Evaluative culture is the set of beliefs and practices on the different ways of evaluating student learning. In recent decades, along with the great changes that society has undergone, there has also been a great change in schools’ evaluative culture. Teachers and students have gradually incorporated new ideas and new ways of evaluating.
However, parents do not always understand or manage this new evaluative culture. Many times, they are out of date, because they still hold the beliefs and expectations by which they were evaluated when they were in school, decades ago. Therefore, it is necessary to update ourselves on this important education component.
The way we adults have been evaluated back in our days is quite different than how children are being evaluated nowadays. The traditional assessment was based on a grading system, popularly known as grades. The most important thing for students and parents was to find out whether you had successfully reached the passing grade and avoided ‘failing’ the course. The emphasis was placed on the final outcome: the learning process was not thoroughly analyzed. The main goal was to ‘pass’, regardless of how you got that result or what the reasons behind that academic failure were.
Currently, evaluation is conceived as an essential part of the teaching-learning process. This stage is no longer placed at the end of the academic semester; now it is permanent. Teachers should not assess only learning outcomes but the student’s learning evolution. Evaluation is now conceived as feedback and it involves detecting the student’s strengths and weaknesses in order to help them improve in the areas needed.
Depending on its purpose, the assessment could take two forms: summative or formative. For the first one, an average is calculated to determine if the student has met certain objectives specific to an educational level or grade. It works as a certification, declaring that the student has developed certain learning skills or reached a certain level of proficiency corresponding to a grade or educational level. This type of assessment can be presented to students and parents in numerical grades. Minimum grades are established as a requirement to move on to the next level. For this purpose, documents that certify that the student has achieved those goals are issued.
In formative assessment, however, we analyze the process rather than the result. This type of evaluation aims to help the student—and their parents—in identifying the areas with good learning outcomes as well as those in which they still need improvement. Teachers evaluate students in a similar way to that of a sports coach: they brief their students on how they performed, what difficulties they have encountered and what the areas of improvement are. Thus, this type of assessment has a qualitative (not quantitative) approach.
Another way to classify different types of assessment would be according to how the data is processed. The first type is called normative evaluation and it compares the results of a student with the results of other students in the same group (classroom), to find out their order of merit. This is where the famous words ‘honor roll’, ‘upper fifth’ or ‘upper third’ come from. These categories give us an idea of how advanced the level of a student is in relation to other students.
The second type of assessment is called evaluation of progress and it focuses on comparing the results of the students, but in relation to themselves. It makes a comparison between the achievements and difficulties observed in a given academic period and those of previous academic periods, to establish whether there were improvements or setbacks in each of the evaluated areas. This approach focuses on the student’s evolution.
Finally, the evaluation by criteria (or criterial evaluation) compares the results of the student with the expected performances for their age and/or their grade. There are different levels of achievement, expressed by indicators that describe what things the student must be able to do to be considered within a certain level. Criteria refers to the dimensions to be included in the evaluation, and the descriptive indicators explain what characteristics or features must be shown in the student’s work in order for it to be considered within that level of performance.
This last way of evaluating presents several advantages over the traditional evaluation system (governed only by grades). It allows students and their families to know in advance what is going to be required of them, what they are expected to do to achieve a satisfactory level of learning. On the other hand, it promotes transparency and objectivity when evaluating, since the final result does not depend on certain subjective criteria («what the teacher likes or believes to be right»), but on an established rubric, available for every student and parent right from the beginning.
Now, which of the above-mentioned types of evaluation are applied at Colegio Villa Per Se?
That will be left for you to find out.
By Lia Gargurevich – Secondary Coordinator