Evaluation of student knowledge is central to many classrooms in America. Although assessment is nothing new, with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind accountability legislation, student evaluation drew more attention from the general public. Conducting evaluation isn't a single process. Educators have an array of options, including subjective and objective assessments that they may use to judge, rank and rate the students' competency and academic progress.
A subjective evaluation is done through the lens of the professional educator's eye. On top of training to instruct children, teachers also learn how to assess them using their expert judgment. During a subjective evaluation, the teacher creates criteria and rates the student's development, learning, strengths or weaknesses accordingly. This means that one teacher's evaluation of a student may differ from another's, based on variations of professional opinion. In contrast, an objective evaluation doesn't take the evaluator's point of view into consideration.
Fairness and Reliability
Objective assessments are often more reliable and fair than subjective ones. These evaluations treat every student the same when it comes to scoring criteria and questions. For example, a teacher gives her students a solve-the-equation math test with 50 questions on it. Anyone who misses five or fewer questions gets an "A." The teacher's view of the student's progress doesn't influence the evaluation. Instead, everyone who gets a specific score is ranked on the same level.
Purpose of the Process
The two types of evaluations don't always have the same purposes. While teachers use both to assess their students, it isn't always for the same reasons. Educators often use objective assessments for placement or promotion, according to Florida State University professors Valerie J. Shute and Yoon Jeon Kim in the "Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology." Although teachers may use subjective assessments for the same purposes, they also use these types of evaluations to review the student's progress over time or to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
Ratings and Rubrics
Scoring rubrics -- or criteria used to rate the students -- are part of both objective and subjective evaluations. Although the quantitative rubric applications are more evident in an objective assessment, an educator can translate the subjective observations into a numeric score. Creating a point scale for observations or a review of the student's work can turn the teacher's view into a concrete rating. For example, instead of saying that a student "makes strides in the use of critical thinking strategies to solve equations," the numeric equivalent may be a 0 for showing no effort to use these strategies, a 1 for partial evidence or occasional use and a 2 for consistent use.
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