The types of assessment available to teachers include two that are sometimes forgotten — benchmark and diagnostic assessments.
Of the four recognized types of assessment, summative and formative are the most common in the classroom, but all four types can aid teachers in determining students’ understanding and advancement.
Summative — Summative assessment is commonly used in the classroom in the form of a test to measure what students have learned at the end of a chapter or unit. But this type of assessment can also be accomplished through an oral presentation, written paper, or project.
Formative — Formative assessment is a diagnostic tool that is used throughout a learning period to evaluate understanding. This type of assessment usually does not result in a passing or failing grade, but allows a teacher to monitor students’ understanding and make any changes necessary in the lesson plan or type of instruction being given. Homework assignments, quizzes, and question/answer reviews are examples of formative assessment.
Diagnostic — Diagnostic assessment is often a test at the start of the year, or even a lesson or unit, to determine what the students know and understand before starting the course of study. The results of this type of assessment provide important information for the teacher in planning for instruction. Teachers may utilize pre-tests for this type of assessment.
Benchmark — Benchmark assessment takes place throughout the school year to evaluate what the students know and what their skill level is in relation to the long-term goals the teacher has established for students. This type of assessment can be done with a review at the beginning of the school year and to prepare them for all types of assessment that they will face throughout the year. Short, frequent benchmark tests on a specific subject often give teachers a clear picture of what the students know and what they have not yet learned compared to the teacher’s long-term goals.
STEM Jobs has discussed and compared formative and summative assessments previously as they are the most common types of assessment. The more unfamiliar diagnostic and benchmark are types of assessments worth considering as well because each has a place in the classroom at different times throughout the school year.
Benchmark v. Diagnostic
The diagnostic assessment is a good starting place for any school lesson. Determining students’ knowledge and skills, what they really understand, and what they just aren’t clear about, is important information for every teacher. Through these testing results, teachers can prepare effective lesson plans which includes more concentration for students who need extra help, and extension work for students who have mastered the subject to keep them engaged and to build on what they already know. New and important information can also be introduced to the students through this type of assessment as a building block based on what they have demonstrated they already know.
Benchmark, in comparison, continues throughout the school year to measure student progress. This type of assessment actually compliments diagnostic assessment as it determines if the students are continuing to follow the instruction given from the starting point determined by the diagnostic testing. The students’ future performance can also be predicted to some extent. Teachers may change their curriculum and teaching style if benchmark assessment shows that adjustments need to be made to meet problems exposed through benchmark assessment.
An evaluation system that includes all types of assessment is a positive response by teachers to the standards established. Starting the school year with diagnostic assessment allows teachers to know what has been learned and what work must be done. Following with benchmark testing to make sure learning is continuing for all students, and confirming the results of the lesson taught through summative and formative assessment ensures a balanced approach from the start of the school year to the end.