High Stakes Assessment



High-stakes assessment refers to any test given where results lead to major/significant consequences, or any test that is a basis of a major decision.  As its name implies, “the stakes are high” in taking the test. It is also sometimes called accountability test.

Some uses of High-Stakes Assessment:

  • To determine whether schools have met national standards
  • To determine if the examinee is eligible for promotion to the next grade level
  • To determine if the examinee is eligible for graduation
  • To determine if the examinee is eligible to practice certain profession and worthy to be awarded a license (doctor of medicine; engineer; teacher; architect; nurse; etc.)
  • To determine if the examinee is qualified to enter a university or school
  • To determine if the examinee is qualified for a scholarship
  • To determine if the examinee is qualified to work in a company

Some Examples of High-Stakes Assessment:

  • bar exams; board exams/professional licensing exams
  • D oral exams
  • school entrance exams (UP College Assessment Test or UPCAT; Ateneo College Entrance Test or ACET; National Competitive Examination or NCE, other university entrance exams)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and other school aptitude exams
  • driver’s qualifying test
  • Kumon completer’s exam

Advantages of High-Stakes Assessment:

  • Test has clear and well defined standards and can provide information on the examinee’s learning achievements, and whether the students and the school have met the set standards.
  • Test result of examinee’s performance can be a basis for comparison that can be used for future planning.
  • Test can provide information on which areas need more work.
  • Test highlights the examinee’s learning strengths and gaps, and information can be used to improve curriculum and instruction.
  • Test motivates the examinee to study hard and give his/her best performance in order to get the reward equated to passing the test (diploma, license, acceptance to university or company, etc.).

Disadvantages of High Stakes Assessment:

  • Test does not correctly measure the true capability and knowledge of the examinee. There are other factors that may affect the test results such as anxiety, sickness or feeing unwell when test is taken, motivation, among many others.
  • Test creates an atmosphere of anxiety, tension, and stress detrimental to learning.
  • Test puts so much pressure on the teachers that they sometimes just teach the test (reveal assessment test questions and just let the students memorize the answers), and the whole purpose of assessment is defeated.
  • Test narrows the curriculum and limits the learning. Teachers and students tend to focus only on the materials that are likely to appear in the test and ignore the other lessons.
  • Test consumes time for memorizing and reviewing for the high-stakes test, rather than use the time for real learning.
  • Test limits the student’s ability to use cognitive skills. The test only requires the use of low level thinking skills in memorization and recalling of information.  The test does not assess the test taker’s high level cognitive skills.
  • Test triggers unhealthy competition.
  • Test may create incorrect interpretations about the examinee’s true capabilities, and may hamper the examinee’s chance to prove himself/herself worthy of whatever is at stake.
  • The negative result of a single high-stakes test may unfairly ruin examinee’s educational and professional career or unfairly hinder his/her chance of a good future.



High-stakes assessment has its advantages and disadvantages, and I strongly believe that a person should never be defined based solely on a test. A person should never be judged based on the result of a single high-stakes test. It is always safe and fair to use multiple types of assessment to gauge’s one’s true capabilities and intelligence.


Study.com (n.d.). High-stakes testing: Accountability and problems. Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/high-stakes-testing-accountability-and-problems.html

Formative Assessment vs. Summative Assessment



Formative assessment continuously monitors students’ learning and provides ongoing feedback in order to improve instruction and learning. It serves the purpose of assessment FOR learning.

Summative assessment measures students’ proficiency and certifies learning. It serves the purpose of assessment OF learning.

To clarify more, here’s a table of comparison between formative and summative assessment.

Formative assessment Summative assessment
  • assessment for learning
  • assessment of learning
  • occurs during instruction or throughout the teaching-learning process
  • occurs after  instruction

(at the end of instructional period like academic quarter, semester, trimester, school year, etc.)

