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Classroom Assessment : Principles and Practice for Effective Standards-Based Instruction



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This text provides prospective and current teachers with a concise, non-technical, and practical guide to conducting a full range of high-quality classroom assessments. The text emphasizes assessment in the context of the realities of teaching and teacher decision-making in an era of standards-based education. Assessment methods are integrated with instruction and presented according to when teachers evaluate students (before, during, and after an instructional unit), the learning targets that are measured, and standards emphasized in state-wide testing. There is considerable emphasis on the nature of learning targets and how different assessments are most appropriate for different targets. For each assessment technique, suggestions for effective practice are presented with examples, case studies, and teacher interviews. This edition includes additional emphasis on formative assessment for student learning.

Author Biography

James H. McMillan is professor and chair of foundations of education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, where he teaches educational research and assessment courses and directs the Research and Evaluation Track of the PhD in education program. He is also director of the Metropolitan Ed­ucational Research Consortium, a partnership of Virginia Commonwealth University and seven Richmond-area school divisions that conducts and disseminates action and applied research. His current research interests include classroom and large-scale assessment. He has recently published the third edition of Classroom Assessment: Principles and Practice for Effective Standards-Based Instruction and edited Formative Classroom Assessment: Theory into Practice. He has authored three educa­tional research methods textbooks and published numerous articles in journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, the Journal of Educational Psychology, Contemporary Educational Psychology, and Educa­tional Measurement: Issues and Practice.

Table of Contents

Preface xi


The Role of Assessment in

Teaching 1

Integrating Instruction and Assessment 3

The Realities of Teaching 3

Instructional Decision Making and Assessment 5

What Is Classroom Assessment? 9

Purpose 9

Measurement 10

Evaluation 11

Use 12

Diagnosis 12

Grading 12

Instruction 12

Research on Learning, Motivation,

Instruction, and Curriculum: Implications

for Assessment 13

Recent Trends in Classroom Assessment 15

The Influence of Large-Scale Accountability

Testing 19

Teachers’ Classroom Assessment and

Grading Practices Decision Making 21

Assessment Standards for Teachers 23

Summary 24

What’s Coming 24

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 25

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 26

Suggestions for Action Research 26


Cognitive Learning Targets

and Standards 28

Knowing Where Your Students Are

Going 29

Educational Goals 29

Objectives 29

Standards 31

Criteria 34

Expectations 35

Learning Targets 36

Taxonomies of Educational

Objectives 38

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Objectives 38

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Objectives 40

Marzano and Kendall’s New Taxonomy 40

Types of Knowledge Targets 42

Knowledge Representation 42

Declarative Knowledge and Understanding 45

Procedural Knowledge and Understanding 45

Deep Understanding and Reasoning 46

Sources for Learning Targets 48

Professional Preparation 48

Textbooks 49

Existing Lists of Objectives 50

National and State Standards 51

Criteria for Selecting Learning Targets

and Standards 53


88422 00 i-xiv r2 th 7/22/10 9:05 PM Page iii

Summary 55

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 56

Answers to Self-Instructional Review Exercises 57

Suggestions for Action Research 58


High-Quality Classroom

Assessment 60

What Is High-Quality Classroom

Assessment? 61

Clear and Appropriate Learning Targets 61

Alignment of Assessment Methods

and Learning Targets 62

Types of Assessment Methods 62

Matching Targets with Methods 65

Knowledge and Simple Understanding 65

Deep Understanding and Reasoning 66

Skills 67

Products 67

Affect 67

Validity 68

What Is a Valid Assessment? 68

How Is Validity Determined? 68

Content-Related Evidence 69

Criterion-Related Evidence 71

Construct-Related Evidence 72

Reliability 73

What Is a Reliable Score? 73

Assessment Error 75

How Is Reliability Determined? 77

Sources of Reliability Evidence 77

Evidence Based on Stability 77

Evidence Based on Equivalent Forms 77

Evidence Based on Internal Consistency 78

Evidence Based on Scorer or Rater Consistency 78

Evidence Based on Decision Consistency 80

Factors Influencing Reliability Estimates 80

Fairness 80

Student Knowledge of Learning Targets and

Assessments 81

Opportunity to Learn 81

Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills 82

Avoiding Student Stereotyping 82

Avoiding Bias in Assessment Tasks and

Procedures 82

Accommodating Special Needs and English

Language Learners 84

A Model of Fairness in Classroom Assessment 84

Positive Consequences 86

Positive Consequences for Students 86

Positive Consequences for Teachers 88

Alignment 88

Practicality and Efficiency 91

Teacher Familiarity with the Method 91

Time Required 91

Complexity of Administration 92

Ease of Scoring 92

Ease of Interpretation 92

Cost 93

Summary 93

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 94

Answers to Self-Instructional Review Exercises 95

Suggestions for Action Research 96

Endnote 97


Formative Assessment I:

Gathering Evidence 98

What Is Formative Assessment? 99

Gathering Informal Formative Assessment

Evidence 102

iv C O N T E N T S


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Informal Formative Assessment Observation 103

