BOX 3-3

Possible Purposes for Assessments

  • Accountability. How well or poorly students or teachers perform on an assessment can be the basis of decision making about a variety of issues, such as school-level resource allocation and teacher promotion and retention.

  • Program evaluation. Assessment results can be an important input in determining the strengths or weaknesses of a particular program, such as a summer course for in-service teachers hoping to improve their ability to teach an unfamiliar topic.

  • Improving curriculum and instruction. Results of assessments that are aligned with a particular curriculum—the scope and sequence of what is taught—can inform efforts to improve that curriculum as well as the instructional approaches used to deliver the curriculum content.

  • Graduation/matriculation requirement. Students may be required to pass a test in order to graduate from a course of instruction. Typically, such assessments are designed to provide evidence of a mastery of basic skills, such as reading literacy or computational ability.

  • Professional licensing. Many fields, such as medicine, law, and trades (e.g., electrician and plumber) require that potential practitioners pass general and subject-specific tests to demonstrate competency.

  • Hiring/employment screening. Employers can use assessments, which may target general or specific knowledge and skills, to inform hiring decisions.

  • Informing product design and marketing. Companies may conduct assessments, such as surveys of consumers, to collect information for design and marketing decisions.

  • Informing informal-education programs. Museums, science centers, and other organizations that develop educational programming may conduct assessments of their audiences to determine the impact of a particular initiative or to help plan new programs.

  • Informing legislation and public policy. Results of assessments, such as a large-scale national test of 12th-grade math skills or a survey of public attitudes toward cloning, can be used to inform decisions by lawmakers and others in public-policy positions.

  • A tool for research. Assessments of various types, including tests of knowledge or skills and surveys of attitudes, can be integral parts of an investigation, such as a study designed to compare the effectiveness of two different approaches to teaching third graders how to add and subtract.

literacy. Some of the purposes for which an assessment might be developed are listed in Box 3-3.

Assessment data should be useful for making decisions related to the purpose of the assessment. Different assessments are necessary to address the unique characteristics of different target groups. No single assessment instrument is likely to be effective for more than one target audience.

Assessments for technological literacy should produce valid and reliable data on as many of the three dimensions of technological literacy as possible. However, it may be impractical or logistically difficult to address all three dimensions in one instrument.

Assessments of technological literacy should be informed by what has been learned from the cognitive sciences about how people learn.

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