  • monitors/tracks the students’ progress throughout the entire teaching-learning process
  • certifies or provides proof of students’ learning
  • provides ongoing/continuous feedback to help teachers improve instruction and help students to improve their learning
  • adjusts teaching and learning during the entire process
  • measures what the students know and what they don’t know; measures what and how well the  students have learned
  • evaluates students’ competencies relative to set learning outcomes; determines students’ achievements; determines whether the students are successful in achieving learning outcomes; determines if learning goals have been met
  • helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses and address them appropriately
  • helps students monitor their own progress
  • helps students achieve targeted standards
  • encourages the students to study more or exert more effort in order to achieve targeted standards
  • helps determine if the instructional programs are effective
  • helps teachers identify students’ needs, problem-areas and learning gaps, and tackle/resolve them immediately
  • provides information for instructional improvements/refinements
  • helps the teachers gauge and validate if the instructional methods and materials are effective; helps them determine what  needs to be refined, deleted or added
  • can determine grades; students’ future educational and career paths
  • can be used for accreditation
  • can serve as a guide in designing curriculum and instruction
  • can tell which areas have been mastered by students and which areas need more work
  • enables teachers to compare students’ performances/ competencies against  specific standards and against  other students
  • enables teachers to rank students
  • continuous observations of students in the classroom; is integrated in classroom instruction/practice
  • is disconnected from actual classroom practice
  • one assessment cannot measure full content and hence only those that can easily be measured are oftentimes included in the assessment
  • focus is on practice/process
  • focus in on the product or the result
  • low stakes
  • not graded
  • students are motivated to be more adventurous, more creative, explore more hence learn more because no grade is at stake
  • high stakes
  • graded
  • can cause anxieties because results are final and cannot be changed, students therefore play safe, stops to be creative, just answer the way they are expected to answer for fear of committing mistakes
  • should be engaging;
  • should be inherently rewarding, more interesting such that students will be motivated more
  • should be clear to students how it is related to the learning goals
  • should be interactive and cyclical
  • should be clearly aligned with objectives and outcome
  • should be valid and reliable
  • helps determine the next steps during the learning process
  • determines quality of teaching/instruction/school
  • is an accountability measure
  • helps evaluate effectiveness of the program, school’s goals, alignment of curriculum, student placement

  • observations
  • anecdotal records
  • concept map
  • research proposal (for feedback)
  • quizzes
  • home work
  • worksheets
  • performance tasks
  • essays
  • observations
  • questioning strategies
  • projects
  • graphic organizers
  • self-assessments/ peer assessment
  • collaborative activities
  • portfolios (collection of student work)

  • final performance tasks
  • final papers/written outputs
  • final oral presentations
  • standardized tests
  • end of unit tests or projects
  • recitals
  • long exams
  • periodical tests
  • final exams

Formal and informal assessments can either be formative or summative.

Likewise, traditional and alternative/authentic assessments can either be formative or summative.

Assessments can either be formative or summative depending on how assessment data is interpreted. It is formative when used to improve instruction and learning during the entire teaching-learning process; summative if used to gauge student’s overall achievement and measure what the students have learned at the end of instructional unit.

Even summative assessments can be utilized formatively when used to guide instruction and help improve learning.

Formative and summative assessments refer not to METHODS, but rather to INTERPRETATIONS of assessment data. A single assessment can be considered as either formative or summative depending on how the assessment data is interpreted to serve its intended purpose.


Bilash, Bio Olenka. (2011). Summative assessment. Retrieved from


Eberly Center. What is the difference between formative and summative assessment? Retrieved from http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/basics/formative-summative.html

Education Service Australia. Formative use of summative assessment. Retrieved from http://www.assessmentforlearning.edu.au/professional_learning/formative_use_of_summative_assessment/formative_landing_page.html

Rona, Amanda. (2015). Every Teacher’s Guide to Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/summative-and-formative-assessments/




Reflective Teaching



Reflective teaching means to thoughtfully, carefully, and responsibly contemplate on our way of teaching, to self-assess, to plan and do what needs to be done.

It is, for me, thinking with the teacher’s heart

  • What do I want my students to learn?
  • What do I want them to become?
  • Are my teaching strategies effective?
  • Are my teaching styles and instructional materials valued by my students?
  • Is the curriculum effective?
  • Am I providing them with appropriate learning environment?
  • Am I helping them learn best? Am I giving them the tools to become self-directed empowered learners?
  • What am I doing to identify their learning needs? misconceptions? learning gaps?
  • What am I doing to address these?
  • How can I motivate them more to be the best that they can be?
  • Am I being the teacher that I ought to be?
  • Am I equipping myself to master the content I am teaching?
  • What else can I do to improve my teaching?

Without reflection, we may lose the right track. We may become the old school teachers who come to the classroom just to present the lesson, not really caring whether the students have grasped or enjoyed the lesson.

  • With reflective teaching, we can identify and troubleshoot, with confidence, classroom problems.
  • With reflective teaching, we can make necessary adjustments with instruction.
  • With reflective teaching, we are guided as to what our next steps should be: what and how to refine, what to delete, and what to add in all aspects of our teaching.
  • With reflective teaching, we’ll know how we can improve professionally.
  • With reflective teaching, the cycle of planning, doing, checking and acting or continuous improvement is reinforced over and over again.
  • With reflective teaching, we can share insights, “lessons learned” and “best practices” with co-educators and grow with each other.

With reflective teaching, we can answer the contemplative questions above, and be able to apply them in conducting assessment. With sharp reflective teaching skills, making day to day observations and interpretations on student’s performance and progress in class will be easier. With sharp reflective teaching skills, we’ll be able to know what assessments are more fitting and know how to conduct them more effectively. And through reflective teaching, we’ll know how to go about our teaching, and be able to align our instruction with the assessments that will help effectively facilitate teaching-learning.




Formal and Informal Assessments



Formal assessments are the systematic, pre-planned data-based tests that measure what and how well the students have learned.  Formal assessments determine the students’ proficiency or mastery of the content, and can be used for comparisons against certain standards.


  • standardized tests
  • criterion referenced tests
  • norm referenced test
  • achievement tests
  • aptitude tests

Informal assessments are those spontaneous forms of assessment that can easily be incorporated in the day-to-day classroom activities and that measure the students’ performance and progress. Informal assessments are content and performance driven.


  • checklist
  • observation
  • portfolio
  • rating scale
  • time sampling
  • event sampling
  • anecdotal record



Characteristics of good formal assessment:

  • should be able to answer the questions: What does the student know? How competent is the student based on the targeted learning outcome?  How much knowledge and skills has the student attained and retained from studying a specific lesson/course?
  • should be valid (should measure what it’s supposed to measure) ;
    • should be able to measure the student’s knowledge of the intended content
    • should be able to provide strong evidence if the student has achieved the learning objectives/outcomes; should be aligned with the objectives and outcomes
  • should be reliable (should provide consistent results)
  • should be well-timed (should give students ample time to answer the test and demonstrate what they know
  • should be comprehensive (should cover all areas/topics taught)
  • should be easy to administer
  • should be apt for the intended purpose and target audience
  • should be able to provide information that can be used for comparisons (comparing student’s performance against national standards like in standardized tests; comparing students against other students like in norm referenced tests  or comparing students against pre-determined criteria like in  criterion referenced tests)

Characteristics of good informal assessment:

  • should be valid and reliable
  • should be fair (should give students with diverse backgrounds equal opportunity to do well in the assessment; should have clear procedures for scoring and interpretation ; should make use of set criteria and rubrics)
  • should be relevant (should be pertinent to the content as well as applicable to real life)
  • should be appropriate to target population
  • should be practical and appreciated by students; should be able to motivate students
  • should be able to provide feedback (to improve student’s performance; to modify instruction and teaching styles; to re-teach if necessary; to apply necessary interventions and accommodations)
  • should be constructive (should be able to point out strengths and weaknesses of students; to provide direction for improvement)
  • should be clear (should manifest true purpose of assessment; identify target behavior/skill)
  • should be unbiased (should maintain objectivity; record only what is actually observed and heard without missing the minute details)
  • should preferably be interactive (should elicit response and interaction from and among students)
  • should be timely

Informal assessment cannot completely replace the formal assessment. We need both, as one complements the other, in depicting accurate pictures of our students.  We can use either type (depending on the intended purpose) to improve teaching and learning. The type of assessment we should use should match the intended purpose of the assessment. For example, if we want to assess the students’ academic achievement and compare it with other students, then we can use the formal assessment. If we want to use assessment to monitor students’ progress and help them maximize their own learning, or use assessment to improve instruction, then we can use the informal assessment.


Weaver, Brenda. (2015). Formal vs. informal assessment. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/formal-versus-informal-assessments

Williams, Yolanda. (2013-2015). Formal assessments: examples and types [lesson]. Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/formal-assessments-examples-types-quiz.html





Teachers and Students as Partners



When teachers and students join forces in the assessment process, teachers become excellent in their teaching and students become excellent in their learning!

Both parties grow in the teaching-learning process.  The teachers become better educators as they adjust instruction according to their students’ needs and employ more effective teaching techniques, while the students become more engaged in their learning and adopt more powerful learning strategies. As teachers use a combination of the different types of assessments, they get to know their students well and get a total picture of where and how they are in their learning. They get to reflect and answer:

  • Am I teaching what I’m supposed to be teaching? Do I equip myself to become competent in my field?
  • Are my students learning what they’re supposed to be learning?
  • Are my instructional tools and materials effective?
  • Are my teaching strategies and instructional methods effective?
  • Who, among my students, are struggling and need help?
  • Who, among my students, are advanced and need more challenging learning tasks?
  • What are my students’ individual learning needs and preferences? How can I effectively respond to them?
  • What else can I do to help them excel? How can I empower them to become successful learners?

