Informal Assessment



Formal assessment has been in the educational system since time immemorial. It is the traditional method of measuring objective evidence of learning amongst the students. For teachers, the feedback serves as a roadmap on how to meet the learning needs of the students more efficiently and precisely. It can also evaluate the effectiveness of their instructional strategies relative to their learning objectives and make necessary adjustments if needed. However, it is not a perfect assessment tool. It has weaknesses that can mask actual evidence of learning. Formal assessment uses standardized measurements, which banks on recall of facts. Although it can be tailored carefully to bring out high level cognition, it is still difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint direct evidence of learning. Students could have guessed and have chosen the right answer out of sheer luck. Futhermore, it is a very competitive type of assessment, so it puts so much unnecessary stress or pressure on the students, which may limit the students’ performance.

I myself don’t like this type of assessment. My body tends to go overdrive when I am placed under so much pressure and in effect, my performance is affected. Back then, it was not uncommon for me to have some form of “mental blackouts” during the test so I dreaded it. However, some students feel comfortable with this kind of testing and they perform well. They like the adrenaline rush because perhaps it brings out the best in them. Some are also just good testtakers. I believe this is where the imbalance comes in. Formal assessment tools largely depend on an examinee’s ability to cope with the stress that comes with taking a test, therefore, they are not the only assessment tools that could capture actual evidence of learning. To create a more balanced measurement, informal assessments are incorporated in teaching-learning processes.

There are different methods of informal assessment that can be used to measure evidence of learning. For example, observation technique, when properly used, can reveal right then and there if a child has a sound grasp of the concept based on his or her performance. Another is using interview to measure level of understanding or pinpoint misconceptions that can be easily addressed by the teacher. Since there are many types of informal assessments available, teachers should know what type would be more appropriate for or will work best to meet the learning needs of his or her class. Furthermore, having the required technical skill to implement it properly is also as important.

Just like formal assessment, it also has an Achilles’ heel. In informal asessment, measurement of evidence of learning is highly subjective and challenging due to lack of standardized measurements. If the teacher is not prudent or self-aware of his or her actions or thought processes, his or her subjectivity can creep in silently and influence his or her objectivity. This can happen even to the most experienced or seasoned teacher inside the class. So, how can a teacher avoid this from happening? This is where the art of “reflective teaching” comes in and becomes pivotal in their role as a teacher. It means to have a deep and conscious cognition and awareness of one’s actions and thought processes inside the class. This is used to avoid one’s own beliefs, practices, and biases, influence or get in the way of one’s objectivity inside the class.  Furthermore, being cognizant of one’s actions and thought processes will also make a teacher more aware of the learning objectives and its alignment to the instructional strategies so that he or she won’t be derailed or digress from his or her target course.

In conclusion, informal assessments cannot supplant formal assessments or vice versa. I firmly believe that there’s no single assessment type that is all-encompassing that can completely define what a student is truly capable of doing from beginning to end. “Formal and informal assessment strategies each have strengths and weaknesses, so an approach that combines or balances the two is most likely to provide a thorough evaluation of children across their cognitive, emotional, social, and biological strengths and needs.”1 Despite its identified strengths and weaknesses, both assessment tools are essential in the hands of the teacher and their success in capturing an overall picture of the students’ actual evidence of learning lies in the teacher’s judicious use of these tools and the right skill to properly implement them.


1 Preschool Assessment: A Guide to Developing a Balanced Approach. Retrieved from



Advantages & Disadvantages of Formal Assessment. Retrieved from

Forms of Assessment: Informal, Formal, Paper-Pencil and Performance Assessments. Retrieved from

Informal Assessment in Educational Evaluation: Implications for Bilingual Education Programs. Retrieved from

Informal Methods of Assessment. Retrieved from

Reflective Teaching: Exploring Our Own Classroom Practice. Retrieved from

What are the Different Forms of Authentic Assessment?Retrieved from

Posted in EDS 113: Principles And Methods Of Assessment | Leave a comment

To VARK, Or Not To VARK, That Is The Question



Learning styles theorists, like Kolb, Jung, and the Dunns, believe that each person has a unique set of ways of grasping, processing, and retaining information. What and how much of this information is grasped, processed, and retained largely depend on the meshing of the teacher’s instructional method to that of the students’ preferred learning styles. They believe that when instructional method and learning styles are aligned, learners become more engaged and satisfied with learning, hence overall learning outcome is improved. On the other hand, when mismatches occur, learners become frustrated and learning problems arise.

