Learning assessments provide students with effective feedback and potentially improve their motivation and/or self-esteem. Moreover, assessments of learning gives students the tools to assess themselves and understand how to improve. The positive consequences of assessments of learning on teachers, however, are far less widely discussed.
Diagnostic assessments are designed to help a teacher identify and improve his students' strengths and weaknesses from the outset of the term. These tests give teachers an incentive to work with their students to determine what individual students already know about the topic at hand and show what they need to learn to improve and extend their knowledge. Teachers can then design classroom activities to help their students reach the required point of understanding. Diagnostic assessments may also improve the quality of the classroom environment by creating intrigue about a topic if a student does not know the answer to a question. This causes students to be more attentive and responsive to their teacher.
Formative assessments, such as the questions that teachers ask continually in class, function as a series of small tests that gauge the level of knowledge that a class has attained. Formative assessments provide instructors with a "teachable" moment if a student answers incorrectly. Teachers have the opportunity to respond to an incorrect answer such prompts as, "No, but have you thought about the question this way?" or "Why don't you try approaching the question from this angle?"
In-class tests, leading up to the end of the semester, can be considered "needs assessments" that help teachers to assess students' needs, acquired knowledge and skills. Needs assessments benefit teachers by helping them determine the gaps between what students understand and what students need to understand. A teacher can subsequently address these gaps before the end of the semester. For instance, a needs assessment can spur a teacher to provide additional instruction about a difficult topic or refer students to relevant out-of-class resources
Summative assessments, such as final exams, sum up the acquired knowledge and skills of students taking a course. Summative assessments give teachers a strong incentive to provide instruction that helps their students improve their abilities because these assessments describe not only student abilities, but how much of a teacher's in-class instruction helped students to progress. Summative assessments make a judgment about teacher achievement and spur teachers to continually find better ways to instruct students.
Tricia Lobo has been writing since 2006. Her biomedical engineering research, "Biocompatible and pH sensitive PLGA encapsulated MnO nanocrystals for molecular and cellular MRI," was accepted in 2010 for publication in the journal "Nanoletters." Lobo earned her Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering, with distinction, from Yale in 2010.