Wednesday / April 24

2 Principles of Classroom Assessments

2 Principles of Classroom Assessments

As you develop your classroom assessments, consider the following:

  • Do you think about the assessments (specifically, the purposes, procedures, and products) from the perspective of each student?
  • Do you consider each student’s academic as well as socio-cultural background and experiences?
  • Do you incorporate knowledge, skills, and dispositions into the assessment so you can monitor and measure the whole child, i.e., cognitive, physical, affective, and social growth and development?
  • Do you develop your classroom assessments based primarily on the curricular content, your instructional strategies, or your students’ outcomes or are you measuring the teaching, learning, and schooling cohesively?
  • Are your classroom assessments measuring engagement and achievement associated with the teaching (how well your students learn), the learning (how well you teach), and the schooling (how well you plan, reflect, and modify)?

These inquiries are essential as they reveal your preconceptions associated with classroom assessments, which in turn affect how students perceive school.  Most students dislike school for at least one of two reasons:

  1. Perceived lack of acceptance (by students and teachers)
  2. Perceived lack of achievement on tests and other assessments

Reflecting on the opening inquiries and building an understanding of yourself and your practices related to classroom assessment allows you to concentrate on each of your students to help your students overcome each of these two reasons.

Your Preconceptions about Your Classroom Assessments

Most likely, you are focused primarily on monitoring and measuring student progress in relationship to the curricular content.  You have established your preconceptions based on your own journey in various capacities—as a student, as a teacher education candidate, as a novice teacher, and now as you advance your professionalism and career. You rely upon four sources of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977) in gaining your comfort, confidence, competence, and commitment.

According to Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”  Many educators extend this definition to include “and the behaviors to act as responsible and competent professionals to guide and support the growth and development of all learners with respect and value for all forms of diversity that exist in society.” This extended definition of self-efficacy addresses the needs for each teacher to promote both the sense of acceptance and achievement in every student in ways that are honest, natural, authentic, and holistic.  Teaching and learning monitored and measured by classroom assessments must be inviting, safe, meaningful, and useful for students to realize and retain as important and valuable for them individually.

As a classroom teacher, you are impacted by these four sources of self-efficacy:

  1. Vicarious Observations. Throughout your academic life in all four capacities (student, candidate, novice, and professional), you have watched experts in action. From these vicarious observations you acquired your initial knowledge, skills, and dispositions about classroom assessments.
  2. Verbal Persuasion. In all four capacities, you have been guided in various aspects of preparing, completing, and reflecting upon your growth—three characteristics for developing, conducting, and modifying classroom assessments. Teacher educators, teaching colleagues, and professional developers have offered insights and inspiration for you to increasing student engagement and achievement by conducting assessments, analyzing data, and modifying teacher practices across the teaching, learning, and schooling.
  3. Physiological Feedback. In addition to watching experts in action and receiving verbal guidance to enhance your self-efficacy with classroom assessments, you have been offered a range of physiological feedback or individual support and mentoring. The most effective physiological feedback that contributes to your growth resonates the same qualities you should include in your classroom assessment feedback to your students. Feedback should be personalized, relate directly to the expectations and outcomes, reinforce strengths with specific examples, and nurture weaknesses with achievable guidance.
  4. Mastery Experiences. Once you have identified your purposes, procedures, and products related to your classroom assessments, then you are ready to accept full responsibility for developing and implementing appropriate classroom assessments impacting the teaching, learning, and schooling to increase student engagement and achievement.

Two Overarching Principles of Classroom Assessment

The Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation (JCSEE, 2003), has written that the Student Evaluation Standards are “principles that should guide and govern student evaluations (JCSEE, p. XX) and “require that student evaluations be ethical, fair, useful, feasible, and accurate” (JCSEE, p. 3).  Therefore, you need to be aware that your purposes, procedures, products, and preconceptions of classroom assessments must comply with two overarching principles of classroom assessment:

  1. Do No Harm
  2. Avoid Score Pollution

Do No Harm

The principle to “Do No Harm” encompasses a human ethic or virtue shared by many people and across many professions. In education, the principle to Do No Harm depends on classroom teachers to anticipate all potential outcomes extending from their actions, particularly classroom assessment practices, and to make sound judgments from the perspective of each student.  Although impossible to anticipate all potential outcomes, teachers must consider their own beliefs and behaviors through the perspectives of each student. Classroom assessments, particularly, may result in a range of unintended consequences with or without recognition of the ethical virtue to Do No Harm.

Although most teachers strive to develop classroom assessments that are fair and bias-free in addition to being well-designed, relevant, and meaningful, classroom assessments may lack academic integrity. Too often, teachers develop classroom assessments, especially discussion questions and test items, that may be confusing, tricky, beyond the student’s abilities, unrelated, silly, and/or punitive in nature.