Learning styles theories seem promising in improving learning results, however, these theories and the famous VARK model by Fleming, have come under fire. Critics say that recent works of research don’t warrant its effective use in school settings. They added that there’s no evidence to support that aligning instructional method and learning styles will influence or improve learning outcome. In 2008, Pashler, and his colleagues said “we found virtually no evidence for the interaction pattern mentioned above (learning styles and instructional method), which was judged to be a precondition for validating the educational applications of learning styles. Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis.” (p. 105, Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence) He and his colleagues argued that the study doesn’t deny the existence of learning styles. However, it asserts that no current study has shown that a particular instructional method has either improved the learning outcome of a student with preferred learning styles or jeopardized the learning outcome of a student with a different one.

Despite the criticisms, I still agree that learning styles improve learning outcome. However, in practice, I don’t spend much time and energy categorizing my students and aligning each of my students’ preferred learning styles to match my instructional method. Instead, I use my limited time on planning the most effective way to deliver a particular concept. For example, if I want to teach the anatomy of the heart, then I will use pictures and anatomical models. In doing so, it will bring optimal learning to all my students regardless of their preferred learning styles.

Cherry, K. VARK Learning Styles. Visual, Aural, Reading, and Kinesthetic Learning. Retrieved from

Glenn, D. (2009). Matching Teaching Style To Learning Style May Not Help Students. Retrieved from

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Retrieved from

Posted in EDS 103: Theories Of Learning | Leave a comment

Perspectives On Teaching And Learning

Learning 1

Learning 2

Learning 3


In 2011, Huitt defined teaching as “not giving knowledge or skills to students; teaching is the process of providing guided opportunities for students to produce relatively permanent change through the engagement in experiences provided by the teacher.” It is crystal clear from Huitt’s definition of teaching that teachers can only facilitate learning. It means that we can only make learning possible or easier by providing “guided opportunities” to our students. We can’t tell them exactly what to do to learn, however we can open the “right” doors and allow them to discover learning on their own.

How can someone tell that learning has occurred? Huitt (2011) said that “learning can be defined as the relatively permanent change in an individual’s behavior or behavior potential (or capability) as a result of experience or practice (i.e., an internal change inferred from overt behavior).” The relative change in behavior, whether cognitive, affective, or manipulative, is the hallmark of true learning. For example, we would know that a child has learned how to count from 1 to 10 if the child was able to demonstrate it through a change in his/her behavior. Furthermore, learning is personal and the change in behavior as a result of learning is very relative. As teachers, we can only do so much. At the end of the day, what and how much a student can absorb will still largely depend on his/her motivation and determination to learn. In the words of Shuell (1986), it is not so much what the teacher does that influences learning outcomes but, rather, what the student does.

Cortes, Josefina R. (1993). Explorations in the Theory and Practice of Philippine Education 1965-1993. Philippines: University of the Philippines Press.

Huitt, W. (2011). Why Study Educational Psychology? Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from

Posted in EDS 103: Theories Of Learning | Leave a comment

Basic Terminologies And Concepts



Formative and Summative Assessments

Formative assessment is used to measure whether learning objectives are being met during the learning process. For example, the teacher is trying to explain the physiology of the heart and he or she wants to know whether the students are grasping the concept. To accomplish that, the teacher will flash two or three questions on the screen that is related to the concept and ask the students to respond. The feedback generated will help the teacher measure the level of understanding so that subsequent and appropriate steps can be made. If the feedback shows a poor grasp of the concept, the teacher can always modify his or her instructional strategies to suit the learning needs of the class. Now, this is the beauty of formative assessment. It paves the way for the students to achieve optimal learning because it allows modifications of instructional strategies along the way. Furthermore, it allows the students to monitor their own learning progress and it provides opportunity to identify their areas of learning that need fine-tuning. In this manner, it makes them feel that they’re in charge of their own learning journey and in effect empowers them.

