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The assessment of student progress serves as a guide for learning and instruction. Knowledge about each student’s current level of achievement is essential for planning learning activities to meet the student’s learning needs.

This information should be collected in a variety of ways to provide feedback that is useful to student and teacher alike. To be most useful, classroom assessment should have the following characteristics:

  • It should be part of instruction and should clearly reveal to students what is expected of them.
  • It should be an ongoing process rather than a set of isolated events, with the methods and instruments varied and used in a variety of contexts.
  • It should focus on a broad range of outcomes, reflecting multiple dimensions of competency development.
  • The measures should be appropriate to the student’s development and cultural background.
  • It should be constructive. It should focus on what a student can do, clearly identifying both strengths and areas of difficulty. It should encourage improvement in areas of difficulty, linking new learning to what a student already knows and can do. Assessment information should be used by a student to be informed about, to reflect upon and to initiate activities that enhance their learning.
  • It should involve students in their own assessment. This gives them responsibility for their own learning and fosters lifelong learning.

Diagnostic approaches to instruction

The terms “diagnostic instruction” and “diagnostic teaching cycle” are often used to refer to instruction that is closely linked to assessment. Diagnostic instruction provides a means to ensure that learning difficulties are recognized early and that students receive the help they need. It also provides a means of confirming student learning so that more challenging activities can be provided as students become ready.