These are based on my personal observations about how my own kids and their classmates react to different types of assessment.
Most students hate tests, but the truth is, the only time they really study is when there’s a fast approaching test. They cram, they study, and I guess, the result is superficial learning. Low level cognitive skills (knowledge/comprehension/recall) are tapped, but information, after the exam, usually evaporates.
What I’m sure of – is that students hate the fact that they are often judged based on their grades, and hence they study to get good grades, to fulfill school requirements, to please parents, to pass and be promoted to the next grade or year level. If these factors comprise the motivation to go to school, if assessments will solely or mostly be used for assigning grades, then we’ll have unhappy unmotivated students.
What makes the students want to go to school or attend classes? Well, aside from seeing friends and crushes as top reasons, I see them enjoy classes with teachers who give interesting, challenging, and fun instructional/assessment activities (mostly informal-formative-alternative assessments like role plays, stage plays, experiments, field work, etc.). If the teacher can relate well with students, understand how they are in their learning, and adjust his/her teaching according to what they appreciate, the kids are motivated more to learn and demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways.
Just last night, I saw a Facebook post from my son’s Statistics teacher, asking his students if they think they should continue doing the assessment game they did the previous school year. The answer from all students was a resounding “Yes.” Teachers can now use social media to get feedback from students. Teachers who consider their students’ needs and preferences, and adjust their methods of teaching accordingly produce happy motivated students – willing to learn best what they are supposed to learn. Even if the content is hard (like higher Mathematics), if the teacher is supportive, and employs appropriate instructional and assessment activities suited for his/her students, the kids give their best effort to succeed in learning.
I also notice that assessment and instructional activities that are directly relevant to students also attract students to learning; those that they think are irrelevant are the lessons they ignore most.
Last school year, some of my son’s classmates felt that Social Science’s World History was irrelevant, so, they chose to ignore it, or they were forced to just comply with the subject requirements. Then the original teacher took a leave and was replaced by a new teacher who made World History relevant and interesting for the students. As the new teacher employed appropriate and fun assessment activities, incorporated with instruction, I heard a lot of good feedback from my son and his classmates. As expected, students started to participate in class activities and started to love World History! Not only that, students started to love their new teacher! (This truly happened in a Grade 8 class.)
It’s obvious that when activities are interesting and fun, especially when it involves collaborative work (like class projects, group presentations, stage plays, experiments and other authentic activities), students need not be prompted to do what they need to do. They comply with requirements eagerly, practice and give their best performance. If they like what the teacher is asking them to do, they will do it enthusiastically, and most likely produce a good output.
Students tend to enjoy most of the informal, formative and alternative assessments and get anxious about the high stakes formal, traditional and summative tests that oftentimes define who they are as students. However, they are aware that they need all these assessments for their own improvement.
The bottom line, I guess, is that our students need all these types of assessments, and that teachers should just make learning and assessment as enjoyable and as interesting as possible.