9 Chapter 9: Assessment and Classroom Management



Guiding Questions for Chapter 9

  1. What key terms are associated with assessment and classroom management?
  2. How do teachers assess student learning, mastery, and achievement?
  3. How do teachers provide a safe, healthy, and productive learning environment?
  4. What important principles will guide your assessment and classroom management decisions?

Introduction to Assessment

We begin with a brief history of assessment. . .

Teachers seek basic answers about seemingly simple questions: To what extent have students mastered the lesson, unit, or course objectives? Yet, formulating a plan to answer those questions involves a series of complex decisions.

In this section we introduce you to the purposes, types, terms, and principles of assessment.  In the following section, you will learn about some basic assessment strategies.

Purposes of Assessment

In education, we assess for a variety of purposes. Here are some of the more important purposes of assessment:

  1. Instructional Purposes
  • To diagnose student learning prior to instruction
  • Provide feedback to students
  • Make decisions about the curriculum
  • Make decisions about instruction
  • Set high expectations
  1. Public Accountability State testing
  2. Student Accountability Grading
  3. Student Placement

Types of Assessments

Teachers choose from a variety of types of assessment.

  1. Paper and Pencil Assessment (e.g., essay, multiple choice, short answer, fill in the blank, true/false, matching, rearranging, and ranking)
  2. Performance Assessment (e.g., rubrics, checklists, rating sheets, notes, diaries, story completion and logs)
  3. Portfolio Assessment

Classroom Level Assessment

Most teachers construct their own assessments–a challenging task.

Read: Fox, Dennis. 2000. “Classroom Assessment Data: Asking the Right Questions.” Leadership 30 (2): 22–23.

Principles of Assessment for Teachers

Finally, every teacher operates from some set of  principles that guide their assessment decisions. Years ago, I committed to paper the principles that guide my assessment decisions.

Dr. Vontz’s Principles of Assessment

  1. Clearly explain to students how they will be assessed and the criteria that will be used.
  2. Vary assessment strategies.
  3. Assess students often.
  4. Think of assessment as another learning opportunity for students.
  5. Assessment should clearly align with objectives.
  6. Assessment decisions should be made with individual students and classes in mind.
  7. Set high standards for students.
  8. Assess authentic tasks.
  9. Help students to become proficient at self-assessment.
  10. Do not test trivia!

Read: Gathercoal, Paul. 1995. “Principles of Assessment.” Clearing House 69 (September): 59–61.

Terms of Assessment

Teachers, like other professionals, use a particular language to describe various aspects of their work. Some of the most common terms associated with assessment are defined below.

  1. Assessment. The process of finding out what students know and are able to do—the emphasis is on what is happening now (e.g., to what extent can students write the ABC’s correctly?).
  2. Evaluation. The process of comparing what is with what ought to be, which normally involves a value judgment (e.g., can students write the ABC’s with no mistakes?).
  3. Test. A systematic procedure for sampling some aspect of human behavior.
  4. Measurement. The process of obtaining a numerical description of the extent to which an individual possesses some characteristic.
  5. Norm-referenced Tests. The results of norm-referenced tests are used to compare one group of students with another group (e.g., Missouri students at grade eight compared to students across the United States at grade eight or I.Q. tests).
  6. Criterion-referenced Tests. The results of criterion-referenced tests are used to evaluate the extent to which each student’s achievement has met some standard or criteria (e.g., 85% correct).
  7. Formal Assessment. The formal techniques (e.g., paper and pencil tests, performance assessment, portfolios) teachers use to judge the extent to which students are achieving learning outcomes or objectives.
  8. Informal Assessment. The informal techniques (e.g., observations, group discussion, questioning, individual conferences) teachers use on a daily basis to judge the extent to which students are achieving learning outcomes or objectives.
  9. Formative Assessment. This type of assessment is conducted to diagnose learning difficulties and to plan instruction (e.g., a pre-test at the beginning of the year to assess student knowledge of early United States history).
  10. Summative Assessment. This type of assessment is concerned with evaluating the extent to which students have achieved.
  11. Authentic Assessment. Assessing students’ ability to perform real world or authentic tasks.
  12. Scoring Rubric. A rating scale that describes student achievement in relation to some task.  Rubrics are used assess students and to clarify instruction.

