A Sampler of On-Going Assessment Tools and Processes

Assessment Process


Teacher questioning/ Dialogue

Asking questions and listening for responses in a systematic way is one of the most important tools for on-going assessment; especially for assessing learners’ prior knowledge of a topic, metacognitive awareness, and conceptual understanding. Teachers can use anecdotal records, checklists , or rubrics to record student responses.

Teacher observation

In observation for assessment, teachers move about the room observing individual learners at work (often as they work with others). The teacher may collect descriptive information or use a scoring guide to track and score observations. Observations are a useful tool for assessing strategy use, fluency, and independence.

Individual oral Interviews


One-to-one interviews allow a teacher to focus on just one student. Oral interviews are particularly useful for assessing the language skills of English language learners and the communication skills of beginning ABE students who may not yet be proficient in conveying ideas in writing. Think aloud protocols are a special kind of oral interview where a teacher watches a learner closely while he or she works and asks the student to “think aloud” about what he or she is doing and why.

Peer questioning or observation

Students can be taught to assess one another using any of the assessment processes described above. Often teachers provide learners with a simple checklist, rubric or other kind of scoring guide or worksheet to help guide the questioning or observation process.

Student learning logs

With guidance, students can also learn to observe and keep records of their own learning. Learning logs allow students to keep on-going records of work-in-progress. They may involve asking students to write a short one or two sentence response every day, to keep track of the books they are reading, or to map out work-in-progress. Teachers can also provide a variety of kinds of individual worksheets to focus the self-observation process.

Group self-evaluation

In group self-evaluation, a group of students evaluates how well they have worked together using a checklist or rubric. This kind of assessment is especially useful with the Interpersonal Standards, such as Cooperate with Others, Plan, and Solve Problems and Make Decisions.

Picture –cued descriptions or stories

Picture-cued descriptions or stories are especially useful with beginning and intermediate level English language learners to elicit language related to describing, giving information or expressing an opinion. Students can also be asked to order a series of several pictures or respond to just one. Teachers may want to keep a picture file on themes related to different EFF standards and roles and allow students to select the pictures they want to talk about.

Writing prompts


Students answer a question or complete a sentence that has been decided on in advance either by the teacher or by students themselves. Because writing is such a powerful tool for organizing, analyzing and evaluating ideas, even if students are not yet expert in their writing abilities, teachers may want to try using simple writing prompts. The teacher should make it clear that it is the learners’ ideas that will be assessed in this case and not their grammar, punctuation or spelling.

Student journals

There are many kinds and purposes for journals. Journals can be unstructured, with teachers simply giving class time for learners to reflect about what they have learned. Response journals are more structured tools that ask learners to respond in a certain pre-designed way to what they are reading. Dialogue journals allow students to write and respond back and forth with one another or with the teacher.



If introduced in the right way, quizzes can be useful tools, especially for assessing basic facts, discrete skills and knowledge of new vocabulary. Questions can include multiple choice, true-false, matching exercises, cloze tests and short answer fill-in-the-blank items. Usually, there is one correct response. To make this kind of assessment less threatening, students can write the test questions themselves and give the tests to each other or answer the questions together in small groups.

Written products

Written products (such as reports, posters, charts, essays, etc.) can be short, such as a one-sentence or one-paragraph summary, or can be part of longer extended learning projects. Written products provide concrete evidence of progress and can be evaluated using a variety of kinds of scoring guides.

Information gap

An information gap is an activity where one student is provided information that is withheld from a partner. Each person must provide the information using oral language. This assessment activity is especially useful for beginning English language learners, where they can be evaluated on their effectiveness in bridging the information gap.

Video Clips


Short video clips of the students can be used to assess progress on the communication standards or can serve as prompts when working with interpersonal and decision making standards. Worksheets can be developed to help students to focus on what to look for in the video clip.

Role Plays



Role plays are a mainstay of ESL classroom assessment but can also be used in any adult education classroom. In role plays a distinct role is assigned to each student. Some role plays are “scripted”, often with learners writing their own scripts. Others are more improvisational and simply provide a scenario and ask students to respond as they think someone in the role they have been assigned would. Students can observe and rate each other as they perform a role play.


Simulations are like role plays but are usually more open-ended, attempting to mimic events as they might occur naturally in real-world situations. They are especially appropriate for EFF standards that call for problem solving and decision making. For example, English language learners might simulate what they would do if the faced an impatient bank teller. Workplace education students might simulate how they would respond to a typical problem on the job.

Demonstrations or presentations

Demonstrations require students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, often to others in the class. For example, to work on the standard Use Technology students might demonstrate how to program a cell phone. Oral presentations are another way give students a chance to share something they have learned with the class and are a popular way for students to demonstrate their proficiency on the standard Speak So Others can Understand.



A portfolio is a systematic collection of student work that can be used to document progress. They include samples of student work and student self-assessment. When they are used for assessment, they include some form of predetermined scoring guides used by teachers or other assessors. Work readiness portfolios often provide evidence to an employer of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of a prospective job applicant.

Performance assessment tasks



Performance assessment tasks require students to demonstrate 1) mastery of a predetermined set of applied skills or 2) their ability to produce a written product. The criteria for how students will be judged are determined ahead of time and are often shared with the student. An evaluator (often the teacher) judges students while they are performing the task. Typically the task requires a student to address a specific real world situation in a setting that involves the kind of constraints, background noise, incentives, and opportunities an adult might encounter in that situation. Within EFF, more highly structured benchmark performance tasks are also used to measure student progress as they move along a continuum from novice to expert on an EFF standard. In these cases, the tasks are designed to measure performance on all of the components of the standard and have been validated to assure that the assessment is valid, reliable, and free from bias.

Where to Go for More Information on Assessment Activities

The chart above just a brief outline a variety of commonly used assessments processes. The resources below can provide you with a more in-depth understanding of classroom assessment.

Practical basic teacher preparation textbooks on classroom assessment:

Airasian, P.W. (1997). Classroom assessment. New York: McGraw Hill.

Nitko, A.J. (1996). Educational assessment of students, 2 nd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Stiggins, R.J. (2001). Student involved classroom assessment. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Wiggins, G.P. (1998). Educative assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Good texts for tools and techniques

Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lewin, L. & Shoemaker, B.J. (1998?). Great performances: Creating classroom-based assessment tasks. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. See www.ascd.org/portal/site/ascd/index.jsp/.

O’Malley, M.J. & Pierce, L.V. (1996). Authentic assessment for English language learners. Addison-Wesley.

Taggert, G. Phifer, S., Nixon, J., & Wood, M. (2001). Rubrics: A handbook for construction and use. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc.