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Assessment: "Weighing the pig doesn't fatten it"
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas

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Other forms of assessment

Teachers can gain valuable insights into their pupils' abilities by using a number of other techniques which include observational techniques, interviews and parental discussion, as well as a type of dynamic assessment looking at the direct process of learning (Long, 2000: 64).

Observational techniques

Observational techniques are appropriate for gathering information about classroom processes. Flanders (1970) developed one of the most commonly used systems of classroom observation. As shown below, this system identifies 10 types of interaction during a lesson, with observational judgements made every 3 seconds.

Teacher talk
Response 1. Accepts feeling
2. Praises or encourages
3. Accepts or uses ideas of pupils
4. Asks questions
5. Lecturing
Initiation 6. Giving directions
7. Criticising or justifying authority
Pupil Talk
Response 8. Pupil talk-Response
Initiation 9. Pupil talk-Initiation
      10. Silence or confusion

(Flanders, 1970, found in Long, 2000: 65)

This system can show differences between teacher styles, for example whether a teacher is capable of generating student involvement, or whether he or she has a tendency to dominate classroom processes. However, Flanders' system was specifically designed to show different types of verbal interactions, and would need to be modified to look into other aspects of observable behaviour.


Teachers usually interview students or discuss their progress with their parents. The interviews can be used with the aim of gathering information as a basis for selection or advice on future studies, or for identification of a student's problem behaviour. People entering interview situations have made critical decisions beforehand and do not change them very readily. For example, students discussing their own problem behaviour are apt to present themselves as "the victim," while parents who have been called into school tend to ascribe their children's problem behaviour to factors that are not their responsibility. According to Walker (1998, found in Long, 2000: 66), the typical encounter involved in parents' evenings is regarded as being a problematic interface between the power bases of home and school. Parents are frustrated by not receiving the information they need, while teachers tend to manage the exchange and limit the need for further action.

Dynamic assessment

Dynamic assessment is concerned with the changes in child's abilities in response to a learning situation. Conventional forms of assessment are only considered to be 'snapshots' (Long, 2000: 67) of students' abilities, as they assume that development is a progressive and linear process. A different view of the learning process sees it as a form of active constructivism. For Vygotsky (1978), observing children learning with support is bound to provide a much more accurate idea of their abilities and likely future progress. We will examine this form of assessment in depth in another paper.


Assessment plays a major part in the teaching-learning process. The assessment of ability involves assessment of knowledge, skills and understanding, although, in reality, most tests focus on factual recall. As for aptitude assessments, these try to predict future attainments.
Summative assessments show the level of students' achievements, whereas formative assessments are used to guide future educational experiences, giving feedback to students and including questions put by teachers.
Formal assessments take two forms: criterion-referenced tests based on the curriculum, and norm-referenced tests, which enable teachers to assess learners' "absolute" level of achievements.
Other forms of assessment are observational techniques, which form the basis for altering management approaches; interviews with students and parents, which can play an important role in managing problem sisuations; and a dynamic view of learning, which posits that there is a direct link between teaching techniques and pupils' performance and motivation.


Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5, 7-75.
Butler, R. (1988). Enhancing and undermining intrinsic motivation: the effects of task-involving and ego-involving evaluation on interest and performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 58, 1-14.
Flanders, N. (1970). Analyzing Teacher Behavior. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.
Fleming, M. and Chambers, B. (1983). Teacher-made tests: windows on the classroom. In W. Hathaway (Ed.) New Directions for Testing and Measurement, vol. 19, Testing in the Schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gipps, C., Steadman, S., Blackstone, T. and Stierer, B. (1983). Testing Children: Standardised Testing in Schools and LEAs. London: Heinemann Educational Books.
Long, M. (2000). The Psychology of Education. London: RoutledgeFarmer.
MacIntosh, H. and Hale, D. (1976). Assessment and the Secondary School Teacher. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Salmon-Cox, L. (1981). Teachers and standardised achievement tests: what's Really happening? Phi Delta Kappa, May.
Thackray, D. (1974). Reading Readiness Profiles. Sevenoaks: Hodder & Stoughton.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Walker, B. (1998). Meetings without communication: a study of parents' evenings in secondary schools. British Educational Research Journal, 24, 163-179.


Dimitrios Thanasoulas studied English Literature and Linguistics at Athens University and then did an MA in Applied Linguistics at Sussex University. After that, he earned an MBA from Mooreland University and is currently finishing the second year of my PhD studies in Education at Nottingham University. His academic interests include fostering cultural awareness and learner autonomy, as well as such issues as language and ideology, Critical Discourse Analysis, Pragmatics, Sociolinguistics, and the Psychology of Education.


Dimitrios can be contacted at:

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