Definition of testing, assessment, and evaluation
The following are definitions of testing, assessment, and evaluation. In spite of important differences between these terms, they are often used interchangeably by teachers.
Testing, assessment, and evaluation
The following sections attempt to define testing, assessment, and evaluation.
Definition of evaluation
The verb evaluate means to form an idea of something or to give a judgment about something. The term comes from the French word ‘évaluer’, meaning “to find the value of”. The origin is from the Latin term ‘valere’ meaning “be strong, be well; be of value, or be worth”.
In the educational context, the verb ‘to evaluate’ often collocates with terms such as:
- the effectiveness of an educational system,
- a program,
- a course,
- a curriculum.
According to Weiss (1972), evaluation refers to the systematic gathering of information for the purpose of making decisions. It is not concerned with the assessment of the performance of an individual, but rather with forming an idea of the curriculum and making a judgment about it. This judgment is made based on some kind of criteria and evidence. The purpose is to make decisions about the worth of instruction, a course, or even the whole curriculum. Evaluation is thus larger and may include an analysis of all the aspects of the educational system.
Definition of assessment
The verb assess comes from the French ‘assesser’, but the origin is from the Medieval Latin ‘assessare’ meaning “fix a tax upon,”. Another derivation of the Latin term is ‘assidere’ or ‘adsidere’ meaning “to sit beside” (a judge). Reference is made to the assistant of the judge whose job was to fix the amount of a fine or tax by estimating the value of a property.
Assessment is thus the process of collecting information about students from diverse sources so that educators can form an idea of what they know and can do with this knowledge. While evaluation is concerned with making judgments about instruction, a curriculum, or an educational system, assessment is concerned with the students’ performance. In other words, one assesses an individual but evaluates a program, a curriculum, an educational system, etc.
The verb ‘assess’ often collocates with:
According to Le Grange & Reddy, (1998, p.3)
Assessment occurs when judgments are made about a learner’s performance, and entails gathering and organizing information about learners in order to make decisions and judgments about their learning.”
Assessment is thus the process of collecting information about learners using different methods or tools (e.g. tests, quizzes, portfolios, etc).
Educators assess their students for a variety of purposes:
- To evaluate learners’ educational needs,
- To diagnose students’ academic readiness,
- To measure their progress in a course,
- To measure skill acquisition.
There are different types of assessment:
- Formative assessment:
It is process-oriented and is also referred to as ‘assessment for Learning’. It is an ongoing process to monitor learning, the aim of which is to provide feedback to improve teachers instruction methods and improve students learning.
- Summative assessment:
It is product-oriented and is often referred to as ‘Assessment of Learning’. It is used to measure student learning progress and achievement at the end of a specific instructional period.
- Alternative assessment:
It is also referred to as authentic or performance assessment. It is an alternative to traditional assessment that relies only on standardized tests and exams. It requires students to do tasks such as presentations, case studies, portfolios, simulations, reports, etc. Instead of measuring what students know, alternative assessment focuses on what students can do with this knowledge.
Definition of testing
Simply put, a test refers to a tool, technique or a method that is intended to measure students knowledge or their ability to complete a particular task. In this sense, testing can be considered as a form of assessment. Tests should meet some basic requirements, such as validity and reliability.
- Validity refers to the extent to which a test measures what it is supposed to measure.
- Reliability refers to the consistency of test scores when administered on different occasions.
There are different types of tests:
- Placement tests: It is designed to help educators place a student into a particular level or section of a language curriculum or school
- Diagnostic tests: they help teachers and learners to identify strengths and weaknesses.
- Proficiency tests: they measure a learner’s level of language.
- Achievement tests: they are intended to measure the skills and knowledge learned after some kind of instruction.
Faustino, Carmen, Kostina, Irina, & Vergara, Omaira. (2013). Prácticas evaluativas en el componente de inglés y francés de un programa de licenciatura en lenguas extranjeras. Lenguaje, 41(2), 353-382. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0120-34792013000200004&lng=en&tlng=es.
Le Grange, L.L. & Reddy, C. (1998). Continuous Assessment: An Introduction and Guidelines to Implementation. Cape Town, South Africa: Juta
Weiss, C.H. (1972). Evaluation Research: Methods of Assessing Program Effectiveness. Englewood Cliffs (NJ), USA: Prentice-Hall.