Assessment Example

Read: Ende, Fred. 2014. “Every Assessment Tells a Story.” Science Scope 37 (5): 32–37.

Overview of Assessment Strategies

Let’s time travel again: What types of assessments do you recall in elementary, middle, and high school? College? What kinds did you like? What kinds did you find frustrating? What were some of the issues with assessments? Did you always try your best on every assessment? Some more than others? Why?

Back to the present…in your field experiences, notice the types of assessments your cooperating teachers use? To what levels of success?

Let’s examine some of the types of assessment that are available for you to use in your classroom:

No Assessment

Sometimes an activity or lesson does not merit assessment. Perhaps this is because it is connected to another activity that will be assessed, or perhaps it involves something that simply cannot be assessed.

Informal Teacher Observation

At the very least, teachers are always watching and attempting to gauge the extent to which students understand, are engaged, and so on. While these observations will not be reflected in the grade book, they will help shape the instruction and assessments to follow.

Credit/No Credit

Some assignments are not worthy of a critical assessment for quality, but some kind of value must be attached in order to get students to complete the work. Many teachers, therefore, assign credit/no credit status, and award a minimal number of points (e.g., five or ten) for the adequate completion of the assignment. It is usually necessary to provide some sort of standard for students to understand what is required to achieve “credit” (e.g., “show me you took the assignment seriously”).

Self Assessment

The practice of having students assess their own work. Often this is done before the work is submitted for more formal assessment by the teacher.

Holistic Scoring

Holistic scoring has received quite a bit of bad press of late, but it has long been the preferred method of scoring student writing. The instructor simply reads the work to be assessed, makes marginal comments as appropriate, writes a paragraph or so in support of the final grade, and then assigns a grade. Usually, this is a letter grade, as it is easier to rationalize how a paper can be a “B” as opposed to trying to explain what makes a paper an 86. This method is probably most appropriately used to score essay or short-answer portions of examinations.

Objective Tests

Traditional tests or quizzes using questions with answers that are right and answers that are wrong.

Analytic Scoring

Best applied to extended written work, speeches, projects, portfolios, and the like, this method involves creating a rubric based on the important qualities of the assignment. Each trait listed should include descriptors of various levels of performance so that products of different quality can be distinguished from one another. The six-trait, analytic scale is one example of this type of assessment.

Primary-Trait Scoring

Again best applied to extended works, this methods assesses student work on the basis of a single trait. For example, a poem might be scored on the basis of “voice,” or an employment application might be scored strictly on “mechanics.” This type of scoring helps to focus student attention on one quality, and it is effective for measuring the success of instruction in a particular area. Primary-trait scoring is not particularly useful in providing an overall assessment of student work.


A collection of student work, typically scored using a rubric. These collections can be cumulative (e.g., a writing folder containing all student work) or developmental (e.g., selected artifacts collected over time to show growth) or showcase (e.g., the students’ very best work). Typically a portfolio offers a balance of required and optional artifacts. The portfolio itself might be scored using an analytic scoring guide (rubric).

Standardized Tests

Formal tests developed by the government, commercial test makers, or local schools. These exams are used to compare students, teachers, schools, and states against one another; to assess the effectiveness of educational programs; and to plan curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of students. It is worth remembering that these tests provide another measure of the success of classroom activities.

Key Points on Assessment

  • Know what you want to test/assess. Just because you’ve reached the end of a unit or a book or an activity doesn’t mean a certain assessment is required. Think about what you want your students to know or be able to do, and then make your assessment (and, of course, your teaching) directly link to that goal.
  • Use assessment to see what your students understand. Assessment is a great tool to determine what your students are learning and what you may need to reteach.
  • Use assessment to assess your teaching strengths and areas needing improvement. These assessments provide a view of how you’re doing as ateacher.
  • Mix it up; don’t use the same type of assessment every time. (Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences should encourage you to give a variety of assessment types so your students have ample opportunities to showcase what they know in a way that takes advantage of their own abilities and strengths.) Allow your students options regarding the type of assessment they can use.
  • Document that your content area standards are being covered.
  • Don’t assess out of anger. Assessments are valuable, but don’t use them as a classroom management tool or for punishment. As teachers, we need to see assessments as valuable learning tools…so we need to implement them in such a manner, as well.
  • Once your students have been assessed, then it’s time for you to grade those assessments and provide meaningful feedback so your students can progress.

