2.1 Concept, Meaning, Definition and purpose of Educational assessment

Assessment is a continuous process for understanding individual and programming required services for him. It involves collection and organization of information for specifying and verifying problems and for making decisions about a student.

The decision may include a wide spectrum ranging from screening and identification to the evaluation of teaching plan.

The selection of assessment tools and methods vary depending on the purpose for the assessment is carried out.

Wallace, Larsen, & Elkinson-1992 - “Assessment refers to the process of gathering and analyzing information in order to make instructional, administrative, guidance decision for an individuals.”                                            

Why Assessment?

Taylor (1981) answers by explaining the stages of assessment

  Stage 1 – To screen and identify those students with potential problems.

  Stage 2 – To determine and evaluate the appropriate teaching programme and strategies for particular student.

  Stage 3 – To determine the current level of functioning and educational needs of a student

Purpose of assessment

Any one who is involved in assessment process should know clearly the purpose for which he is conducting the assessment. Knowing this is very important as it decides the type of assessment tools and means of gathering information for decision making.

For example, if the purpose is only for screening and identification, we use a short screening schedule, for programme planning we use a checklist which helps in assessing the current performance level and selection of content for teaching.

There are many purposes of assessment. They are:

1.     Initial screening and identification,

2.     determination and evaluation of teaching programmes and strategies (pre-referral intervention),

3.     determination of current performance level and educational need,

4.     decisions about classification and programme placement,

5.     development of individual educational programmes (including goals, objectives and evaluation procedures).

6.     evaluation of the effectiveness of the Individualized Educational Programme.

Initial screening and identification

·        The students who require special attention or special educational services are initially identified through assessment procedures. The procedures involve either informal procedures such as observation or error analysis or formal procedures such as achievement or intelligence tests. In other words, assessment is used to identify the children who warrant further evaluation.

·        Assessment is also used to screen children who are considered to be “high risk” for developing various problems. These children would not have yet developed deficiencies requiring special education, but they do exhibit certain behaviours that suggest problems in future. Identifying such children allows continuous monitoring of problem areas and designing of stimulation programme if required to prevent the problem.

Assessment for initial identification purpose, therefore is used to identify individual who might need further detailed assessment or who might develop problems in future. Further, it identifies individuals who with some type of immediate remedial programme might be able to cope with the problem.

Evaluation of teaching programme and strategies (pre-referral)
One of the important roles of assessment is to determine appropriate programme and strategies. For this purpose, information is used in four ways.

Determining of current performance level and educational need
The assessment of current performance level of a student in subjects or skills is essential to state the need for special education programme. This information helps the teacher or examiner.

Decision about classification and programme placement: The assessment data is used for classification and placement of students with special needs in appropriate special educational programmes. Theoretically, individuals are classified to indicate similarities and relationships among their educational problems and to provide nomenclature that facilitates communication within the field (Taylor, 1993). Based on assessment information students are classified and suitable placement decisions are made. For example, a 6 year old child who is diagnosed to have mental retardation needs a placement in special education programme which provides education to children with mental retardation.

Development of the Individualized Educational Programme: The most important use of assessment information is to determine the goals and objectives, and strategies to teach children who are identified to have special educational needs. As each individual child’s needs are different, we have to plan educational programme that meets the needs. A systematically planned individualized educational programme is a blueprint for teachers to follow.

Evaluation of the effectiveness of the Individualized Educational Programme: Evaluation procedures are also specified in Individualized Educational Programme along with goals, objectives, methods and materials. Using these procedures, the teacher has to periodically monitor the progress made by the student. The monitoring of the programme gives feedback (positive or negative) to both teacher and student. Based on the type of feed back, the teacher either changes her plan or continues the same plan or select a new activity. For example, on periodic evaluation if the child shows improvement, the teacher will continue with her plan, if no improvement is shown she may have to make changes in IEP.


Assessment is a continuous process



2.2 Methods of Assessment - Observation, Interview and Rating Scale

The assessment process involves collection of data through various modes. This is essential as the assessor or teacher aims at collecting information in all the areas of development of a child, which helps the teacher/assessor in making appropriate decisions. These methods include directly testing the child, observing the child in various environments and interviewing parents and significant others and rating scale.

