A frequently asked question among educators is "What is the best tool to use in our program?" The answer to this question depends partially on the purpose of the assessment. The survey findings indicate that, from the perspective of educators, the primary purposes of assessment are its potential to determine placement (80 percent), inform instruction and training (70 percent), and/or establish a benchmark or skill level (62 percent). Only 21 percent of the respondents recorded that the purpose of assessment is to measure progress.
The assessment tools and approaches should be appropriate for and compatible with the purpose and context of the assessment. For example, if the purpose is to determine placement, the educator should use a valid and reliable instrument aligned with current theories and practices. If the purpose is to inform instruction, the tool should provide in depth information about how the student processes print and text. If the purpose is to establish a benchmark or skill level, the tool should be aligned to provincial, territorial, or national standards. Finally, if the purpose of assessment is to measure progress, the tool should have parallel forms and reflect classroom practice. Unfortunately, educators cannot always choose tools appropriate for the given purpose because educational policies and constraints often dictate the tools that must be used.
The survey asked two questions to explore the purposes of assessment. The first question listed the purposes of initial assessment and asked the respondents whether their program rated each purpose as primary, secondary, or tertiary. The second question asked the respondents to select the three most important factors in choosing an assessment tool. This section discusses whether the assessment tools that respondents use are appropriate for an compatible with the purpose and context of the assessment.
The findings clearly indicate that for the majority of respondents (80 percent), the primary purpose of initial assessment in their program is to determine the student's placement.