On the other hand, summative assessment is used to measure whether the desired learning outcome is achieved at the end of the learning process. Its feedback summarizes both instructional effectiveness and the quality of students’ learning. For teachers, it identifies weak points in instructional strategies and these weak points can be fortified and used to improve learning outcomes in subsequent courses. For students, it identifies the students’ level of proficiency or mastery at the end of the course. Since summative assessments measure the level of success of the students at the end of the race, modifications in terms of instructional strategies can no longer be made and the students’ opportunity to improve further also ends.

Reliability and Validity

Reliability and validity are two important concepts of assessment. They are not the same but they are intimately interrelated. Is it imperative that an assessment be both reliable and valid, for it to be useful and valuable? I believe so. Reliability gauges consistency while validity gauges accuracy and both are significant characteristics of an effective and good assessment.

I would try to explain the relationship of these two important concepts using my simple analogy. A digital thermometer measures the body temperature of patients. Since it’s electronic in nature, it’s powered by a battery. When health professionals are not mindful of this simple fact, it could mean the difference between life and death. When the battery of a digital thermometer is almost empty or “close to dying”, it will still consistently provide temperature readings of the patients but the question is, are those readings still accurate? Of course, the answer is no. Digital thermometers with almost empty batteries will always provide inaccurate readings that’s why health professionals must be prudent when using one. Now, this simple analogy shows the interrelatedness of reliability and validity. Furthermore, it reveals that not all reliable measurements are also valid measurements. On the other hand,  according to the experts, a measurement that is valid is almost always reliable.1

Norm- and Criterion-Referenced

Norm-referenced compares a student’s performance relative to the norm. This is typically used in assessments, where examinees are classified or ranked relative to their peers, and usually assigned a percentile score. Back in high school, I remembered I got a percentile score of 90 in science in NSAT (National Scholastic Aptitude Test). Now, this tells me that I scored higher than 90% but lower than 9% relative to the other examinees in science alone.

In criterion-referenced, the case is quite different. It compares a student’s perfomance relative to a specific criterion or criteria. The examinee is assigned a cut score, which reveals whether an examinee has successfully demonstrated mastery or proficiency of a particular skill. A good example of criterion-referenced test is a licensure examination. In 2007, I took my NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). For months, I anxiously waited for the letter to arrive. When it finally came I was so happy to learn that I passed but also confounded at the same time. I was expecting to see a numerical score of my performance in the examination without understanding that the exam I took was not norm-referenced but rather criterion-referenced. The “pass” mark tells me that I have demonstrated mastery or proficiency of a particular skill, which means that I have met or perhaps surpassed the minimum requirements for someone to safely practice nursing in a particular U.S. state.

Formal and Informal Assessments

Formal assessment, from the word itself, uses formal means of measuring learning. Since it’s formal, it utilizes standardized measuring tools to assess degree of learning. Being standardized, it paints a general picture of a student’s overall achievement and compares it to his or her peers (norm-referenced) or against a particular set of criteria (criterion-reference).

In informal assessment, there’s a lack of standardized measuring tools to assess degree of learning. Thus, as I was reading about it, I asked myself how one uses or even measures it. Based from my readings, I learned that a teacher can use observation techniques and evaluate the students’ performance at the end of the exercise. I remembered back in Goethe-Institut Manila this is how we usually end our class. Fifteen minutes before the time, our teacher would try to assess what we’ve learned for the day. Initially, we would form a circle and the teacher will flash a card on the first student and ask him or her to formulate a question using the German word or phrase found on the card. The task of the next student is to formulate a response based on the question asked. The same routine goes on and on until the last student in the circle was able to participate. Throughout the exercise, our teacher was just silently observing and jotting down some notes. At the end of the exercise, she would discuss the correctness of our questions and responses. She would evaluate us based on relevance, coherence, and grammar.