Observation is an extensively used method to collect data while assessing or evaluating the child’s performance. It helps the assessor or teacher to observe the child’s performance herself and record the data objectively. The assessor/teacher may observe the child in structured or unstructured environments depending on the activities to be assessed. For example, the teacher observes the child before, during and after lunch time to assess the child’s ability in terms of eating, washing, cleaning, sharing, taking responsibility, which is a structured (structured observation) environment. Observing the child during interval, or games period in the play ground to assess the group behaviour of a child is unstructured observation. However, the teacher may plan a game or a sport event to observe whether the child follows the rules of the game is again a structured observation. To explain further, when the teacher purposefully plans activities or selects or simulates environments to assess a specific ability of a child, it is called structured observation, whereas in unstructured observation, the teacher observes the student with a specific purpose in mind but she does not purposefully plan an activity.

Types of Observation

  Participative observation- The one in which the observer become a part of the group under observation and share a same situation.

  Non- Participative Observation- Observer take a position at a place where his / her presence is least disturbing to the group but from from where he / she can observe detail behavior of  an individual under the observation.

  Natural Observation- When observer wants to observe an individual or group of individuals behavior in natural situation then that is naturalistic observation.

  Structured Observation- When observer want to observe an individual or group of individuals particular behavior, observer create that particular situation and then observe it, that is  structured observation.  

Advantages of Observation

  It is reliable   and valid technique of collecting data and information.

  We get first hand data through this method.

  Record of observation is also available immediately.

  It is simple, broad and comprehensive method.

  It is an oldest technique of data collection and getting direct information

Disadvantages of Observation

  It has a limited scope for its use because all the events cannot be observed directly.

  It is subjective method.

  It is very time consuming process.

  Costly so energy consuming also.

  Presence of observer influences the behavior of the person i.e. subject becomes conscious.

  In case covert behavior, which can’t be observed, it is not useful.

  Observer should be trained and experienced.  

Information about many of the adaptive behaviours, which are neither tested nor observed are often collected by interviewing parents and family members. Collection of birth history, interaction with family members, relatives, friends, neighbourhood and community, are some of the examples.

Types of Interview

1.     Based on function




2.     Based on format



3.     Based on No. of participant





Characteristics of an Interview

  The interviewer can probe into casual factors, determine attitudes, and discover the origin of problem.

  It’s appropriate to deal with young children and illiterates person.

  It can make cross questioning possible.

  It helps the investigator to gain an impression of the person concerned.

  It can deal with delicate, confidential and even intimate topics.

  It has flexibility.

  Sincerity, frankness, truthfulness and insight of the interviewee can be better judged through cross questioning.

  It gives no chance for respondent to modify his earlier answer.

  It is applicable in survey method, but it is also applicable in historical, experimental, case studies and clinical studies.

Advantages of Interview

  Direct research.

  Deep research

  Knowledge of past and future.

  Knowledge of special features.

  Mutual encouragement is possible.

  Supra-observation is possible.

  Knowledge of historical and emotional causes.

  Examination of known data.

Disadvantages of Interview

  May provides misleading information.

  Defects due to interviewee(low level of intelligence or may be emotionally unbalanced)

  Result may be affected due to prejudices of interviewer.

  Result may be affected due to the difference in the mental outlook of interviewee and interviewer.

  One sided and incomplete research.

  Art rather than science.

Rating Scale

Ratting is term applied to express opinion or judgment regarding some situation, object or character. Opinions are usually expressed on a scale of values; rating techniques are devices by which such judgments may be quantified.

Von Dallen- “A rating scale ascertains the degree, intensity and frequency of a variable.” 

Types of rating scale

  3 points

  5  points

  7  points

  9 points

  11  points

Advantages of Rating Scale

  Writing reports to parents.

  Filling out admission blanks for colleges.

  Finding out students’ needs.

  Making recommendations to employers.

  Supplementing other sources of under taking about child.

  Stimulating effect upon the rates.

Limitations of Rating Scale

  Difference in rating abilities.