When a teacher does not only teach but teaches with a teacher’s heart, students respond brilliantly, and powerful learning outcomes are attained. The students are encouraged to reflect on their own learning, strategize, and adjust their learning styles to achieve their goals. 

When teachers and students join forces in the assessment process, mighty learning goals are achieved!

Personal Experience as Reflective Parent-Teacher:

I personally tutor all my kids.  And I see how each of them learns best. I also see what type of assessment (informal) works best for each of them, and so I adjust my tutoring and assessment strategies accordingly. With my six year old, assessment games and use of play materials work best. For example, I tested his proficiency in addition and subtraction of money by playing “buying and selling game.” As the buyer, he had to count his play money and use it for buying items. As the seller, he had to count money and give me correct change for the items I bought.

At first I gave him paper and pen exercises (traditional) about this lesson, and it was harder to get him to sit and do the seat work. But with the games, he begged for more! Teaching and testing him about the lesson on money through games (incorporating assessment with instruction) was not only fun for both of us, it also achieved the desired learning outcome. 🙂

Assessment at Different Phases of Learning



Teachers use assessment at different phases of learning:

Before instruction.

This is given at the beginning of study, prior to instruction, to determine what the students already know or not know about a topic, to know the students’ learning needs or to diagnose the students’ readiness, as well as to help the teachers determine what to teach  or where to start, and help the teachers plan and teach accordingly.

In Kumon, for example, students are given diagnostic exams to determine the kids’ level of readiness in either Reading or Math.

During instruction.

This is given all throughout the learning process to monitor the students’ progress in achieving targeted learning outcomes or to know whether the students are learning what they ought to be learning. Assessment during instruction also helps the students manage their own learning, and helps the teachers gauge if their instructional tools and teaching methods are aligned with the learning objectives and outcomes. It also helps the teachers differentiate their instruction according to the students’ individual needs, and determine next steps.

Again, as an example, Kumon kids are given series of worksheets to monitor how they are in their learning, and to help them progress to the next level.

After instruction

This is given at the end of study to determine the students’ mastery of the lesson, to measure whether the students are successful in meeting the learning objectives and in achieving the targeted learning outcomes.

The results of assessment help the teachers determine not only the grades, but also the areas of improvement in the teaching-learning process. The information can be useful for teachers and schools to refine what needs to be refined and improve what needs to be improved in the entire teaching-learning process.

In Kumon, kids are given final exams per level to determine whether they have mastered the previous level and are ready to advance to the next level. The final assessment also helps the school decide what appropriate awards should be given to students.


Earl, L. & Katz, S. (2006). Rethinking classroom assessment with purpose in mind. Western & Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration on Education. [PDF documents]. Available at http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/assess/wncp/



Purposes of Assessment



 Purposes of Assessment

There are three major purposes of Assessment:

Assessment FOR learning is an ongoing process that monitors student learning in order to help teachers improve their teaching and students to improve their learning. It continuously informs instruction and helps students manage their own learning. The assessment information is used to determine the next teaching steps and learning steps to continuously improve the teaching-learning process. Formative assessments serve the purpose of assessment FOR learning.


  • concept maps
  • progress/monitoring reports
  • checklists/surveys
  • interviews
  • observations
  • anecdotal records
  • research proposal (for feedback)
  • quizzes
  • home works
  • worksheets
  • performance tasks
  • essays
  • observations
  • questioning strategies
  • projects
  • graphic organizers
  • self-assessments/ peer assessment
  • collaborative activities
  • portfolios (collection of student work)
  • Assessment AS learning is also an ongoing process that helps students to self-reflect, monitor their own learning, and adjust their learning strategies in order to achieve their goals and become more self-directed, metacognitive, independent, successful learners. Formative assessments also serve the purpose of assessment AS learning.


  • journals
  • self-assessment
  • peer-assessment
  • personal learning logs

Assessment OF learning measures what and how well the students have learned at the end of instruction. It certifies learning and measures students’ overall achievement/proficiency. It determines whether learning goals and outcomes have been achieved. Summative assessments serve the purpose of assessment OF learning.


