Key terminology


Key words Explanation
Assessment for learning Assessment for learning is an assessment where the prime purpose is to improve learning and teaching in order to raise student achievement. It is based on the idea that students will improve most if they understand the goals of their learning, where they are in relation to these goals and how they can close the gap between their current and desired achievement.
Assessment of learning Assessment of learning is any assessment where the prime purpose is to ensure accountability and/or ranking, and/or certify competence, rather than to improve learning.
Assessment tasks Assessment tasks are activities designed specifically to collect information about students’ knowledge, skills and understanding. They should be embedded in a sequence of learning and teaching and be part of the regular curriculum. The TEAL assessment tasks require certain conditions to be met in administration and scoring so that the information collected is valid and reliable.
Authenticity Authenticity is the degree to which assessment materials and conditions are able to elicit the natural use of appropriate oral and written language.
Collaboration Collaboration is the process of students or teachers working together cooperatively.
Continuous assessment Continuous assessment is the process of collecting assessment information in a variety of ways over a period of time, usually through multiple tasks and observation; hence it is usually seen as a more reliable form of assessment.
Criteria (singular = criterion) Criteria are the guidelines, descriptions, or principles by which student responses, products, or performances are judged. When we assess language, the criteria are the key aspects of language use and development that matter in the assessment.
Criteria-based assessment Criteria-based assessment is the assessment of a student’s achievements in relation to specified criteria such as range or accuracy of vocabulary and coherence and organisation of ideas.
Descriptors Descriptors are statements that describe the performance expected at each level of each domain of the assessment criteria.
Domain Assessment domains refer to areas of knowledge, skill or understanding, and which are therefore the target of the assessment, e.g. pronunciation, grammatical accuracy or development of ideas.
Feedback Feedback refers to the process of eliciting and/or giving information to a learner about how they have performed on a task, process or activity. Feedback should be constructive and specific, i.e. related to specific criteria and goals. In effective feedback, the student’s strengths, areas for improvement and strategies about how to improve are usually discussed before giving grades or marks.
Formative assessment Formative assessments are all those activities undertaken by teachers, and by the students assessing themselves and their peers, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which both are engaged. Formative assessments are usually informal and fairly frequent, involving the gathering of information about students and their language learning needs while they are still learning. Formative assessment has two key functions: informing and forming. In other words, formative assessment shapes the decisions about what to do next, by helping the teacher to select what to teach the next lesson, or even in the next moment in the lesson; the student to understand what they have learnt and what they need to learn next.
Interactive assessment Interactive assessment is a dialogic approach to classroom-based assessment that emphasises the interactive role of both teacher and student. In interactive assessment the teacher aims to ensure that learners do their best work, and may show encouragement, scaffold language production, respond to any difficulties with appropriate support and challenge students to extend their language use.
Moderation Moderation is a system of quality control used to ensure that the marking criteria have been interpreted and applied by different assessors in comparable ways.
Morpheme A morpheme is a single unit of meaning with a word. The base word is one morpheme and any prefixes or suffixes are additional morphemes. For example, help has one morpheme, helped has two, unhelpful has three and unhelpfully has four morphemes.
Outcomes-based education Outcomes-based education refers to education defined not in terms of input, but in terms of specific knowledge, skills, understanding, processes and attitudes to be achieved.
Peer assessment Peer assessment is the monitoring and evaluation of a student’s learning outcomes or learning processes by some other students in the class; usually used in conjunction with peer feedback.
Performance assessment Performance assessments refers to assessments in which students are required to perform a task, construct a response, create a product, or demonstrate ability in a context where they are doing something for a meaningful purpose.
Reliability Reliability refers to the degree to which the assessment process ensures consistent results. Aspects of reliability include conditions required for assessment administration, and consistent use of marking criteria by one or more raters.
Scaffolding Scaffolding is a type of assistance offered by a teacher or peer to support learning. The teacher or peer helps students master a task or concept that they are initially unable to perform or grasp independently. The teacher only attempts to help students with tasks that are just beyond their current capability. Student errors are expected, but, with teacher feedback and prompting, students are able to achieve the required task or goal. When students take responsibility for, or master the task, the teacher begins the process of ‘fading’, or the gradual removal of the scaffolding, which allows students to work independently.
Scale (rating scale) Scales, also known as rating scales, are a sequence of descriptors of typical performances ranked in terms of their quality, used by assessors in assessing performance, such as giving a presentation or writing a letter.
Self assessment Self-assessment is the monitoring and self-evaluation by a student of his/her own learning outcomes or learning processes.
Standardisation Standardisation (or moderation) is a process of comparing and reviewing interpretations of assessment criteria and scoring processes to ensure the same standards are being applied across students and context within schools.
Summative assessment Summative assessments are those more formally planned assessments at the end of a unit or term/year which are used primarily to evaluate student overall achievement. Traditionally such summative assessments have been used to grade and/or rank students, but in an assessment for learning culture, even summative assessments can be used formatively to provide feedback to improve learning and teaching.
Task type Task type refers to the kind of activity, e.g. comparing two characters, recounting a story, describing a scene or promoting a book.
Teacher-based assessment Teacher-based assessment is an assessment which is embedded in the teaching and learning process. It has a number of important characteristics which distinguish it from other forms of assessment. It involves the teacher from the beginning to the end: from planning the assessment program, to identifying and/or developing appropriate assessment tasks to making the assessment judgements; it allows for the collection of a number of samples of student performance over a period of time; it can be adapted and modified by the teacher to match the teaching and learning goals of the particular class and students being assessed; it is carried out in ordinary classrooms; it is conducted by the students’ own teacher; it involves students more actively in the assessment process, especially if self and peer assessment are used in conjunction with teacher assessment; it allows the teacher to give immediate and constructive feedback to students; it stimulates continuous evaluation and adjustment of the teaching and learning program.
Text A text is a spoken, written or visual piece of meaningful language. Multi-modal texts can combine oral, written and visual modes within the same text.
Validity Validity refers to whether or not an assessment is an effective measure of what it intends to assess.
Washback (also backwash) Washback is the effect of an assessment on the teaching and learning leading up to it (and following on from it).




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