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Finding balance in classroom assessment: High school teachers' knowledge and practice

Laura Greenstein, Johnson & Wales University


Classroom assessment, as a measure of student learning, continues to evolve in response to pressure from standardized testing, authentic assessment, and newer knowledge of cognition. However, research is lacking on what teachers know and how they use classroom assessment. The purpose of this study was to examine how high school teachers assess student learning and how they use the information from assessment to inform and guide instruction. It compared their practices to recommended standards in classroom assessment. Data were collected and descriptive statistics used to analyze the results of a survey and interviews of 115 teachers in two Connecticut high schools. This research provided a deeper understanding of current practices in classroom assessment that can be used at the school or district level to guide policy and practice. Primary findings included large variability between teachers, a disconnect between instruction and assessment, and limited assessment literacy. Teachers are predisposed towards the use of traditional methods for traditional purposes however, some increase in standardized test methodology and alternative assessments was noted. Data revealed an increase in teacher designed assessments as well as limited and inconsistent use of formative assessment and student self-assessment. Alignment with standards in assessment is irregular: for example, multiple methods are used more regularly than multiple sources, assessment informs instruction more than improves curriculum, and reliability is subordinate to validity. Recommendations are made for the content and context of professional development, changes in policy to strengthen classroom assessment, improvement in practice, and design of balanced assessment systems. Suggested changes to classroom assessment include clearly articulated and measurable standards, improvements to teacher evaluation, strengthening of formative assessment, a refocus from inputs to outputs, and greater accountability. The crossroads of effective assessment, where policy meets practice, requires relevance, clear purposes, measurable indicators, logical consequences, and strategies for resolution, reporting, and monitoring at all levels.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Secondary education|Educational evaluation

Recommended Citation

Greenstein, Laura, "Finding balance in classroom assessment: High school teachers' knowledge and practice" (2004). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3124561.