  • final performance tasks
  • final papers/written outputs
  • final oral presentations
  • standardized tests
  • end of unit tests or projects
  • recitals
  • long exams
  • periodical tests
  • final exams




Earl, L. & Katz, S. (2006). Section 2: Three purposes of assessment. [PDF] In rethinking classroom assessment with purpose in mind. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/assess/wncp/section2.pdf

IOWA Department of Education. (2015). Assessment for learning (formative assessment). Retrieved from https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/student-assessment/assessment-learning-formative-assessment

Victoria Department of Education and Training. (2013). Assessment of professional learning. Retrieved from  http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/support/Pages/prep10proflearn.aspx

Why Assessment?

What are assessments for? How will I use assessment in meaningful ways?

As a teacher:


  • I will use assessment to know if the students are truly learning what they are supposed to be learning. I will use assessment to check if the learning goals/outcomes are met.
  • I will use assessment to check if my method of teaching is effective and efficient.
  • I will use assessment to know if the instructional materials I use are apt, up to date, and appreciated by students.
  • I will use assessment to draw out the best from my students, to help them learn best, and help them give their best.
  • I will use assessment to identify and address my students’ learning needs.
  • I will use assessment to correct past errors, learn from them, and implement better ways.
  • I will use assessment to identify and apply my next best teaching steps.

As a student:


  • I will use assessment to improve my learning styles.
  • I will use assessment to identify and work on my learning weaknesses and strengths.
  • I will use assessment to know where I am in my learning, whether or not I am on the right track, and how else can I improve to optimize my learning.
  • I will use assessment to help me perform my best, by correcting past errors, learning from them, and even exceeding what’s expected of me.
  • I will use assessment to also give feedback to my teachers on how they can help us learn more effectively.
  • I will use assessment to identify and apply my next best student learning steps.

As a school head/educational administrator:



  • I will use assessment to gauge if the institution’s mission, goals and objectives are met.
  • I will use assessment to know what needs to be changed or refined or added in terms of learning environment, curriculum, programs, instructional methodologies, tools, processes, and the entire system.
  • I will use assessment to learn from past mistakes and implement best practices. I will use assessment to move forward.
  • I will use assessment to guide me in my next steps.

Assessments can only be truly meaningful if the results and information gathered will be used timely and appropriately (to improve teaching-learning process).


Edutopia. (2008). Assessment professional development guide. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/assessment-guide

Field-Tested Learning Assessment Guide [Web]. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.flaguide.org/start/start.php.

 Victoria State Government – Department of Education and Training. (2013). Assessment advice. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/support/Pages/advice.aspx#purpose

Module 4 Commentary: Table of Specifications

Module 4: Assessment Planning and Construction; Reporting and Feedback



“In my two years’ experience as an educator, NOT ONCE have I done a Table of Specifications. It wasn’t introduced to me until this week. I find it HELPFUL for me as a teacher, and I think it would have been helpful to my students too…

At the beginning it may be troublesome, but when it becomes a habit and when the teachers learn it by heart, then AUTOMATICITY will be developed.”

 – by Benjienen Toledo– Friday, 17 July 2015, 9:56 PM

This struck me because I suddenly got concerned about the many teachers out there who may also be missing out on the benefits of the Table Specifications (TOS).

I believe that the TOS will actually make the teachers’ job easier. With the Table of Specifications as their guide, it will aid them to carefully and systematically design the testalign test items with the course objectivesensure that what will be tested is aligned with what was taughteasily identify what topics to include in the test and the corresponding number of items or points per topicensure that percentage of items in the test is parallel to the emphasis given to it during instructionproperly distribute the questions across the cognitive levels; and decide on the total number of test items considering the time.

The TOS can be used, together with lesson plans, to help the teacher truly align assessment with objectives, instruction, and outcomes.

Without the TOS, mismatches and issues of validity are likely to occur which will adversely affect the teachers’ performance and the students’ learning.


EDS 113 Module 4: Assessment Planning and Construction; Reporting and Feedback. Retrieved from http://myportal.upou.edu.ph/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=143055

Module 3E Commentary: Differentiated Assessment

Module 3E. Differentiated Assessment

“It may take extensive time and energy on our part as teachers to implement it, but I think we are all aware of that reality of this noble profession we responded to. Indeed, the best things take time…”

– by Benjienen Toledo – Saturday, 11 July 2015, 2:48 PM



Yes, with differentiated learning, the good results will make all the hard work worthwhile. I’m sure it’s a tough job for teachers. We salute those who are already successfully implementing differentiated instruction/assessment!  Teachers need not only be equipped for this, they must really have the heart and commitment!


EDS 113 Module 3E: Differentiated Assessments. Retrieved from  http://myportal.upou.edu.ph/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=139699