Aspects, Levels, and Perspectives
SABES Central Resource Center
/ World Education
As a staff developer and a teacher,
assessment remains a daunting prospect for me. I am often overwhelmed
with the amount of knowledge and skills that I need to further my
work in this area. I must get to a place where I feel comfortable
with the choices that have been made about assessment practices,
both for my students and for other teachers.
I want to ensure that I am providing opportunities for students
to help them identify what it is they want to learn and opportunities
to see that learning. I also want to provide opportunities for teachers
to get the information they need to make more informed decisions
about their assessment practices, both in their classrooms and in
There are many different perspectives on assessment, accountability,
and evaluation. Some connect and others seem miles apart. In order
for me to make sense of the information and the differences in perspectives
and to make informed choices, I need to be able to look at the whole
and try to see where the connections are.
Often we are engrossed in one aspect of assessment, usually the
one that affects us the most. This often depends largely on the
role(s) we play in adult education. We need to be informed and aware
of the other aspects, perspectives and levels of assessment in our
work. We need to see how they can fit together and how each perspective
and level tries to answer the questions Are the adults in
our programs receiving what they need? Are they making progress
towards their goals and are our programs providing opportunities
for this to happen? We need to look at the various levels
of assessment and accountability local and state and federal
and negotiate between them (Heide Spruck Wrigley, AiA,
When I read the articles for this volume of Adventures in Assessment,
I am much less daunted by the ongoing task of trying to negotiate
and understand the different levels mentioned above. The articles
in this issue seem to offer opportunities to think of different
aspects of assessment. They raise questions not just about a specific
tool, but also how assessment is connected to teaching and learning
and how it can be connected to accountability for programs as well
I do not think the articles solve the questions of understanding,
choosing, reporting gains, and promoting assessment practices, but
I feel less anxious. Through the articles I feel we are moving closer
to an understanding or an awareness of how and what to negotiate
in the world of assessment.
Marie Hassetts article looks at assessment and curriculum
development. She has adapted a framework for teaching by Herbert
Kohl and talks about how she adapted this to her program and assessment
Caroline Gear and Joanna Scott move away from assessment
for students progress and ask us to look at what we as teachers
do in our classrooms to assess and evaluate our lessons and classes.
Both provide a framework for reflecting on our lessons. It helps
us to look at our teaching to see if we really are providing opportunities
for students to learn and to attain their goals.
In her article, Linda Gosselin reviews the many tools and
ideas that have been presented in Adventures in Assessment over
the years. She asks the questions of learner centered approaches
to assessment: What does this really mean? If we are doing it, what
does this really look like? When do we involve students and how?
She invites us to critically assess our own practices and the roles
we ask students to play.
Glen Cotton and Cheryl Gant from North Carolina discuss
their action research projects. They looked at the question of assessment
in ESOL classes and reflected on their own practices. They both
hint at the notion that assessment should not be separate from instruction.
They state that there are ways for even the beginning language learner
to get information that helps set a course for instruction as well
as elicits information about the learners goals and progress.
Maria Elena González takes us on a journey to the
world of assessment tools. She mirrors the process most of us go
through when trying to select a tool. She realizes that there are
many tools available and, although we need to consider the many
levels of assessment, we need also to consider the other factors
that are involved in teaching adults. Most importantly, we must
constantly ask ourselves What do I really need to know?
This helps narrow our search, and keeps us grounded in what is really
important for both the teacher and the students.
Janet Isserlis talks about actual learning and accountability
and sees the need for both. They may not be mutually exclusive but
we are often driven to choose between the two. She also talks about
the need for teachers to make connections between assessment and
learning. The connections need to be an ongoing part of the staff
development that we provide. We need to know what connecting
assessment to learning looks like and how to help learners see their
own progress through multiple lenses (Janet Isserlis, AiA,
Heide Spruck Wrigley observes assessment at the federal
and state levels. Where do we go from here? She offers a much-needed,
hopeful perspective that looks at all levels of assessment and negotiating
among funders, programs and teachers.
In Learning from Experience, Diane Lizotte talks
about her action research project. She looked at the strengths and
weaknesses of the ESOLA test and found that the test was a good
tool for placement but not for measuring learner progress over time.
The teachers at the ACCCESS program in Hyannis, Massachusetts,
reviewed the book New Ways in Assessment, published
by TESOL. They sampled a few of the activities in the book in their
classroom. They found that the assessment activities were engaging
for students and teachers and that the book had a lot of good ideas
Many questions arise as we continue our journey, searching for
authentic ways to assess students, programs, teachers, and ourselves.
The articles in this issue direct readers to view the overall picture
of assessment and reflect on the ever-present and pared-down question,
How could this work in my program?
As always I invite readers to respond to these articles and to
maintain the dialogue of what works and doesnt work in the
process of using authentic assessment in our programs.
Your thoughts and ideas are welcomed and encouraged. If you would
like to submit an article or have comments, please feel free to
Originally published in Adventures in Assessment,
Volume 11 (Winter 1998),
SABES/World Education, Boston, MA, Copyright 1998.
Funding support for the publication of this document
on the Web provided in part by the Ohio State Literacy Resource
Center as part of the LINCS
Assessment Special Collection.