Assessment, and Evaluation in Education
Dr. Bob Kizlik
December 9, 2012
Throughout my years of teaching undergraduate courses, and to some extent,
graduate courses, I was continuously reminded each
semester that many of my students who had taken the requisite course in
"educational tests and measurements" or a course with a similar title as part of
their professional preparation, often had confusing ideas about fundamental
differences in terms such as measurement, assessment and evaluation as they are
used in education. When I asked the question, "what is the difference between
assessment and evaluation," I usually got a lot of blank stares. Yet, it seems that
understanding the differences between measurement, assessment, and evaluation is
fundamental to the knowledge base of professional teachers and effective teaching.
Such understanding is also, or at the very least should be a core component of the curricula implemented in
universities and colleges required in the education of future teachers.
In many places on the ADPRIMA website the phrase, "Anything not understood in
more than one way is not understood at all" appears after some explanation or
body of information. That phrase is, in my opinion, a fundamental idea of what
should be a cornerstone of all teacher education. Students often struggle with
describing or explaining what it means to "understand" something that they say
they understand. I believe that in courses on on the subject of educational tests and measurements
it is often that case that "understanding" is inferred from responses on multiple-choice
tests or solving statistical problems. A semester later, when questioned about
very fundamental ideas in statistics, measurement, assessment and evaluation,
the students in my courses seemingly forgot most, if not all of what they "learned."
Measurement, assessment, and evaluation mean very different things, and yet most
of my students were unable to adequately explain the differences. So, in keeping
with the ADPRIMA approach to explaining things in as straightforward and
meaningful a way as possible, here are what I think are useful descriptions of
these three fundamental terms. These are personal opinions, but they have worked
for me for many years. They have operational utility, and therefore may also be
useful for your purposes.
refers to the process by which the attributes or dimensions of some
physical object are determined. One exception seems to be in the use of the word
measure in determining the IQ of a person. The phrase, "this test measures IQ"
is commonly used. Measuring such things as attitudes or preferences also
applies. However, when we measure, we generally use some standard instrument to
determine how big, tall, heavy, voluminous, hot, cold, fast, or straight
something actually is. Standard instruments refer to physical devices such as rulers,
scales, thermometers, pressure gauges, etc. We measure to obtain information
about what is. Such information may or may not be useful, depending on the
accuracy of the instruments we use, and our skill at using them. There are few
such instruments in the social sciences that approach the validity and
reliability of say a 12" ruler. We measure how big a classroom is in terms of
square feet, we measure the temperature of the room by using a thermometer, and
we use an Ohm meter to determine the voltage, amperage, and resistance in a
circuit. In all of these examples, we are not assessing anything; we are simply
collecting information relative to some established rule or standard.
Assessment is therefore quite different from measurement, and has uses that
suggest very different purposes. When used in a learning objective, the
definition provided on the ADPRIMA for the behavioral verb measure is:
a standard scale or measuring device to an object, series of objects, events, or
conditions, according to practices accepted by those who are skilled in the use
of the device or scale.
An important point in the definition is that the person be skilled in the use of
the device or scale. For example, a person who has in his or her possession a
working Ohm meter, but does not know how to use it properly, could apply it to
an electrical circuit but the obtained results would mean little or nothing in
Click here for
a brief explanation of the different types of measurement scales. The
information will give you a little more context for the preceding section.
Assessment is a process by which information is obtained relative to some known
objective or goal. Assessment is
a broad term that includes testing. A test is a special form of assessment.
Tests are assessments made under contrived circumstances especially so that they
may be administered. In other words, all tests are assessments, but not all
assessments are tests. We test at the end of a lesson or unit. We assess
progress at the end of a school year through testing, and we assess verbal and
quantitative skills through such instruments as the SAT and GRE. Whether
implicit or explicit, assessment is most usefully connected to some goal or
objective for which the assessment is designed. A test or assessment yields
information relative to an objective or goal. In that sense, we test or assess
to determine whether or not an objective or goal has been obtained. Assessment
of skill attainment is rather straightforward. Either the skill exists at some
acceptable level or it doesnít. Skills are readily demonstrable. Assessment of
understanding is much more difficult and complex. Skills can be practiced;
understandings cannot. We can assess a personís knowledge in a variety of ways,
but there is always a leap, an inference that we make about what a person does
in relation to what it signifies about what he knows. In the section on this
site on behavioral verbs, to assess means To stipulate the conditions by which
the behavior specified in an objective may be ascertained. Such stipulations are
usually in the form of written descriptions.
Evaluation is perhaps the most complex and least understood of the terms.
Inherent in the idea of evaluation is "value." When we evaluate, what we are
doing is engaging in some process that is designed to provide information that
will help us make a judgment about a given situation. Generally, any evaluation
process requires information about the situation in question. A situation is an
umbrella term that takes into account such ideas as objectives, goals,
standards, procedures, and so on. When we evaluate, we are saying that the
process will yield information regarding the worthiness, appropriateness,
goodness, validity, legality, etc., of something for which a reliable
measurement or assessment has been made. For example, I often ask my students if
they wanted to determine the temperature of the classroom they would need to get
a thermometer and take several readings at different spots, and perhaps average
the readings. That is simple measuring. The average temperature tells us nothing
about whether or not it is appropriate for learning. In order to do that,
students would have to be polled in some reliable and valid way. That polling
process is what evaluation is all about. A classroom average temperature of 75
degrees is simply information. It is the context of the temperature for a
particular purpose that provides the criteria for evaluation. A temperature of
75 degrees may not be very good for some students, while for others, it is ideal
for learning. We evaluate every day. Teachers, in particular, are constantly
evaluating students, and such evaluations are usually done in the context of
comparisons between what was intended (learning, progress, behavior) and what
was obtained. When used in a learning objective, the definition provided on the
ADPRIMA site for the behavioral verb evaluate is: To classify objects,
situations, people, conditions, etc., according to defined criteria of quality.
Indication of quality must be given in the defined criteria of each class
category. Evaluation differs from general classification only in this respect.
To sum up, we measure distance, we assess learning, and we evaluate results in
terms of some set of criteria. These three terms are certainly share some common
attributes, but it
is useful to think of them as separate but connected ideas and processes.
Here is a great link that offer different ideas about these three terms, with
well-written explanations. Unfortunately, most information on the Internet
concerning this topic amounts to little more than advertisements for services.
EVALUATION & RESEARCH
Another resource with a wide variety of information on many related topics is
Distance Education Aptitude and Readiness Scale