  Difference in reliability as subjects for rating.

  Agreement among raters of one type of contact only.

  Average superior than single.

  Impact of emotions.

  Limits of self-rating.

  Over rating.

  Limits of rating of specific qualities.

  Limits of justifications.

2.3 Types and Approaches - NRT, CRT, CBA & Teacher Made Tests

Norm Referenced Assessment
Norm Referenced Assessment or Norm Referenced Testing (NRT) is the more traditional approach to assessment. These tests and measurement procedures involve test materials that are standardized on a sample population and are used to identify the test takers ability relative to others. It is also known as formal assessment.

Norm referenced assessment is defined as a procedure for collecting data using a device that has been standardized on a large sample population for a specific purpose. Every standardized assessment instrument will have certain directions that must be followed. These direction specify the procedure for administering the test and ways to analyze and interpret the results and reporting them. Examples of the more commonly known formal assessment devices are the Wechsler Intelligence Scales for children – Revised (WISC-R), The Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Ability (ITPA), The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – Revised (PPVT-R) and Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT).

Advantages of norm-referenced assessment
Norm referenced tests are widely used in special and remedial education for many reasons.

  First, the decision of categorizing the children as exceptional or special is mainly based on the test results of NRTs.

  Second, it is easy to communicate test results to parents and others unfamiliar with tests.

  Third, norm-referenced tests have received the most attention in terms of technical data and research. They are specifically useful in problem identification and screening.

Disadvantages of norm-referenced assessment
The use of norm referenced tests data for the purpose of educational programming is questioned in many instances for the following reasons.

  Information obtained from norm-referenced testing is too general to be useful in everyday classroom teaching. Many educators disregard the prognosis and interpretative types of data provided by standardized tests because the information is often not directly applicable to developing daily teaching activities or interventions. What does knowing a child’s WISC-R score or grade equivalent in reading specifically tell a teacher about what and how to teach? For instance, what is important is to know whether the child needs to learn initial consonants or is he having difficulty with comprehension.

  NRTs tend to promote and reinforce the belief that the focus of the problem is within the child. It is because the primary purpose of NRTs is to compare one student with another. However, although a child may differ from the norm, the real problem may not be within the child but in the teaching, placement or curriculum. Educators must begin to assess teacher behaviours, curriculum content, sequencing and other variables not measured by norm referenced tests.

Criterion-referenced assessment (CRTs)
Criterion-referenced assessment is concerned with whether a child is able to perform a skill as per the criteria set, or not. In contrast to norm referenced assessment, which compares one persons performance to others, criterion referenced assessment compares the performance of an individual to the pre-established criteria. In criterion-referenced test, the skills within a subject are hierarchically arranged so that those that must be learned first are tested first. In maths, for example addition skills would be evaluated (and taught) before multiplication skills. These tests are usually criterion referenced because a student must achieve competence at one level before being taught at a higher level.

Advantages of criterion referenced assessment
The criterion-referenced test results are useful:

  to identify specific skills that need intervention. 

  to determine the next most logical skill to teach as the implications for teaching are more direct with criterion referenced tests.

  to conduct formative evaluation, that is, the performance of the student is recorded regularly or daily when the skills are being taught.

This makes it possible to note the student progress, to determine if intervention is effective and to help decide the next skill to be taught if achieved, if not to decide what other strategies or methods and materials are to be used for teaching.

Disadvantages of criterion-referenced assessment

  Establishing the passing criteria for a specific skill is a problem in criterion-referenced testing. For example, if a test were needed to determine, whether student had mastered high school mathematics, there is a problem of determining exactly which skills should be included in the test. Further, should a student pass the test if 90% of the questions are answered correctly or only if 100% are correct? These decisions must be carefully considered, because setting inappropriate criteria may cause a student to struggle unnecessarily with a concept.

  It is difficult to decide exactly which skills should be included in the test.

  There is also a problem that the skills assessed may become the goals of instruction rather than selecting the skills that the child should know. Due to this, the teachers may narrow down their instruction and teach in accordance with what is measured on the test rather than what is truly required for the child to know.

Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA)

The concept of curriculum based assessment is not new and has been employed for a number of years. CBA has been developed as a means to cope with low-achievers and children with special needs in regular schools. Further, it fits into the non-categorical model that is assessment is focused on testing curriculum-based skills and not on testing for labeling purpose.

The CBA aims to identify children’s educational needs and the most appropriate forms of provision to meet those needs. Sality and Bell (1987) describes educational needs as “behaviours which a person lacks which are necessary in order to function effectively and independently both in the present and in the future”.

The starting point for conducting CBA is the child’s classroom. It is the suitability of this environment and the child’s interaction with it that is assessed and not the child.

CBA has been defined by Blankenship and Lilly (1981) (quoted in Sality and Bell, 1987; pg.35) as the practice of obtaining direct and frequent measures of a student’s performance on a series of sequentially arranged objectives derived from the curriculum used in the classroom.
It helps in finding out the current level of a student in terms of the expected curricular outcomes of the school. In other words, assessment instrument is based on the contents of the student curriculum. Some types of CBA are informal, while others are more formal and standardized.

Procedure followed in developing CBA


Teacher Made Test (TMT)

A teacher-made test is an alternative to a standardized test, written by the instructor in order to measure student comprehension. 

Teacher-made tests are considered most effective when they are implemented as part of the education process, rather than after the fact.

2.4 Areas of Assessment - Medical, Psychological, Educational, Behavioural & Ecological

Educational assessment

Two different methods of educational assessment are in practice. One is Norm Referenced Assessment and other is Criterion Referenced Assessment. The selection of these methods of assessment depends on the purpose for which assessment is to be conducted.

Norm referenced assessment or norm referenced testing (NRT) is the more traditional approach to assessment these tests and measurement procedures involve the tests materials that are standardized on a sample population and are used to identify the test takers ability relative to others. It is also known as formal assessment.

Criterion-referenced assessment is concerned with whether a child is able to performs a skills as per the criteria set, or not. In contrast to norm referenced asst, which compares the performance to other, criterion reference asst compares the performance and individuals to the pre-establish criteria.

Clinical/Medical Assessment

Clinical assessment is a part of assessment in the process of diagnosis of persons with mental retardation. It is carried out to identify the cause of mental retardation, refer to further investigations to confirm the cause and other anomalies and to plan and evaluate treatment.

The individual’s current health, vision and hearing status are generally assessed by medical members of the assessment team. Medical assessment may include a health history, physical examination and any necessary laboratory tests. For example, if it is suspected that a persons may have mental retardation due to genetic problems, to confirm he is referred to necessary laboratory tests.

Psychological Assessment

Psychological assessment is the process of systematic collection, organization and interpretation of information about a person and situations, and the prediction of the person’s behaviour in a new situation. Psychological assessment encompasses assessment of the three major aspects of the mind namely, cognition, conation and affection. Psychological assessment involves understanding of the causes of the problem and the potential solutions for the problem.

The purpose of psychological assessment is to evaluate an individual or group of persons in relation to a specific issue or problem. These may include intellectual functioning, learning disabilities, special abilities, scholastic achievement, personality functioning, emotional and social areas and questions of normality and abnormality. The psychologist develops hypotheses based upon information or past behaviour, present behaviour and prediction for future behaviour as defined by given situations incorporated in assessment information.

Functional assessment

A functional assessment is the measurement of purposeful behaviour of a person while interacting with the environment, which is interpreted according to the assessment’s intended use. A functional skills assessment model identifies critical skills needed for an individual’s natural environments.

This assessment model requires comparison of two data sets.

The first is an ecological inventory of the target environment, utilizing a top-down analysis of skills needed for that environment.

The second set of data is an assessment of the target student’s behaviour and the conditions under which such behaviour occurs or does not occur. These two sets of data are used to identify discrepancies between desired performance in the target settings and current performance levels.

Characteristics of Functional Assessment

  relationship between assessment and instruction,

  direct measurement of skills in natural context(s),

   use of a process-oriented approach to assessment, and

  role of assessment.

