Assessment and Feedback

assessment and feedback
Assessment and feedback -essential components of self-directed learning.

Assessment and feedback are critical to the success of every student (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007). Throughout the learning process students need consistent guidance from peers and adults to achieve their learning objectives. This guidance can be received through assessment, evaluation and feedback as the student achieves a grade for each product.

The University of Iowa (2010) defines assessment as a part of “student learning [that] is a participatory, iterative process [which]: provides data/information you need on your students’ learning, engages you and others in analyzing and using this data/information to confirm and improve teaching and learning, produces evidence that students are learning the outcomes you intended, guides you in making educational and institutional improvements, and evaluates whether changes made improve/impact student learning, and documents the learning and your efforts” (p 1). In easy terms, assessment is the gathering of data pertinent to the learner (West Virginia Department of Education, 2010).

The use of assessment takes place from the planning phase through the completion of the lesson or unit (Gregory & Chapman, 2007). Instructors need assessment in determining students’ strengths, previous knowledge and what they need to know prior to the lesson. Throughout the instruction, assessment continues as teachers determine the acquisition of the knowledge as well as the integration of it into existing scaffolds (Kosanovich, Ladinsky, Nelson & Torgesen, 2010). Yet assessment does not end as the lesson ends, despite the assignment of grades to individual students. It continues on as the teacher reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson and any adjustments that need to be made before it is used again.

Educators need to understand that assessment in each phase of learning -planning, implementation, product and reflection -is essential to a successful lesson and a successful classroom. When used correctly it can be used not only as a means of grading and altering lessons but also as a motivation (Kosanovich, Ladinsky, Nelson & Torgesen, 2010). Through assessment students will see their weaknesses turned into strengths and will experience real success.

“To evaluate is to assess or appraise. Evaluation is the process of examining a subject and rating it based on its important features. We determine how much or how little we value something, arriving at our judgment on the basis of criteria that we can define “ (Kiefer, 2010 p 1). In simpler terms, evaluation is the judgment (West Virginia Department of Education, 2010).

Exploring the evaluation of the learning process is essential to the planning of the lesson. sself-directed learning, this is an essential aspect as students may produce subjective end results. Rubrics can be a valuable resource (Kosanovich, Ladinsky, Nelson & Torgesen, 2010).

Grading is yet another aspect in the learning arena. It is defined as “assigning values to letters or numbers for reporting purposes” (West Virginia Department of Education, 2010, p 1). Grading and evaluation often coincide in the education vernacular. They are the necessary aspect of our current educational system which requires proof of learning within the classroom.

Feedback is a broad term in education. It is defined as a reply, response or even encouragement to a learning situation. In short it can be related to the synonym of reinforcement which can occur both positively and negatively. An anonymous author (2010) divided feedback into five different types: confirmation, corrective, diagnostic, explanatory and elaborative. Confirmation is an affirming response which informs the student of a correct thinking process. Corrective is a simple response to direct the student away from an incorrect path. Feedback which is explanatory is correcting wrong answer with a statement explaining the reason for the response. Diagnostic is the process of directing the student toward the correct answer with subtle hints whereas elaborative builds on a correct answer while including more details.

Feedback is an essential teaching tool in all learning situations but especially in self-directed learning. Instructors can cater their responses to the students. For example, for a student with a passion of history, a teacher could use elaborative feedback to affirm a correct answer by also including additional factoids which would motivate the student. However, feedback does require instructors to thoroughly understand and know their students.

Instructors need to be fully aware of each of these terms and use them throughout learning experiences to meet the needs of each student. Through experience and practice, assessment and feedback as well as grading and evaluation can become second nature to teachers (Kosanovich, Ladinsky, Nelson & Torgesen, 2010). Students will feel inspired, motivated and possess a self-efficacy which promotes learning through their successful application.


Anonymous. (2010, July 25). Definition of feedback. Retrieved from   

Gregory, G. (2008). Differentiated instructional strategies in practice: training, implementation,     and supervision (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Gregory, G. & Chapman, C. (2007). Differentiated instructional strategies: One size doesn’t fit       all. (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Kosanovich, M., Ladinsky, K., Nelson, L., & Torgesen, J. (2010, July 25). Differentiated reading instruction: small group alternative lesson structures for all students. Retrieved from

Kiefer, K. (2010, July 25). A definition of evaluation. Retrieved from Colorado State University Web Site

Thousand, J., Villa, R. & Nevin, A. (2007). Differentiating instruction: Collaboratively planning    and teaching for universally designed learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

University of Northern Iowa. (2010, July 25). A definition of assessment. Retrieved from

West Virginia Department of Education. (2010, July 25). Assessment strategies for differentiated   learning. Retrieved from

By Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, a master’s in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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