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What is meant by assessment?

Assessment is a process of data collection about a student to facilitate learning. A complete assessment consists of several elements. Brian Leung, Ph.D., associate professor at Loyola Marymount University, uses the mnemonic cue of RIOT, to recall the necessary elements of assessment:

R—Record Review
I—Interview
O—Observation
T—Testing

  • Record Review: A review of student records includes health and developmental histories; previous test results; prior educational placements, attendance, anecdotal, and discipline records; primary language; and other relevant data, such as information from other professionals who work with the student privately.

  • Interview: Additional information may be collected through structured interviews, such as normed rating scales, and through informal discussions. Input from the classroom teacher and other school staff members contributes to an individual student’s assessment. The student and parents provide other perspectives on conditions within the school, home, and community which may be impacting behavior and performance, such as recent changes in the family.

  • Observation: Observations provide direct information about how the student functions, interacts and behaves in the classroom and at school.

  • Testing: Tests may be administered in a group or individually. Standardized tests provide norms, which allow comparison of the student to peers. Criterion-referenced tests provide information about the student’s mastery of specific skills. Informal assessment may include analysis of classroom and homework assignments, participation in class activities, and performance on tests.

    In summary, assessment is the evaluation and interpretation of the performance of the student in a variety of settings and under diverse conditions.

    What is the purpose of an assessment?

    The assessment process attempts to discover why the student is not learning or not producing in the instructional program. An assessment is undertaken to determine levels of functioning in areas that may be impacting student performance negatively, such as the following:

    • Oral language development
    • Perceptual skills
    • Memory
    • Social skills
    • Emotional development
    • Gross and fine motor skills
    • Academic performance
    • Ability levels o Motivation and attitudinal factors


    The purpose of assessment is to provide students, parents, teachers, and other professionals with the information necessary to plan for individual instructional needs.

    When is assessment appropriate?

    Assessment becomes necessary when a student exhibits difficulty learning over an extended period of time. It may be appropriate for the following purposes:

    • Screening
    • Program planning
    • Assessment of individual progress
    • Placement
    • Program evaluation


    Once it has been determined that a student will be assessed, he or she should be prepared for the process by discussing the activities in which he or she may participate. These may include a variety of tests to assist in understanding how he or she learns and to provide information for future educational planning.

    Who is involved in the assessment?

    Trained professionals administer a non-biased battery of tests in an attempt to respond to the referral question. Formal testing is only one element of assessment. In their global look at the student, professionals include a variety of procedures to gather information including, but not limited to, the following:

    • Background information
    • Developmental and medical history
    • Observation data
    • Parent, student, and teacher reports
    • Student work samples; authentic assessment
    • Previous testing, including results of group tests
    • Report cards


    The student is able to provide information about his or her own learning that is unavailable through less direct means of inquiry. Therefore, active student participation in the assessment allows for more meaningful educational planning and outcomes.

    How are the assessment results used to aid in educational planning?

    Assessment results provide a profile of individual strengths and needs and are used to design specific, appropriate recommendations to support learning, both at school and at home. Parents and teachers need to base their expectations on an understanding of the student’s abilities, test performance, and problem areas in relationship to developmental age norms. The assessment results should be interpreted by the professional(s) in language that is understandable and useful to the parent, teacher, and student.

    For the student, the ultimate goals of assessment are to improve the instructional program and to develop self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-advocacy skills.


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