Testing and assessment is an integral part of every type of teaching and learning whether it is happening orally, in a written form, on a practical exam, or elsewhere. Although assessments and evaluation are the least favourite part of education for the students, through them, we, teachers, understand how effective our teaching is, we see weak spots the students have, and what should be changed to meet everyone’s needs better.
Standardised assessments are the tests created to check the general knowledge of the students and get some numbers and statistics on the effectiveness of their education and the curriculum in general. They focus on the group outcome rather than the individual progress and learning needs of a student.
On the other hand, summative assessments, (checking essays, special exercises, papers, etc.) are more for the teachers to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a particular group of learners and be better able to address the needs of every individual learner. Here is the time when teachers can reflect more closely on their teaching methodologies and approaches and consider the gaps in their teaching to create a more favourable learning environment.
So, what can teachers do to use the data they receive from tests to improve the learning process in the classroom in general and target every student individually? Let’s look at some ideas below.
Conduct formative assessment
If you are wondering what this is — formative assessment is the technique of incorporating various short tests and quizzes in the learning process to determine where the students might be lacking the knowledge and need help to progress faster. Formative assessments help to identify the students’ needs on spot and make the necessary adjustments on spot rather than to wait and see the results of standardised tests or end-of-the-year exams.
Align your lesson with the assessment
If you want to see real learning results, it is critical to ensure that your test is aligned with your learning outcomes. In other words, you need to test what you are teaching. Otherwise, the test won’t give you the results you need, it will simply be a waste of time and will be extra stress for your students.
Use the results of the test
The goal of the test should not be merely grading the learners. The main goal should be finding the weak spots and helping them grow and learn better. That’s why it is important to create statistics of the most common mistakes the class has made and prepare an exercise or a revision session on that to help the learners cope with the difficulties and assimilate the material to the fullest.
This being said, individual student mistakes should be used to create differentiated tasks to help them tackle those as well. It is quite time-consuming to create differentiated exercises, however, if the goal is learning, then our role is to make sure we are meeting the students’ needs in the best possible way.
Use the data to plan better
Seeing the test results of your students and identifying the weak spots is the first step. The second step is to change or adapt your lesson to better cover those weaknesses. Although the schools provide a special curriculum that should be followed, you are still not limited in varying some of the tasks and exercises, changing the focus of the lesson, so that you manage to reach your lesson objectives. Here, the flexibility of the teacher is of very big importance as things will need to be shifted and adapted on spot.
Collaborate with the co-teachers
This goes without saying, however, sometimes we can misinterpret what collaboration means. It does not only mean sharing ideas, methodologies, activities, and participating in teacher development sessions. It also means keeping the communication with your students’ previous teachers open, so that you learn as much as possible about their learning styles, preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. This will help you better structure your lessons and not waste time finding out that information on your own.
So, what about you? How do you use the test data to make your lessons more result-oriented?