Classroom assessment items developed with academic integrity should offer:

  1. Honest measurements of learning (for which students must be properly prepared)
  2. Trustworthy experiences for each student and the teacher to measure progress
  3. Compilation of items or expectations that the students know will be scored fairly (without personal bias or subjectivity of the assessor)
  4. Opportunities for the student to increase respect for the teacher, the content, the assessment process, and for education in general
  5. Occasion for the student and the teacher to measure progress that students internalize as an important responsibility in growth and development

Avoid Score Pollution

The principle to “Avoid Score Pollution” expects classroom teachers to establish and communicate beliefs and behaviors of academic integrity emphasizing consistency, dependability, and reliability, particularly related to their classroom assessments. Score Pollution involves any educational malpractice that impacts assessment results but does not increase mastery of content and, consequently, conflicts with the authenticity of the assessment.

The malpractice of Score Pollution is viewed as sneaky, unfair, unkind, and deceptive, such as when teachers give an unannounced test, add items to a test for which students are unprepared, and/or administer a test when some or many of the students are absent due to other events (both school and community).Teachers also tend to pollute scores by including scores for behaviors not related to mastery of content—writing names on assignments, neatness of the assignment, cooperation with other students while preparing assignments, submitting assignments on time, attending class, arriving on time, etc.

Although teachers express mixed attitudes and actions regarding their assessment practices and many teachers include (mal)practices that cause harm and pollute their scores, teachers would benefit by reflecting upon their beliefs and behaviors to reveal ways that harm and pollution that can be removed and replaced by assessment practices promoting academic integrity.


Given that the word “reflection” usually makes us think of looking into a mirror at ourselves, it is wise for you as a teacher to look at yourself to understand your preconceptions related to your beliefs and behaviors especially related to classroom assessment practices. Given that most students dislike school based on their perceived lack of acceptance and achievement, look at yourself to identify modifications you can make to increase each student’s sense of acceptance and achievement.

Consider the four sources of self-efficacy that have impacted your classroom assessment practices and consider the two overarching principles: Do No Harm and Avoid Score Pollution.

Now, as a new year begins, make another resolution to enhance your self-efficacy evident in your classroom assessment practices!


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavior change. Psychological Review,

84(2), 191-215.

Written by

Nancy P. Gallavan, Ph.D., is Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Central Arkansas where she specializes in classroom assessments and cultural competence in the Department of Teaching and Learning MAT Program, which she helped to start in 2006. The UCA MAT Program was recognized as the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education by the Association of Teacher Educators in 2010. Dr. Gallavan also serves as the UCA Academic Liaison to Institutional Diversity. Receiving university and college awards for her teaching, scholarship, and service, Dr. Gallavan has expertise in K-12 education, classroom assessments, curriculum development, cultural competence, social studies education, and teacher self-efficacy. With more than 120 peer-reviewed publications in journals, as chapters in books, and as books, Dr. Gallavan authored two versions of Developing Performance-Based Assessments, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2009. She also authored Navigating Cultural Competence: A Compass for Teachers, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2011. With Ellen Kottler, she co-authored Secrets to Success for Beginning Elementary School Teachers with Corwin Press in 2007 and Secrets to Success for Social Studies Teachers with Corwin Press in 2008. Most of these books have been republished in multiple languages. Her research agenda focuses on classroom assessments and teacher self-efficacy. Her chapter, “If you want your students to change, then you need to change: Mediating the sources and benefits of teacher self-efficacy with teacher candidates,” will be published in the Handbook of Research on Professional Development for Quality Teaching and Learning in 2016. Dr. Gallavan serves as the editor of the Arkansas Association of Teacher Educators Electronic Journal (ArATE EJ) and co-editor of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Annual Yearbook of Research. An active member of American Educational Research Association (AERA), Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), she is involved with the AERA Classroom Assessment Special Interest Group and serves as Chair of the ATE Commission of Online Teaching, Learning, and Schooling. Dr. Gallavan is a Past President and a Distinguished Member of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), a Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Chapter inaugural member, and a member of Phi Delta Phi (education honor society). Prior to joining the University of Central Arkansas, Dr. Gallavan was an Assistant/Associate Professor with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, specializing in social studies education and cultural competence. She began her career in education as an elementary school and middle level classroom teacher primarily in the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University); her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder; her school administrator license from the University of Colorado, Denver; and her doctoral degree in Curriculum Leadership with a cognate in Cultural Competence from the University of Denver. At the University of Denver, she received the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Dissertation Award.

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