Pitfalls of grading

  • Not being consistent in what is considered “right” vs. “wrong,” or “good vs. bad.” Students need to know the benchmarks of quality work; show them examples, if possible, and thoroughly discuss your expectations.
  • Putting grades in the grade book just to fill space. Quality  of assessments needs to be balanced with quantity of assessments. Students need multiple opportunities to show what they know, but those opportunities also need to be meaningful.
  • Not grading in a timely fashion. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the responsibility of grading students’ work…and by the volume of grading required. However, students need to receive your feedback fairly soon after having completed the assessment so they will receive the most benefit from your feedback. And that leads us to…
  • Not providing enough feedback. Smiley faces are nice, but your students need more details. Provide specific ideas on how they can improve and what they should work on for “next time.”
  • Providing too much feedback. Let’s face it, a student who receives a paper that has been bloodied by a red pen isn’t going to be eager to share the next one with you. If a student struggles with an assessment, which should mean he or she is also struggling with your daily class work, provide a few areas that he or she can address, as well as ideas on how to improve in those areas. Don’t overwhelm your students by trying to “fix” everything at one time. Learning, like life, is a continual process.

Note on Designing Rubrics

Performance rubrics are commonly used across disciplines and subjects toclarify expectations and aid assessment. Like most things in teaching, there is an art to constructing a powerful rubric.  Watch the brief introduction below.

Read: “TAME THE BEAST: TIPS FOR DESIGNING AND USING RUBRICS.” States News Service, January 18, 2012.

Note on Designing Multiple Choice Questions 

Please consider the following excerpts from various essays regarding instrument item construction. We hope you find the short review helpful.

Question Format

A review of the literature suggests that the strongest format is one where the multiple-choice items are prepared as direct questions. This is in contrast to incomplete statements, or clusters of answers such as a and b, b and c, etc.

Lucy Jacobs (IU) offers suggestions for writing multiple-choice items that measure the higher thinking skills. Not all of these will be applicable for concepts such as the social contract, constitutionalism, or rights, but they may stimulate your thinking:

  1. Present practical or real-world situations to the students. These problems may use short paragraphs describing a problem in a practical situation. Items can be written which call for the application of principles to the solution of these practical problems,or the evaluation of several alternative procedures.
  2. Present the student with a diagram of equipment and ask for application, analysis, or evaluations, e.g., “What happens at point A if…?” or “How is A related to B?”
  3. Present actual quotations taken from newspapers or other published sources or contrived quotations that could have come from such sources. Ask for the interpretation or evaluation of these quotations.
  4. Use pictorial materials that require students to apply principles andconcepts.
  5. Use charts, tables, or figures that require interpretation.

Multiple-Choice Item-Writing Checklist

Do make sure that:


  • The item assesses important knowledge or skills.
  • The question (or stem) presents a clearly formulated problem or question.
  • There is only one right answer.
  • The “distracters” should be plausible and free of clues that might help students easily eliminate one or more of the incorrect choices.
  • The wording of the item clearly conveys the intent of the item and does not present obstacles to the students’ ability to demonstrate what they know.


  • Use simple, basic vocabulary.
  • Make sure sentence structure in the item is simple—avoid passive voice.
  • The item should include only the information needed to answer the question or complete the task.
  • Avoid idiomatic language and terms.


  • The answer choices should be as brief and simple as possible.
  • Always state items and questions in positive terms. Avoid using “negatives” in both the item stem and answer choices.
  • All answer choices must be approximately the same in length.
  • All answer choices should be similar in complexity and detail. (Avoid making the correct answer overly attractive.)
  • Make sure all answer choices are grammatically parallel.
  • Verify all answer choices are grammatically consistent with the stem of the item.
  • Never use “all of the above” and “none of the above” as answer choices.


  • The item should provide all students with a fair opportunity to demonstrate what they know, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, socioeconomic status, or the region in which they live.
  • The subject, issue, or theme addressed by the item should not demean or offend.