Behavioural Assessment

People with mental retardation lack culturally valued skills that are expected from persons of comparable age. Hence, we need to provide a means to enhance the skills and capabilities of persons with mental retardation. Behavioural technology is extensively used in educational programmes for persons with mental retardation in increasing acceptable behaivours and in eliminating maladaptive behaviours.

Behavioural assessment refers to data collection in applied behavioural research. It consists of systematic and repeated recording of predefined behavioural parameters of individuals, with the purpose of either identifying functional stimuli that maintain certain behaviours or demonstrating systematic behavioural changes as a function of planned intervention.

Behavioural assessment has two purposes – 1. to collect information that is needed to select and develop appropriate intervention programmes and 2. to evaluate their effectiveness. Observational techniques are applied for generating data both for planning and evaluation of intervention programmes.
Functional analysis (Behavioural analysis): Functional analysis is the process of understanding the complexity of the problem behaviour to its simpler or most elementary parts. The problem behaviours which are learnt, may have various environmental influences. According to learning theories, learning occurs through association (classical and operant conditioning), and observational learning. There are a number of models available for analyzing behaviour problems. One of the most simple models is known as A-B-C model which is used commonly to analyze problem behaviours of children with mental retardation. This helps to identify the factors which contribute to the occurrence of the problem behaviours.

Ecological Assessment

Environment or community is very essential for curricular development.

Emphasizes to develop in children the skills needed to live and function adequately in the social, vocational and economic environments in which the students live.

  BASIS – Current situations and environment.

  AIM – Social competency and adjustment.

  CONTENT – Experiences contributing to making a child productive and effective member of society.

  METHOD – Practical and applied techniques.

  MATERIALS – Real life situations and actual tools.

Ecological curriculum based assessment first assess the environment then assess the children.

Compare   the data on environment with student strength and needs.

Discrepancy analysis

o   what the student already does

o   what he can never does due to disability.

o   what he can do if trained

2.5 Documentation of assessment, Result interpretation & Report writing– Implication of all the above for Inclusion

Documentation is an essential element of reflective practice. It makes children’s play and learning experiences visible…to children, parents and teachers. It is a way to visibly demonstrate the competence of the child.

Documentation simply means keeping a record of what is observed while students are engaged in a learning experience while playing and exploring. Records might include teacher observations which focus on specific skills, concepts, or characteristics outlined in the kindergarten curriculum. Daily observations may be both planned and spontaneous to ensure that all learning experiences that may emerge from a particular activity are included.

There are various forms of documenting a student’s learning experiences. It might include the use of student’s artwork and writing, photographs, videotapes and/or tape-recordings. Documentation can be as simple as an attractive display of children’s work on a wall or it can be a more elaborately crafted display board that tells the story of an experience of a child or a group of children. Various types of documentation may include display boards, scrap books, photo albums, web sites (accessible only to parents), and emails to parents, bulletin board displays and newsletters to parents. All types of documentation should include a title, photos or sketches of children’s work with written captions, children’s illustrations of the experience and additional written descriptions of the learning.

Documentation pulls it all together for the students, teachers, and the parents. It provides students with the opportunity to revisit their work which, in turn, provides teachers with the opportunity to discuss with them their interests, their ideas and their plans. By becoming involved in the documentation of their own learning experiences, students become more reflective and more engaged in the learning that is happening all around them.

Report Writing

Many different professionals may provide input in the assessment of a child with a suspected disability. When this occurs, a comprehensive report based on the findings must be written.

The purpose of this report is to communicate results in such a way that the reader will understand the rationale behind the recommendations, and will be able to use the recommendations as practical guidelines for intervention.

This report may be presented to the parent, sent to an outside doctor or agency, or presented to the Eligibility Committee. In any case, the report needs to be professional, comprehensive, and practical.

Writing a good report is a real skill. The fact is, all the wonderful data collection becomes useless if it cannot be interpreted and explained in a clear and concise manner. For example, being too general or explaining results poorly creates many problems and confusion for readers. Also, citing numerous general recommendations will not be practical for the school, teacher, or parents.

Writing a report that contains jargon that no one other than you understands is also useless. Completing an extremely lengthy report in an attempt to be too comprehensive will result only in losing your reader.