Evaluation as an engine of learning. What is meant by evaluation?

Today I want to share with you a concept that for a time now is being studied and of great interest by the teachers. It is about evaluation as an engine or as a determining factor for learning. An interest and a concern that should be able to answer the question that gives rise to this entry:

What is meant by evaluation?

To answer this question I have used the excellent Neus Sanmartí manual titled 10 Key Ideas. Evaluate to learn. Because as it says a quote from this manual:

Tell me what and how you evaluate and I will tell you what and how you teach (and what and how your students learn).

Evaluation. What is meant by evaluation?

To answer this complex question, let me quote the definition that Neus Sanmartí gives us in his manual:

An evaluation activity characterized by the collection and analysis of information, the issuance of a judgment on it, and the taking of decisions of a social or pedagogical nature, according to the judgment issued.

Once read this definition, let’s go in parts:

  1. Information collection. The collection of information can be through written instruments or not, understanding this not as, for example, the observation that the teacher makes of the student in the classroom.
  2. Analysis of information and judgment about it. It focuses on the assessment made of the work objective of a teaching session or a moment of that lesson session.
  3. Decision making. For this section I recommend reading this link.
  4. Social character. Try to verify and certify, in the words of Neus Sanmartí, the level of certain knowledge at the end, either a unit or a stage. And do it before the student, their parents or guardians and society.
  5. Pedagogical character. It consists of identifying the changes that must be implemented in a teaching process to help the student in his own process of knowledge construction.
  6. Regulatory nature. The evaluation must also aim to “regulate” both the teaching process and the learning process. The latter is understood as formative evaluation.

Traditional formative evaluation vs. formative evaluation.

If we approach the concept of formative evaluation from a more traditional perspective, it is considered that it rests fundamentally on the teaching staff. And this is because the faculty is assigned the functions of detecting the difficulties and successes of the student, in order to analyze them and take the appropriate decisions and proposals for improvement, if necessary.

In this sense, Neus Sanmartí proposes overcoming a traditional formative evaluation to situate us in what she calls a formative evaluation.

What is meant by formative evaluation?

In the words of Neus Sanmartí:

  • The formative evaluation is one in which the teacher’s function should focus on sharing the evaluation process with the students, because it is proven that only the student can correct his mistakes, realizing why he is wrong and making appropriate change decisions. .
  • Therefore, the conclusion reached by Neus Sanmartí is that the role of teachers should focus on sharing with the students the evaluation process. Because it is not enough that the teacher who teaches is the only one who corrects the errors and explains what would be understood as correct vision. No, it is the student who should evaluate himself. And how? Providing the teacher with activities or tasks specific to a specific learning objective.

Does the evaluation condition what and how is it learned?

For Neus Sanmartí the answer is yes. A yes that is justified in this reflection:

  • The idea that students have of what they have to learn does not depend so much on what the teacher says, as on what the latter really takes into account when evaluating.
  • From this reflection comes another that I liked a lot because, when we as teachers we plan a task or activity, we prepare it so that students exercise new knowledge, but in few occasions we plan them thinking about how we can regulate the errors that can be derived of those future new knowledge.

What, then, is the great challenge of evaluation? In conclusion.

The great challenge of evaluation is not a challenge, but rather a double challenge, as stated by Neus Sanmartí: select the content that is most significant to them and apply an evaluation that is

  • useful to the teacher in his performance
  • rewarding for the student in his learning
  • guidance for both the teacher and the student

This is the double challenge that teachers and students face. A double challenge that goes through evaluation, also understood as self-evaluation and co-evaluation and responsible for any process of knowledge construction.