How To Improve a Multiple Choice Item


  1. Freedom of speech does not protect a person who
    1. criticizes the mayor in a public meeting.
    2. slanders another person publicly.
    3. wishes to speak against the government.
    4. demonstrates against tax increases.


  1. Freedom of speech protects all of the following EXCEPT
    1. criticizing the mayor in a public meeting.
    2. slandering another person publicly.
    3. wishing to speak against the government.
    4. demonstrating against tax increases.


  1. Which one of the following states is not located north of the Mason-Dixon line?
    1. Maine
    2. New York
    3. Pennsylvania
    4. Virginia


  1. Which one of the following states is located south of the Mason-Dixon line?
    1. Maine
    2. New York
    3. Pennsylvania
    4. Virginia


  1. Which is not a safe driving practice on icy roads?
    1. accelerating slowly
    2. jammed on the brakes
    3. hold the wheel firmly
    4. slowly decelerating


  1. All are safe driving practices on icy roads EXCEPT
    1. accelerating slowly
    2. jamming on the brakes
    3. holding the wheel firmly
    4. slowing down gradually


  1. What is the major purpose of the United Nations?
    1. to maintain peace among the peoples of the world
    2. to establish international law
    3. to provide military control
    4. to form new governments


  1. What is the major purpose of the United Nations?
    1. to maintain peace among the peoples of the world
    2. to develop a new system of international law
    3. to provide military control of nations that have recently attained their independence
    4. to establish and maintain democratic forms of government in newly formed nations

Writing Stems

We will first describe some basic rules for the construction of multiple-choice stems, because they are typically, though not necessarily, written before the options.

1.      Before writing the stem, identify the one point to be tested by that item. In general, the stem should not pose more than one problem, although the solution to that problem may require more than one step.

2.      Construct the stem to be either an incomplete statement or a direct question, avoiding stereotyped phraseology, as rote responses are usually based on verbal stereotypes. For example, the following stems (with answers in parentheses) illustrate undesirable phraseology:

What is the biological theory of recapitulation? (Ontogeny repeats phylogeny)

Who was the chief spokesman for the “American System”? (Henry Clay)

Correctly answering these questions likely depends less on understanding than on recognizing familiar phraseology.

3.      Avoid including nonfunctional words that do not contribute to the basis for choosing among the options. Often an introductory statement is included to enhance the appropriateness or significance of an item but does not affect the meaning of the problem in the item. Generally, such superfluous phrases should be excluded. For example, consider:

The American flag has three colors. One of them is (1) red (2) green (3) black


One of the colors of the American flag is (1) red (2) green (3) black

In particular, irrelevant material should not be used to make the answer less obvious. This tends to place too much importance on reading comprehension as a determiner of the correct option.

4.      Include as much information in the stem and as little in the options as possible. For example, if the point of an item were to associate a term with its definition, the preferred format would be to present the definition in the stem and several terms as options, rather than to present the term in the stem and several definitions as options.

5.      Restrict the use of negatives in the stem. Negatives in the stem usually require that the answer be a false statement. Because students are likely in the habit of searching for true statements, this may introduce an unwanted bias.

6.      Avoid irrelevant clues to the correct option. Grammatical construction, for example, may lead students to reject options, which are grammatically incorrect as the stem is stated. Perhaps more common and subtle, though, is the problem of common elements in the stem and in the answer. Consider the following item:

What led to the formation of the States’ Rights Party?

  1. The level of federal taxation
  2. The demand of states for the right to make their own laws
  3. The industrialization of the South
  4. The corruption of federal legislators on the issue of state taxation

One does not need to know U.S. history in order to be attracted to the answer, b. Other rules we might list are generally commonsense, including recommendations for independent and important items and prohibitions against complex, imprecise wording.

Writing Options

Following the construction of the item stem, the likely more difficult task of generating options presents itself. The rules we list below are not likely to simplify this task as much as they are intended to guide our creative efforts.