Assessing Nonverbal Behavior 103

Assessing Voice-Related Cues 108

Beginning of Year Observations 111

Sources of Error in Informal Observation 112

Informal Oral Questioning 114

Characteristics of Effective Questioning to Assess

Student Progress 115

Formal Formative Assessment 120

Preinstructional Structured Exercises 121

Pretests 121

Homework 122

In-Class Assignments 123

Quizzes and Unit Tests 123

Classroom Response Systems 124

Benchmark Assessments 125

Teacher Expectations 126

Summary 128

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 129

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 130

Suggestions for Action Research 132


Formative Assessment II:

Feedback and Instructional

Adjustments 133

Providing Effective Feedback 134

Types of Feedback 135

Goal Directed 135

Scaffolded 136

Self-Referenced 137

Standards-Referenced 138

Norm-Referenced 138

Factors to Consider in Determining the

Nature of the Feedback 139

Amount 139

Timing 140

Mode 141

Audience 141

Type of Task 141

Differentiated Formative Feedback 142

Learner Level of Ability 142

Grade Level 143

Subject 143

Anticipating Feedback 144

What About Giving Praise? 145

Instructional Adjustments 147

Mastery Learning 148

Differentiated Instruction 149

Learning Progressions 150

A Model of Instructional Adjustments for

Formative Feedback 152

Summary 152

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 154

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 154

Suggestions for Action Research 155


Planning and Implementing

Classroom Summative

Assessments 156

Planning and Summative Assessment 158

Representative Sampling 158

Number and Length of Assessments 159

Use of Assessments Provided by Textbook and

Test Publishers 160

Preparing Students for Summative Assessments 161

C O N T E N T S v

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Scheduling the Summative Assessment 162

When Summative Assessments Should Be

Constructed 162

Putting Summative Assessments

Together 165

Preparing Test Directions 165

Arranging Items 166

Physical Layout 166

Administering Summative Assessments 166

Unit/Chapter Tests 167

Summary 168

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 169

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 169

Suggestions for Action Research 170



Assessment: Multiple

Choice, Binary Choice, and

Matching 171

Multiple-Choice Items 172

Assessing Knowledge and Comprehension 176

Assessing Application 177

Assessing Deep Understanding and Reasoning 179

Binary-Choice Items 181

Assessing Knowledge and Comprehension 182

Assessing Deep Understanding and

Reasoning 184

Assessing Application 185

Matching Items 186

Interpretive Exercises 188

Assessing Comprehension 190

Assessing Deep Understanding and Reasoning 191

Summary 193

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 193

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 194

Suggestions for Action Research 196



Assessment: Completion,

Short-Answer, and Essay

Items 197

Completion Items 198

Short-Answer Items 200

Assessing Knowledge and Comprehension 200

Assessing Deep Understanding and

Reasoning 202

Essay Items 204

Constructing Essay Items 209

Scoring Essays 212

Summary 215

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 216

Answers to Self-Instructional Review Items 217

Suggestions for Action Research 218

Endnote 218



Assessment: Performance

Assessment 219

What Is Performance Assessment? 220

Strengths and Limitations of Performance

Assessments 221

Learning Targets for Performance

Assessments 224

Deep Understanding 224

Reasoning 224

vi C O N T E N T S


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Skills 224

Communication and Presentations Skills 224

Psychomotor Skills 226

Products 228

Constructing Performance Tasks 229

Restricted- and Extended-Type Performance

Tasks 229

Performance Task Descriptions and Contexts 231

Performance Task Question or Prompt 232

Performance Criteria 239

Rubrics 240

Rating Scales 240

Developing Rubrics 243

Summary 251

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 253

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 254

Suggestions for Action Research 255

Endnote 255



Assessment: Portfolios 256

What Are Portfolios? 257

Advantages 259

Disadvantages 261

Planning for Portfolio Assessment 262

Purpose 263

Learning Targets 263

Uses 264

Identify Physical Structure 265

Determine Sources of Content 265

Determine Student Self-Reflective Guidelines and

Scoring Criteria 265

Implementing Portfolio Assessment 268

Review with Students 268

Supplying Portfolio Content 268

Student Self-Reflection 270

Teacher Evaluation 274

Checklists of Contents 274

Portfolio Structure Evaluation 274

Evaluations of Individual Entries 276

Evaluation of Entire Contents 276

Student—Teacher Conferences 277

Electronic Portfolios 278

Summary 280

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 281

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 282

Suggestions for Action Research 283


Assessing Affective

Traits, Dispositions, and

Beliefs 284

Are Affective and Student Belief Targets

Important? 285

What Are Affective Traits and Learning

Targets? 287

Attitude Targets 288

Value Targets 289

Motivation Targets 290

Academic Self-Concept Targets 291

Social Relationship Targets 291

Classroom Environment Targets 292

Affective Domain of the Taxonomy of Educational

Objectives 294

Methods of Assessing Affective Targets 294

Teacher Observation 296

Unstructured Observation 297

Structured Observation 298

Student Self-Report 300

Student Interview 300

C O N T E N T S vii

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Questionnaires and Surveys 302

