Education involves teaching new concepts to children and reinforcing old ones. Teachers rely on the practices of evaluation and testing to determine what information the children have retained and the information that must be reinforced. The many tests and evaluations performed can be confusing for parents. However, knowing the difference between the two practices can help parents understand what the educators are trying to accomplish with the child's education.
Testing is also called assessment and involves an interaction with the student to reveal the knowledge that the child has retained from the class lessons. Testing is usually performed in a classroom environment, with every student participating, but are also performed on individual students in an isolated setting. Tests are written, oral, open book or strictly from memory.
Teachers and others perform evaluations in the education system, often with the child unaware that the evaluation is taking place. Evaluations consist of observations of the child's classroom and learning behaviors in an effort to gauge how information is retained.
Testing is used to create goals for learning, and to decide which children are ready for the next set of concepts. In many states, high school students must undergo statewide testing in order to graduate with a high school diploma and not a simple certificate of completion. Evaluations serve to uncover barriers to learning, such as learning or social disorders. Some teachers use evaluations along with the tests to determine if the class has grasped certain concepts or if more learning time is needed.
One of the primary differences between testing and evaluation is the methods used. Testing uses protocols and standardization while evaluation requires observing the child in their natural environment. The observations differ from one child to another, so standards and protocols must be subjective. Another difference is frequency. Testing is a continuous process, performed often with previous results considered with the current to result in progress. Evaluations, however, are used to make a diagnosis.
Testing and evaluation are both vital to the education system. There are no other ways to make an accurate determination of both how much the child has learned and how the child learns. Common testing techniques include true or false determinations, multiple choice questions and essay writing. The most common evaluations used in the classroom include collecting data by observing the student from a distance, as he goes about the daily classroom routine. Other evaluation methods include interviews, questionnaires and group participation. Instructors often combine techniques as well.
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