Formal and Informal Assessment Essay

            Assessment plays a major role in various fields or areas – in education, organizational performance, research studies, medicine, etc. The ultimate purpose of assessment is to utilize evaluation or assessment tools in order to determine various factors or competencies that are needed to be quantified in order to arrive at a generalizations or conclusions that consequently leads to the formulation of various suggestions or recommendations that will assist groups or individuals in addressing issues or problems determined in the process. For instance, assessment helps organizations determine their market strengths and weaknesses as a means to develop marketing strategies that will allow them to obtain competitive advantage. Medical facilities use assessment in order to evaluate health care services and how they are able to provide for the varied needs of patients. In education, assessment is utilized in order to determine the learning needs of the students for the incorporation of teaching techniques and strategies that will facilitate efficient teaching-learning processes. (Shellard, 2003)

            The remainder of this text will specifically look into the value of assessment under the context of reading and comprehension in the learning process, in order to deeply understand the relevance and significance of assessment to education. In addition, two methods of assessment – the formal and informal assessment techniques – will be compared in order to determine their advantages and disadvantages as assessment techniques based on the structure and dimension of reading as a means of learning. (Briggs, Tully, & Stiefer, 1998)

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            Reading is a valuable tool or technique in facilitating learning since it enables learners to experience various situations and events in the process, as well as allow them to make interpretations and conclusions based on their constructs or worldviews that contributes to independent and confident learning. As it is a process of education, the abilities of learners to learn through reading and comprehending materials read is done through assessment. While assessment in incorporated in the process of instruction, allowing learners to adjust to the changes or modifications in teaching strategies and techniques in order to facilitate learner needs along the way. Tool utilized in assessing reading comprehension skills and competencies includes direct questioning, questionnaires, surveys, tests or examinations, etc. (Shellard, 2003)

            However, there are other techniques in conducting assessment – as aforementioned, the formal and informal assessment techniques. Formal assessment techniques are standardized, strictly designed following rules, guidelines or rubrics that aims to arrive at results or outcomes directly and regulatively. (Shellard, 2003) Two kinds of formal assessments will be identified for discussion purposes – the achievement test and the diagnostic test.

            An achievement test is a type of standardized test that aims to assess the accumulated knowledge or learning during instruction. The basis or standards of the achievement test are based on learning goals and objectives, knowledge, skills, and competencies that are expected to be acquired in the duration of instruction. The two advantages of achievement tests include the ability of academic institutions to determine the strength and efficiency of the curriculum or the educational program in the past and the opportunity for them to determine the capability of learners to advance. Since the achievement test is conducted at the end of the instruction, educators are able to determine what went wrong during the teaching-learning process. In addition, educators are able to determine whether the learners will be capable of proceeding to the next grade or level of learning given the knowledge, skills, and competencies acquired in the past as prerequisites. The two disadvantages include inflexibility of the test since it will not be able to cover all facts or information, skills, and competencies learned in the past, and it is only limited to one aspect of the learning process since it only tests memory. (Smith, 2007)

            Another type of formal assessment includes the diagnostic testing. Diagnostic testing is provided prior to the instruction. The purpose of diagnostic testing is to determine the needs of the learner in order to design or structure the teaching-learning process to address these needs. The advantages of diagnostic testing is that it helps educators in designing the curriculum and sets the minds of the students as to what knowledge, skills and competencies they need to acquire throughout the process as a means of establishing goals and objectives. Disadvantages however, lie in the inability of diagnostic tests to consider individuals differences and incorporate all needs in one curriculum comprehensively.

            Informal assessments are more practical since they are implemented when the need arises, if not at frequent times in order to continuously monitor or supervise progress. The purpose of administering an informal assessment is to measure what formal types of assessment can not since they are standardized and are limited to particular rubrics or guidelines. Informal assessment is utilized to determine other types of knowledge, skills, and competencies that are not readily measured by traditional paper-and-pencil tests, etc.

            Types of informal assessments include formative tests which happen during instruction, such as recitations during lectures or questions in between reading sections of a text. The advantages of formative tests are that they are able to monitor or determine whether the learners are able to follow the instruction and in addition, the educator is able to adjust the learning process according to the needs of the learner. The disadvantages are that it should be able to cover all the learners and the formative test should be appropriate to the capacity of the learner to cope with the learning process. Another type of informal assessment is the anecdotal method wherein the educator takes notes of the things that happen during the learning process, specifically about a particular learner. The anecdotes taken will be able to advise teachers, parents, and counselors on how the behavior of the learner will be handled. The advantages of this type of informal assessment are that it observes the unique characteristics of the learners and then addresses not only the cognitive aspect, but all other aspects as well. The disadvantages are that it may be subjective and it may not be factual enough as behavior is not concrete.

            Aside from the formative and anecdotal types of informal assessment, the administration of reflective journals and the establishment of learning contracts between the teacher and the student are also considered as informal assessments. Reflective journals require learners to take note of momentous events that occur during the day-to-day teaching learning process. The advantages of reflective journals is that learners will be able to express their feelings comfortably, and consequently allow educators to determine their personal thoughts and opinions on the teaching-learning process. On the other hand, the disadvantages lie on the inability of reflective journals to evaluate learning comprehensively since they are limited to the personal thoughts and ideas of the learner, and it will not be able to meet the need to quantify assessment since it is not numerically measured. The learning contract, as a means of assessment, refers to the agreement between the teacher and the learner discussing and defining the kinds of knowledge, skills, and competencies that should be incorporated to the classroom learning activities. Learning contracts enable the learners to share the responsibility in facilitating learning. Moreover, learning contracts are able to motivate learners to fully engage themselves in the learning process since they feel they are involved through the learning contract. The disadvantages of learning contracts include the inflexibility that it may cause to the curriculum if there will become a necessity to change lesson plans, and such. In terms of assessment, the learning contract is not a reliable tool for educators to determine the amount and kind of knowledge, skills, and competencies that the learners already know and need, since the content of the learning contract is based on what the learners want. (Stiggins, 2005)

References

Smith, M. (2007). Knowledge Achievement Tests. Retrieved December 31, 2008, from

            Education Articles. Website: http://www.edarticle.com/standardized-testing/knowledge-achievement-tests.html

Stiggins, R. (2005). Student-involved Assessment for Learning. Upper Saddle River,   N.J.: Prentice Hall