Constructed-Response Formats 302

Selected-Response Formats 303

Constructing Self-Report Items 309

Student Self-Assessment 310

Peer Ratings 317

Guess-Who Approach 318

Sociometric Approach 318

Which Method or Combination of Methods

Should I Use? 319

Ensuring Anonymity 320

Summary 322

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 323

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 324

Suggestions for Action Research 325


Assessing Special Needs

and ELL Students 326

Assessing Students with Special Needs 327

Legal Mandates 327

Assessing Students for Identification 330

Mild Mental Retardation 333

Sensory Impairment 333

Physical Impairment 334

Learning Disability 334

Emotional Disturbance 334

Attention Deficits 335

Hyperactivity 335

Assessment Problems Encountered by

Students with Special Needs 336

Comprehension Difficulties 338

Auditory Difficulties 339

Visual Difficulties 339

Time Constraint Difficulties 339

Anxiety 340

Embarrassment 340

Variability of Behavior 340

Assessment Accommodations 340

Adaptations in Test Directions, Construction,

and Format 341

Short-Answer and Essay Items 342

Multiple-Choice Items 344

Binary-Choice Items 344

Completion Items 344

Performance Assessments 345

Portfolios 345

Adaptations in Test Administration 346

Adaptations in Testing Site 346

Grading and Reporting

Accommodations 348

Grading Accommodations 349

IEP Grading 349

Shared Grading 349

Contracting 350

Reporting Accommodations 351

English Language Learners in Inclusive

Settings 352

Factors Influencing ELL Assessments 352

Language and Literacy Skill Factors 352

Educational Background Factors 353

Cultural Factors 353

Identifying Difficulties that ELL Students Experience

in Classroom Assessment 353

Difficulty in Comprehending Test Language 353

Difficulty in Expressing What Is Known 354

Lack of Content and Cultural Knowledge

in Test Items 354

Unfamiliarity with Different

Types of Tests 354

Emotional Stress 355

Assessment Accommodations and

Modifications 355

Test Format 355

Test-Taking Procedures 356

Evaluating Performance and Providing

Feedback 356

Summary 357

viii C O N T E N T S


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Self-Instructional Review Exercises 358

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 360

Suggestions for Action Research 362


Grading and Reporting

Student Performance 363

Teachers’ Judgments in Grading 364

Functions of Marking and Grading 367

Providing Feedback 367

Basis of Comparison 369

Norm-Referenced Grading 369

Standards-Based Grading 370

Motivation 372

Incorporating Factors Other Than

Performance 374

Aptitude 375

Improvement 375

Effort 376

Attendance 377

Attitudes 378

Approaches to Marking and

Grading 378

Letter Grades 378

Percentage Correct 380

Pass—Fail 382

Rubrics/Checklists 382

Standards-Based 383

Written Descriptions 384

Mixed Methods 385

Determining Report Card (Composite)

Grades 385

Select What to Include in the Final

Grade 386

Select Weights for Each Assessment 387

Combining Different Scores and Grades 389

Weighted Categories versus Total Points

Methods 389

Using Judgment when Combining Grades 392

Cheating 393

Recognizing Teacher Fallibility 393

Reporting Student Progress to Parents 395

Report Cards 396

Progress Reports 396

Parent—Teacher Conferences 397

Student—Led Conferences 398

Summary 398

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 400

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 401

Suggestions for Action Research 401



Interpreting, and Using

Standardized and State

Standards-Based Tests 403

Fundamental Descriptive Statistics 403

Frequency Distributions 404

Measures of Central Tendency 406

Measures of Variability 407

Measures of Relationship 409

Scatterplot 410

Correlation Coefficient 410

Types of Standardized Tests 411

Norm-Referenced Achievement Test

Batteries 413

Aptitude Tests 414

Readiness Tests 415

Standards-Based State and District Tests 415

Benchmark Assessments 417

C O N T E N T S ix

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Types of Derived Standardized Test

Scores 418

Standard Scores 418

Z-Score 418

Normal Curve Equivalent 419

Stanines 419

Scaled Score 420

Deviation IQ Scores 420

Other Standard Scores 420

Grade Equivalent Scores 421

Interpreting Standardized and State

Standards-Based Test Scores 421

Standard Error of Measurement 421

Alignment 423


Interpretations 423

Understanding Standardized and Standards-

Based Test Score Reports 425

Using Standardized and Standards-Based/

Criterion-Referenced Test Scores 426

Interpreting Test Reports for Parents 429

Preparing Students to Take Standardized

Tests 431

Administering Standardized and Standards-

Based Tests 436

Summary 437

Self-Instructional Review Exercises 438

Answers to Self-Instructional Review

Exercises 439

Suggestions for Action Research 440


A The Scope of a Teacher’s Profesional

Role and Responsibilities for Student

Assessment 441

B The Student Evaluation Standards 445

Glossary 448

References 453

Index 461

x C O N T E N T S


88422 00 i-xiv r2 th 7/22/10 9:05 PM Page x

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