Assessment is the professional pet peeve of many teachers. Some feel ill-prepared to handle it, while others balk at endorsing a role that requires them to pass judgment (and most of the time, impose a penalty), when they view themselves instead as coaches intent on helping their students succeed. “How to assess?”, in all its variations, is definitely the question college teachers ask most often. How to assess to accurately reflect their students’ skills? How to quantitatively assess a skill, attitude or any other qualitative element? How to assess each student fairly? How to make the assessment criteria clear? Yet a question less frequently asked or at least given only quick consideration, is “Why assess?” This article takes the time to examine this topic, defining what constitutes assessment and the various forms it can take, and then defining the two main goals, establishing a status and, more importantly, providing feedback to help students progress in their learning.
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