  1. Be satisfied with three or four well-constructed options. Generally, the minimal improvement to the item due to that hard- to-come-by fifth option is not worth the effort to construct it. Indeed, all else the same, a test of 10 items each with four options is likely a better test than a test with nine items of five options each.
  2. Construct distracters that are comparable in length, complexity, and grammatical form to the answer, avoiding the use of such words as “always,” “never,” and “all.” Adherence to this rule avoids some of the more common sources of biased cueing. For example, we sometimes find ourselves increasing the length and specificity of the answer (relative to distracters) in order to insure its truthfulness. This, however, becomes an easy-to-spot clue for the test-wise student. Related to this issue is the question of whether or not test writers should take advantage of these types of cues to construct more tempting distracters. Surely not! The number of students choosing a distracter should depend only on deficits in the content area which the item targets and should not depend on cue biases or reading comprehension differences in “favor” of the distracter.
  3. Options which read “none of the above,” “both a. and e. above,” “all of the above,” or “etc.” should be avoided when the students have been instructed to choose “the best answer,” which implies that the options vary in degree of correctness. On the other hand, “none of the above” is acceptable if the question is factual and is probably desirable if computation yields the answer. “All of the above” is never desirable, as one recognized distracter eliminates it and two recognized answers identify it.
  4. After the options are written, vary the location of the answer on as random a basis as possible. A convenient method is to flip two (or three) coins at a time where each possible Head-Tail combination is associated with a particular location for the answer. Furthermore, if the test writer is conscientious enough to randomize the answer locations, students should be informed that the locations are randomized. (Test-wise students know that for some instructors the first option is rarely the answer.)

Excerpted (with permission) from an essay by Jerard Kehoe Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Classroom Management

One third of all teachers leave the profession in the first three years, and nearly half of teachers leave after five years. These statistics are alarming. Of course, a variety of factors contribute to a person’s decision to leave teaching. One of the most common reasons former teachers provide, however, is problems with classroom management and student discipline. Every day, teachers make scores (a fancy word for 20) of decisions that will impact student learning, behavior, and the environment they are creating with their students. This chapter aims to provide you with some initial insights that will grow with additional experience and practice.

Introduction to Classroom Management

Like other aspects of a teacher’s job, classroom management is complex. There is no script to follow, and many of the most important classroom management decisions arise in the context of actually teaching—there isn’t time to carefully and critically reflect. You cannot ask the students for a timeout so you can consult a textbook, a colleague, or a principal about what to do or say. Being a successful classroom manager requires practical wisdom—doing the right things, for good reasons, in the best ways. This section is an introduction to ideas that you will spend a career refining.

The Goal of Classroom Management

The goal of classroom management is to create, with your students, a safe, healthy, and positive learning environment. Every classroom has a climate, a culture, a “feeling tone.” How would you like your students to describe your classroom? Most teachers would hope their students would say things like: focused, engaged, challenging, fun.

For Starters

Much of what constitutes effective classroom management happens before the school year or semester ever begins. Effective classroom managers are proactive; they tend to think of solutions to problems before they happen. Here are a few general classroom management considerations teachers should resolve before they ever meet their students.


What rules will govern your classroom? Who will create them? How will they be communicated to students? What happens if a rule is broken? As you might imagine, answers to these questions vary widely among teachers. Based on our experience, we offer a few tips about creating rules:

•   Keep them simple and general.

•   Avoid attempting to create a rule for every way a student might misbehave.

•   Provide clear examples ad non-examples Example: Respect me, respect yourself, and respect each other.


What will be your policy for late work, going to the bathroom, food or drink in class, tardies, plagiarism, cell phones, academic honesty, or forgetting materials? Effective teachers have carefully considered and answered these questions before class ever begins.

Example: 10% is deducted from late assignments for every day an assignment is late, up to a maximum of five school days, at which time the assignment becomes a zero.

Rewards and Punishments

Incentives and consequences are often a part of a teacher’s classroom management program. Although students should be motivated in other ways, what might be some appropriate rewards or punishments in your class?

Example: At the end of the semester, I will add 2% extra credit to your overall grade. I will deduct .5% for every time you 1) use the bathroom, 2) come to class unprepared, 3) come late to class, 4) leave trash in your desk.


