achieving students. Today’s young people need to make connections between and across subjects. They need to understand the nature of knowledge and how to apply it rather than simply learn facts, which are readily available through their smartphones. Assessments should address those needs to be relevant and educationally worthwhile.”

Tim Oates
“The social and economic uses of assessment exert pressure on the technical characteristics of precision, fairness, and dependability. Naturally, the ‘high-stakes’ or ‘low-stakes’ nature of assessment is not a feature of the test itself; it derives principally from the uses to which an assessment is put. But one thing does, in fact, unite these two apparently phobic realities. And it’s this. For all the discussion of ‘mired and oppressive’ forms of formal assessment, and the ‘liberating, learner-centered’ character of low-stakes assessment, all assessment is measurement. Whether low stakes or high stakes, technology-supported or not, there is a common interest and common good in assessment being accurate and dependable. Forgetting this fundamental would be a huge error.”
Andreas Schleicher
“The world no longer rewards people just for what they know but for what they can do with what they know. Tests can provide a window into students’ understandings and the conceptual strategies a student uses to solve a problem. They can add value for teaching and learning when tasks incorporate transfer and authentic applications and provide opportunities for students to organize and deepen their understanding through explanation and use of multiple representations. There has never been a greater opportunity to move the assessment agenda forward from providing signals of what students can do, to actually improving what students can do.”
Bob Sornson
“Most education systems now have an over-abundance of data to tell us which students, teachers, schools, and communities are winners and losers. But the limits of a CTS (Cover-Test-Sort mindset) educational system are in its basic architecture. It was never built to help all children succeed. It was designed to cover a standard curriculum in approximately the same way for all students in an age group, give them some tests, identify winners and losers, and move along to the next lesson. Essential skills and knowledge are not represented by a score on a one-time assessment. Proficiency must be observed or measured on several occasions, over a period of time, using several different learning contexts or materials before a teacher can certify that a student is truly able to understand and use the knowledge or skill. In a competency-based learning system the most important assessment is formative.”
Dylan Wiliam
“A standardized test – or any other kind of assessment for that matter – is, at its heart, simply a procedure for making inferences. Students learn, evidence is collected about what they can do, and on the basis of that evidence, assumptions are made. The learning and inferences made are shallow because the kinds of things that can be tested in standardized conditions are limited. The temptation to use these models to produce summary judgements of students, teachers, and schools must be resisted. If schools are to be places where students experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes, then we should not, nor can we, capture all the evidence. Assessment for summative purposes should be periodic, at the end of sequences of learning and designed to provide snapshots of a student’s capabilities. At all other times, the focus must be on collecting evidence that will help students and teachers guide learning more effectively.”

Summarized by Laura Greenstein

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