6 Common Misunderstandings About Assessment Of Learning

Jun 19, 2017 | Assessment

6 Common Misunderstandings About Assessment Of Learning

Assessment is obviously a crucial aspect of the education process, guiding both educators and students on the path of learning. However, several misconceptions often cloud our understanding of the assessment process. In this blog post, we’ll debunk six common misunderstandings about assessing learning, shedding light on the broader and more dynamic nature of this educational tool.

1. Beyond the Bubble: Assessment Goes Beyond Testing

The first misconception we tackle is the narrow view that assessment equals testing. While exams are a component, assessment encompasses a diverse range of methods, including projects, presentations, and observations. It’s not just about recalling facts; it’s about understanding and application.

2. Grades Aren’t the End Goal: Assessment for Learning Enhancement

A prevalent misunderstanding is the perception of assessment merely as a grade-generating tool. Assessment should not be solely about assigning grades but should also provide valuable feedback for both students and instructors. It’s a tool for improvement, not just a scorecard.

3. Assessment as a Journey, Not a Destination: Ongoing and Adaptive

Viewing assessment as a one-time event is a limiting misconception. Learning is dynamic, and so should be the assessment process. Regular and ongoing assessments offer a more comprehensive understanding of a student’s progress, allowing for the adaptation of instructional strategies based on evolving needs.

4. Timing is Everything: Assessing Throughout the Learning Journey

Waiting until the end of a unit or course to assess learning misses the opportunity for timely feedback. Incorporating formative assessments throughout the learning process allows educators to identify misconceptions in real-time, adapting teaching strategies accordingly.

5. Objectivity Unveiled: Recognizing and Mitigating Bias

There’s a prevalent belief that certain assessments are entirely objective and free from bias. However, assessments, even seemingly objective ones, can reflect cultural, socioeconomic, or linguistic biases. Educators must be aware of these biases and strive to create fair and unbiased assessments.

6. Late Work Penalties: Challenging the Status Quo

A widely accepted notion suggests that if assignments are late, a teacher should deduct points. However, that seems to be more about modifying behavior through the use of grade coercion rather than fostering genuine learning. Penalizing late submissions through grade deductions raises questions about the alignment between grades and actual learning. Is the quality of work somehow different if a student hands it in tomorrow as opposed to today? This challenges the conventional wisdom that late penalties inherently reflect a student’s understanding of the material.

While it’s reasonable to have consequences for late work, educators should reconsider the automatic deduction of points. The assignment of grades, when necessary, should primarily reflect the depth of student learning, rather than acting as a punitive measure for timely submission. This shift in perspective encourages a focus on the intrinsic value of the work itself and its contribution to the educational journey.

By dispelling these common misunderstandings, we pave the way for a more nuanced and effective approach to assessment. Embracing the true nature of assessment as a multifaceted, ongoing, and adaptable process enhances its role in fostering genuine understanding and learning among students. Let’s move beyond the misconceptions and unlock the full potential of assessment in education.



  1. Beth Flannagan

    I completely agree that formative work should not be used as an evaluation instrument. And you make a good point about the ‘grade’ being paramount in the student’s mind, overshadowing more descriptive feedback.
    I take issue with your last point, however. It’s simply not the case that late work can be “A” work. Let’s not lose track of the fact that our students are for, the most part, still working on their time management skills and on becoming responsible for their choices. They don’t miraculously wake up one day as accountable professionals who meet deadlines; this is learned through, often painful, experience.

    • Drew Perkins

      Hi Beth, I would agree that those time management skills are vital and would urge teachers to consider “grading” that separately. If you have a category for something like “work ethic” then you can report timeliness there but the evidence of learning could and should be reported somewhere else. They’re two different things, right? Someone can do great work but be late completing it and we would want to know both aspects as a consumer or parent.


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