Ongoing Assessment in Differentiated Instruction

Assessment is the process of gathering information from a variety of sources such as assignments, teacher observations, class discussions, and tests and quizzes. Teachers must assess regularly to inform instructional strategies, learn about each student's readiness, interests, and learning preferences and to improve student learning. This information can be gathered through diagnostic (pre-assessments), formative, and summative assessments, as well as Individual Education Plans, Ontario Student Records, student interest surveys, and multiple intelligence or learning style inventories.

Assessment for learning not only includes diagnostic or pre-assessment measures but also formative assessment. Formative assessments are used during a unit to provide understanding about what the student is learning, and continually guide instructional decisions. Assessment as learning takes place when students self-assess their work and reflect on their growth as learners. Earl (2003) says this is the process in metacognition, and "occurs when students personally monitor what they are learning and use feedback . . . to make adjustments, adaptations, and . . . changes in what they understand." Differentiation can be used when applying, demonstrating, extending knowledge, or practising skills and attitudes to monitor achievement of goals. This might include peer/ self-assessments, and peer/teacher conferences. Assessment of learning is the culminating task or summative assessment, which takes place after the learning has occurred and students can show what concepts and/or skills they learned. Differentiation can also be used here through a variety of strategies such as tests, projects, demonstrations, writing performances, and more.

All these ongoing assessments help the teacher know students and their needs so they can select effective teaching and learning strategies and interventions that maximize student achievement. Consistent program review and diagnosis of whole-class and individual student responses not only provides ongoing feedback to enhance teaching and learning for teachers but students and parents as well. Teachers use ongoing assessments to gather information about a student's knowledge and capabilities, to direct future planning, to monitor student progress, and to evaluate student achievement. Students and parents can also use these assessments to reflect and understand their own learning preferences and level of achievement.

Students must be assessed based on a standard rather than the level of assigned work. A student who struggles in a particular subject may be given an assignment geared toward their abilities to help them learn. They may do well at the adjusted work they are given. That does not mean they should be given the same grade for their work, as the child who does not get an adjustment assignment.