Assessments ~ Agree to Disagree!

Assessments – Agree to Disagree!
By Dr. Powell

educationAcross my desk today from my usual Google alert for assessments came an interesting byline that read, “Assessing the pros and cons of assessment” (Flaherty, 2013). I see more pros than cons when it comes to providing summative and formative feedback to my students. Evidently, within the state of Iowa, teachers from three of their public universities will now have to submit in writing – a plan of assessments that will help improve student learning.

Over the years of teaching both on-ground and online, I couldn’t agree more that assessments are extremely important for student learning. What I choose to disagree with is the idea of writing up a plan for those assessments. The other element that I choose to disagree with within this article is the Board of Regents evaluating the student’s learning based on instructor’s “plans of assessments”.

One of the reasons I attend faculty development meetings, strategy meetings, seminars, or continue to take courses on assessments, online education, or creating a student-learning environment is to improve on my knowledge of perhaps new trends that other instructors or researchers have found work within this environment. The issue at hand of course – just as with technology – trends change on a daily basis. What works in one classroom “today” – may not work in that same classroom tomorrow. Much of an instructor’s assessment process is to constantly evaluate their classrooms and being able to apply what they learn through their faculty meetings or seminars and constantly assess their effectiveness. In other words, if I were to create an assessment plan for my students today and provided them to the university, how could I – as an instructor – stick specifically to those plans for a year without realizing that something within my plans of assessment may not work for a specific course or even a specific group of students each and every time?

Ideas and presenting seminars on varied types of summative and formative assessments are a great way to get instructors, universities and school systems to review their current assessments and being able to assess their current students and their actual student “needs” verses the plan that was designed out of requirement. Please understand that I am not referring to a school or university providing a basic standard for their school. This is separate and independent from this idea of creating an assessment plan that wouldn’t be implemented for several months once the instructor has drafted their plan. It would have to be reviewed and approved prior to being implemented. From that point, the instructor would be expected to adhere to their documented plan of formative and summative feedback for their students for the next school year. If their plan fails, what happens? Who is responsible for the failure of our students?

A recommendation for schools and universities might be to review the standards of effectiveness provided and created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Our goal as instructors of course is to see the success of our students. Over the past year, ETS has improved on its higher education services and products by conducting research, providing motivational certificates and providing new remote test-taking delivery options. This was done to help the changing needs and challenges of higher education. After their research was completed, they sent out surveys to these institutions where 225 ETS customers responded, providing positive results. According to David Payne (2013), Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Higher Division at ETS, their Proficiency Profile had a 73 percent approval rate in meeting the universities needs to meet the requirements for accreditation and accountability initiatives.

Instead of universities requiring instructors to come up with their yearly plan of formative and summative assessments, why not provide research within your own university to see what works and what doesn’t? The end results might just be astonishing! As new trends emerge within higher education and more students choosing the online environment – even further assessment of your formative and summative assessments need to be taken into consideration. Being able to adjust to our students’ needs and create a better learning environment will not only help them succeed, but be motivated to succeed and improve on their desire for lifelong learning.


Flaherty, Colleen. (2013). “Assessing the pros and cons of assessment”. Higher Education. Web. Accessed July 24, 2013.


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