Traditional and Alternative Assessments

Traditional assessment is the traditional or conventional way of measuring the level of learning. This type of assessment usually relies heavily on recall of facts, however when tailored well can be a good measurement of learning. It will determine whether the student has a sound understanding of the concepts or not. Now, even if it was tailored well to elicit high-level reasoning, there’s no way you can tell how the student arrived with the right answer. The student could have guessed and got the right answer out of sheer luck. In effect, there’s no direct evidence of learning.

On the other hand, alternative assessment is the non-traditional or unconventional way of measuring the level learning. It’s otherwise known as “authentic assessment” or “performance assessment.”2 It is authentic in nature because it relies heavily on application of knowledge. The central goal is to design assessment tasks that has real world significance that’s why learning becomes more meaningful to the students. Alternative assessment places greater emphasis on bringing out direct evidence of learning. For example, when I ask my nursing students to demonstrate the proper way to inject a medication intramuscularly then I would be able to see for myself if it was properly executed or not. Using rubrics, I would be able to measure whether a particular student has the competence to perform the required task that’s normally found in the real world. As to which form of assessment is better, experts say that teachers don’t need to choose between traditional and alternative assessments. Despite the inherent weaknesses of traditional assessments, it can be combined with alternative assessments to best meet the students’ learning needs.3



Assessment is a powerful tool that attempts to measure both students’ learning and the effectiveness of instructional strategies. Assessments can measure the level of understanding while learning is taking place or it can assess overall achievement at the end of the course or program. Assessments can also be utilized formally or infomally. In the diagram, assessment tasks such as, oral presentation can be utilized formally or informally depending on how you want the students to meet the learning objectives and achieve desirable or successful learning outcomes.

In 2004, Hanna and Dettmer proposed that we should strive to develop a range of assessments strategies that match all aspects of our instructional plans.4 I totally agree with this proposal because in reality students come in many shapes and forms. Some students are more comfortable with paper and pencil type of assessment but some students would perform well in oral presentations or debates. The diagram is therefore a useful guide for teachers in employing a wide range of assessment strategies to produce an unbiased picture of the what the students have actually learned, their learning styles, the areas they need help the most, and even their potential.

The diagram shows 4 assessment tasks: A, B, C, and D, which are being measured in terms of reliability and validity:

a. Assessment task A is reliable as evidenced by the clustered dots in the lower right quadrant but it is not valid because the clustered dots are off-center.

b. Assessment task B is both reliable and valid as evidenced by the clustered dots in the center.

c. Assessment task C is both not reliable and not valid  as evidenced by off-center and sporadic dots.

d. Assessment task D is not reliable as evidenced by the sporadic dots but valid because one of the dots is at the periphery of the center.

Practical Application:

To illustrate an example of Assessment Task A on the diagram, I will use a simple restaurant customer satisfaction survey. This type of questionnaire would normally ask questions about the quality of food or the cleanliness of the place to improve the level of service. Just for the sake of making a point, let’s say it included questions about job satisfaction. Even if the questionnaire contains questions that are irrelevant to the survey, it will still yield consistent results but apparently it is not accurate because it’s not what the survey originally intended to measure. The original purpose was to measure the level of restaurant customer satisfaction and not the level of job satisfaction.

1 Reliability and Validity. Retrieved from

2 Comparing Traditional and Performance-Based Assessment. Retrieved from

3 What is Authentic Assessment? Retrieved from

4 Hanna, G. S., & Dettmer, P. A. (2004). Assessment for Effective Teaching: Using Context-Adaptive Planning. Boston, MA: Pearson A&B.


