Testing… Beneficial or Detrimental?

Written by Katelynn Brown 

“Imagine twenty-two players frantically kicking a ball, running, and then kicking some more, not concerned about what direction the ball is kicked. Some players will enthusiastically run and follow the ball, while others will stand idly by and wait for the ball to come to them. Some players might even just give up in frustration and lie down on the field. If the ball accidentally makes it into the goal, the crowd cheers, but the players don’t have a clue as to why.” –Ben Johnson

Think of this concept in the classroom, does this sound like any classroom you are familiar with? How would this lack of direction help students? It wouldn’t! In education teachers try to provide and guide instruction to provide students with the information that they need. This is done through testing. When discussing education, many question why testing is crucial and necessary to learning. For teachers, testing provides direction for instruction, it provides information on what students are grasping and where they are struggling, and provides further data to guide future instruction. For students, testing allows students to identify their individual learning gaps and acquired knowledge, strengthen their retrieval abilities, and improve their memory. When used correctly and appropriately testing can be a beneficial method to help provide effective and meaningful instruction in the classroom.

Diversify Testing in the Classroom

When used appropriately, testing can be a powerful way to improve learning in the classroom. Testing asks students to retrieve knowledge, to activate their memory, and to demonstrate that knowledge. When the test accurately measures what is supposed to be measured it is valid. Valid tests, depending on the design of the test and what the instructor feels the goal of the learning is, should be able to measure learning. In the classroom, there are different forms of testing that can be used to for different situations and contexts. Teachers can use different forms of testing to help develop a better understanding of where students are successful and where students are struggling.

  • Formative/ Informal Assessment

Formative assessments are used in classrooms to check for understanding in an effective way in order to guide and direct instruction. These assessments are used during instruction rather than at the end of a unit or course of students. When used correctly, results from this form of assessment helps instructors recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately. It also helps students to identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work. This assessment allows teachers to ensure that students are understanding what is being taught and ensures that students are not getting lost in the material. These assessments should be used frequently to guide instruction while or after students learn a new idea, concept, or process. Teachers can utilize use different activities and assessment tools to incorporate formative assessments into the classroom.

Classroom hands

  • Exit Ticket

Give students a question to answer that targets the big idea of the lesson and have students write a sentence or two. Teachers can also challenge student’s retrieval and ask about previous content that was covered in the class. As students leave, collect their exit ticket. As teachers go through the information determine what students understood the concept, somewhat understood the concept, or didn’t understand the concept. The size of each stack will provide guidance for future instruction.

  • Student Checklist

Teachers can provide students with a checklist and have them self-assess. Provide students with a checklist for each new concept or with various concepts. Ensure that students write a sentence or two plaining how they know they have got the concept or why they think they are struggling with the concept.

  • The Three Minute Paper

This activity can be use frequently either when presenting a new concept or after a lesson. The teacher provides students with a given amount of time. The teacher would instruct the students to “Take out a piece of paper and tell me what you have learning so far about ________”. The teacher will evaluate students responses to determine into separate piles of students who understand the concept, students who somewhat understand the concept, and students who do not understand.


  • Misconception Check

Teachers will provide student with common or predictable misconceptions about a specific principle, process, or concept. Ask the students whether they agree or disagree and explain why. These assessments can be provided in multiple choice or true/ false form. This assessment can allow teachers to acquire knowledge of where they misconceptions are present in student understanding.

  • Watch, Look, Listen

In the classroom, observing the actions, behaviors, and words of students can provide valuable data and serves as an effective formative assessment. Teachers can take notes as they conference with individual students, during shared conversation, or during collaborative learning groups. Teachers can assess which students have an understanding of the concepts being taught and which students are struggling.

  • Summative/ Formal Assessment

Summative assessments are used in classrooms to evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit through the use of standards or benchmarks. Summative assessments are often high stakes. These tests are given using the same process, to all students in a classroom, school or state, so that every students has an equal opportunity to demonstrate what they know and what they can do. Summative assessments cover a full range of concepts for a given grade level. This assessments serves as a final evaluation of what students have learned and if they have understood the concepts that were taught. There are multiple forms of summative assessments that teachers can use within the classroom.

  • Quizlet

This website allows teachers to build flashcards, quizzes, games, and tests in the app. On Quizlet teachers are able to use material and content created by other teachers or they can create their own content. Through the app teachers can keep track of student progress and data to determine what information students have gained and where they are having difficulty. Teachers can add images and voice recording to enhance the experience for students.

  • Portfolios

Portfolios is a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled together. This assessments allows teachers to evaluate coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement, determines whether students have met the standards and academic requirements of the course, and helps students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners. Portfolios are a subject method used to assess student learning over time.

  • Projects

Projects allow students to synthesize many concepts into one product or process. They require students to address real world issues and put their learning to use to solve or demonstrate multiple related skills. Through the use of projects students are given multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in creative and innovative ways.

  • Tests

The most common form of summative assessment is the paper and pencil test. This test can come at the end of a unit, chapter, semester, or year. The purpose of this assessment method is to provide teachers with information about what the students have learned over the course of the unit, chapter, semester, or year. These assessments can include multiple choice questions, fill in the blank, short answer, and extended constructed response questions.


Alber, R. (2014, January 15). Why formative assessments matter. Retrieved 2017, from             https://www.edutopia.org/blog/formative-assessments-importance-of-rebecca-alber

Eberly Center. (2015). Whys and hows of assessment. Retrieved 2017, from             https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/basics/formative-summative.html

The Great Schools Partnership. (2016, February 18). Portfolio. Retrieved 2017, from             http://edglossary.org/portfolio/

Johnson, B. (2011, June 20). A different perspective: Teaching to the test. Retrieved 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-to-the-test-benefits-ben-johnson

Ronan, A. (2015, April 29). Every teacher’s guide to assessment. Retrieved 2017, from             http://www.edudemic.com/summative-and-formative-assessments/

O’Malley, K. (2015, October 25). 4 common types of tests teachers give. Retrieved 2017, from https://www.noodle.com/articles/4-types-of-tests-teachers-give-and-why

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