What is an assessment? Assessment refers to tests and tasks that are administered to students, with the aim of measuring their knowledge and skills in a particular topic. Assessment tasks can either be administered during the learning session or after the session. Tasks administered during the learning sessions are normally short and focus more on recently covered topics. On the other hand, tasks administered at the end of a learning session, for example at the end of a semester, are more complex and cover a wide range of topics learned throughout that learning period.
Assessments are beneficial to both the students and the instructors/tutors. Assessments reveal the progress of students in knowledge acquisition, while demonstrating to the tutor the effectiveness of the learning approaches used to effectively disseminate knowledge and skills. If a student performs poorly in an assessment test, the tutor can use the grade to redesign the learning approach to ensure that the poorly performing student acquire the relevant skills in accordance with the objectives of the lesson. Similarly, the instructor can use the results of an assessment test to determine students’ weaknesses.
The instructor can then use this information to make relevant decisions regarding how to best help the student improve on their skills and knowledge. The benefits of an assessment task can only be achieved if the task is characterized by the following features, which make it a good assessment:
- Validity of content – any assessment task should measure what it is intended to measure, for the intended purpose. This implies that an assessment task meant to measure a learner’s algebra skills should not be affected by the learner’s incompetence in reading skills. Content validity can be assured at three levels: design, experience, and at the item levels.
- Reliability – a good assessment should not only be valid, but also reliable. The reliability of an assessment tool is determined by its consistency to achieve the same results under different tests, as well as its dependability. Reliability of an assessment ensures that it is always available when needed.
- Fairness – an assessment should endeavor to be as fair as possible to all learners. Content validity is one of the ways through which the fairness of an assessment can be achieved. For example, a good assessment should not highlight a learner’s incompetence in reading skills, while the assessment is designed to measure the learner’s abilities in algebra. A good assessment should be as objective as possible, and free from bias.
- Engagement and motivation – an assessment tool should focus on engaging and motivating the students through the results. The results of an assessment should be usable by both the student and the tutor to identify learners’ weaknesses and strengths. This information should then be used to outline the ways through which the strengths can be leveraged, to the benefit of the student, while improving on the student’s weaknesses.
- Relevance – this refers to the applicability of the assessment to the intended purposes. For example, an assessment developed to measure a student’s abilities in comprehension skills should not be used to test the learner’s algebraic skills.
Online assessment writers pay special attention to the objectives of an assessment, in an effort to ensure that the learner exhibits all the required skills and knowledge in regard to a particular topic.