Assessments for Young Children. Retrieved from

Atherton J S (2011) Teaching and Learning; Assessment. Retrieved from

Comparing Traditional and Performance-Based Assessment. Retrieved from

Formative and Summative Assessment. Retrieved from

Formative vs. Summative Assessments. Retrieved from

Norm-Referenced vs. Criterion-Referenced Testing. Retrieved from

Norm- vs. Criterion-Referenced Scoring: Advantages & Disadvantages. Retrieved from

Reliability and Validity. Retrieved from

Reliability and Validity. Retrieved from

What are the Different Forms of Authentic Assessment? Retrieved from

What is Authentic Assessment? Retrieved from

Whys and Hows of Assessment. Retrieved from

Posted in EDS 113: Principles And Methods Of Assessment | Leave a comment

Perspectives On Assessment



Assessment is a powerful tool used to measure and understand how much of the learning objectives were achieved by the students. It is like a “crystal ball” that will show whether the students are grasping the concepts or not. If not, necessary adjustments or changes can be instituted immediately to address any learning problems from arising. Assessment is not just for the students. The feedback generated is also very useful to improve teaching methods. Teachers can refine and tailor teaching methods or strategies to suit the needs of the class.

To create a successful learning outcome, teachers must ensure that assessments are aligned to learning objectives and instructional strategies. Alignment ensures desirable learning outcomes, however misalignment can “undermine both students’ motivation and learning.”1

Phenomenographic researchers, such as Marton and Säljö, (1984) and Ramsden (1992), argue that students approach a learning task with a surface orientation or a deep orientation according to how they perceive the learning task. As I understand it, as teachers we should steer students to approach learning tasks with deep orientation by providing them with appropriate, effective, and valid assessment tasks. “The power of assessment to influence the approach adopted towards a learning task is very considerable.”2

With regard to current practices, there seems to be a big gap between public and private schools when it comes to learning and performance. As I see it, private schools gravitate more on assessment tasks that put more emphasis on stimulating students’ high level cognition rather than merely testing recall of knowledge. Many public schools still dwell on the traditional rote learning, which engages students in low level form of learning.

In conclusion, I could say that appropriate, effective, and valid assessments aligned to learning objectives and instructional strategies play a pivotal role in achieving a desirable and successful learning outcome. Educators should keep in mind that they don’t create learning for students, students create their own. In the words of Shuell (1986), “it is not so much what the teacher does that influences learning outcomes but, rather, what the student does.”

1 Whys and Hows of Assessment. Retrieved from

2 Chris Morgan, Lee Dunn, Sharon Parry and Meg O’Reilly, The Student Assessment Handbook (London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004), p. 10.

Posted in EDS 113: Principles And Methods Of Assessment | Leave a comment

Mein Urlaub Mit Meiner Familie

Nasugbu, Batangas

Batangas, Sommer 2010

Im Sommer 2010 bin ich mit meiner Familie nach Batangas gefahren. Es war sehr schön. Das Wetter war toll. Wir haben in einem Hotel übernachtet.

Zuerst bin ich am Meer spazieren gegangen. Dann habe ich in der Sonne gelegen und ein Buch gelesen. Nachher bin ich im Meer geschwommen und getaucht. Das Meer war sauber und warm. Ich bin auch Kajak gefahren. Es war toll!

Am Nachmittag sind wir nach Tagaytay gefahren. Wir haben die Stadt besichtigt und viele Fotos gemacht. Dann haben wir im Restaurant gegessen und im Starbucks einen Kaffee getrunken.

In der Nacht haben wir Poker gespielt und ich habe das Spiel gewonnen. Wir sind spät ins Bett gegangen.

Am anderen Tag sind wir in die Bäckerei gefahren. Dort haben wir einen Schokoladenkuchen gekauft. Dann sind wir zurück nach Manila gefahren.

Ich war sehr müde aber sehr glücklich. Ich möchte nächtes Jahr nach Batangas zurück gehen.

Posted in Goethe-Institut Philippinen | Leave a comment