The classroom is a dynamic place. What procedures will you use to accomplish routine tasks? Read Harry Wong, Rosemary Wong, Karen Rogers, and Amanda Brooks’s Managing Your Classroom for Success. Consider what procedures you will use for:

• Entering the classroom

• Tardiness

• Dismissal

• Quiet work time

• Attention-getting signal

• Calling on students

• Asking for help

• Make-up work

• Turning in papers

• Returning papers

• Leaving your seat

• Leaving the room

• Time when work is complete

• School announcements

• Visitors in the classroom

• Watching videos

• Lunch (if applicable)

• Grading, tests, extra credit

Read: Wong, Harry, Rosemary Wong, Karen Rogers, and Amanda Brooks. 2012. “Managing Your Classroom for Success.” Science & Children 49 (9): 60–64.

Tips for Promoting a Positive Classroom

Read Sprick, Randy, and K. Daniels. 2010. “Managing Student Behavior.” Principal Leadership 11 (1): 18–21.

Compare their tips to those created by Tom Vontz years ago. How are these tips alike, and how are they different?

Vontz’s Tips for Classroom Management


The Don’ts of Classroom Management and Discipline

Read: Spitalli, Samuel J. 2005. “The Don’ts of Student Discipline.” Education Digest 70 (5): 28–31.

Classroom Management Strategies

First and foremost, classroom management is not synonymous with discipline, though people often lump them together in the same educational discussions. Indeed, they are related, but we need to understand that the link is cause and effect. Good classroom management means less discipline is required. And less discipline means fewer headaches for you, the classroom teacher, and fewer issues for your administrators to deal with, as well.

As you visit classrooms, or remember your own classroom experiences as a student, what types of behavior issues have you observed? Could some classroom management strategies have eliminated…or, at least, reduced…some of the issues?

Read: 5 Quick Classroom-Management Tips for Novice Teachers

As you gain experience in the classroom, you’ll also become much better at foreseeing what types of behavior issues could appear, based on the type of activity they’re participating in, possibilities of where discussions might lead, and even environmental issues such as a snowstorm headed to your area or the excitement of spring break approaching. All of these require a savviness in the classroom so you can be prepared for all the possibilities.

And with your growing experiences in classroom management, you will have a sense of missteps you might be able to avoid. As one administrator told me early on in my first year of teaching, “You’ll know where that train is headed before it even leaves the station.”

So, in addition to general advice, what tricks work for teachers? Watch the popular video on Classroom Management “Hacks” below.

Specific problems often require specific solutions.

Read and watch: Classroom Management Strategies & Techniques.

And, finally, always consider the following:

•  Set the tone of your classroom early on.

•  Keep rules simple.

•  Good classroom management means much less need for discipline and much more time for learning.

•  Never respond when you’re angry.

•  Never touch a student, especially if you’re angry.

•  Always remember that the student in front of you is someone’s child and is deserving of respect.

Unfortunately, we, and that includes students and teachers, never respond as well as we would like in all classroom situations. To use one of my daughter’s theater references, each day you “End Scene.” Every day is a new day, where you need to give your students and yourself a clean slate, even after a difficult situation. People—young and old alike—make mistakes; allow yourself and your students to move on with an opportunity for a new, successful day.

Elementary Case Studies

Case #1

Cindy is a very mature 12-year-old sixth-grade student. She is intelligent, and good grades come easily to her. She is the youngest child in the family and is still referred to as the baby. If Cindy does not get her way at school, she sulks and has been known to blurt out obscenities. Her parents are very religious and would not condone such behavior. They feel that some mistake must have been made, since Cindy told them she hasn’t done anything wrong.

What do you do?

Case #2

Shawna is in third grade. She is 9 years old, very pretty, extremely conscientious, and works hard on any assignments. Shawna is an overachiever. On recent group achievement tests, Shawna’s scores were average. Her parents were outraged and insisted she be tested again. Subsequent tests revealed the same results. The parents began putting pressure on Shawna to work harder.

What do you do?

Secondary Case Studies

Case #1

A young teacher is worried about the exuberant affection a junior boy shows toward her. He occasionally puts his arm around her or slaps her on the back when he sees her. The student comes from a large family where much affection is shown, so the teacher feels hesitant about telling the boy how she feels.

What do you do?

Case #2

A group of students frequently talk quietly during instruction. You have asked them to be quiet and warned them not to talk when you are talking, yet they continue. You decide your best option is to split them up. When you ask the first student to change seats, Steve refuses and asks why you are picking on him.

What do you do?


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