I propose that we think of assessment as occurring on two dimensions. The first dimension (let’s set this on a horizontal continua) is the degree of evaluation in which we engage. At the far end of this continua (we’ll place it on the right), we are highly evaluative, desiring scores and measures that quantify outcomes in a fairly precise way. Here, we judge work against clearly defined criteria that we apply to see just how close to the mark a student gets. Such evaluation can produce ranks and comparisons. On the other end of this continua (we’ll place it on the left) we might seek to understand students where they are, making sense of their actions and respond through our grounded interpretation. Here, rather than come with predetermined criteria, we open ourselves to the possibilities and variations in both learning styles and outcomes that a close examination of our students’ learning might provide.
“With this map of the terrain in hand, we can begin to place our various assessment practices in the appropriate quadrant. ”
The second dimension (let’s set this on a vertical continua) is the extent to which our assessments are integrated in our instruction and part of the ongoing learning of the classroom. At one end (we’ll place it at the top) we have assessment that is highly embedded in our teaching and students’ learning. That means that we don’t stop or pause our instruction in order to assess but instead embed it as a regular part of our practice. At the other end of the continua (placed at the bottom) we have assessment that is set apart from instruction and student learning. Here, we declare a formal end to our instruction and move into a deliberate assessment phase that we hope will reveal something about students’ learning. A basic graph of these two dimensions produces four quadrants that we might use to map the terrain of assessment (see Figure 1).
Ron Ritchhart provides a model for mapping assessment based on two dimensions: integration and evaluation. He provides examples for each of the quadrants, including providing feedback on performance (Quadrant A), checking for understanding and misconceptions (Quadrant B), examination of teacher’s documentation of learning (Quadrant C) and formal summative assessments (Quadrant D). In the end, the purpose of the map is to ‘to know where we are, and where we might go or want to be’.