Assessment-based instruction.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Curriculum enrichment (Methods)
Educational evaluation (Methods)
Cognitive styles (Evaluation)
Author: Hamilton, Stephanie
Pub Date: 10/01/2010
Publication: Name: U.S. Army Medical Department Journal Publisher: U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School ISSN: 1524-0436
Issue: Date: Oct-Dec, 2010
Product: Product Code: 9105111 Educational Quality Assessment NAICS Code: 92311 Administration of Education Programs
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 253536855
Full Text: Assessing accomplishment in the cognitive domain has occupied educational psychologists for most of this century. (1)

There has long been discourse between teacher and student. What is the best way to effectively transfer data from teacher to student? More importantly, what is the best way to effectively analyze the retained data that has been transferred? In this paper, I attempt to analyze assessment-based instruction; define the key components, explore how different assessments can change instruction within the current classroom, and examine how assessments can improve curriculum and the implementation difficulties within the Academy of Health Sciences, US Army Medical Department Center and School.

Herman et al (2) iterate the key components of assessment-based instruction:

Essentially, in the last 20 years there has been a shift from rote education to cognitive understanding. The desire for students who can regurgitate information learned in the course has diminished, and in its place is the desire for students who can incorporate information into real life competency. The movement from pencil and paper assessments to dioramas or portfolios have helped shift education into multidimensional, multitasking assessments that create students who not only understand, but fundamentally understand the concept. Assessment-based instruction, in its pure form, uses multiple assessment types throughout the course to effectively determine the level of cognitive understanding. Replacing a singular summative assessment with multiple forms teaches to the entire class, attacks the cognitive domain from all angles and helps students "see" the connection between what is on paper and how it applies within the student's experience.

Eldridge (3) describes a study conducted with English proficiency students in which 8 cohorts of students were assessed over a 4-semester period. Four of those cohorts used summative assessments, while the other four used formative (self-assessment, peer assessment, portfolios, and cooperative learning assignments). The results of the study were that the formative assessments "were found to be no less reliable than grades calculated using purely teacher-assessed summative tasks." (3) Eldridge goes on to say:

The language study emphasizes that the recent trend shift from an essentially rote form of learning to a more dynamic integration only serves to improve the level of cognitive retention in students, and the demonstrated benefits of formative assessments in the classroom.

As seen in the language cohort study, the integration of multiple forms of assessment can improve learning markedly. The use of formative assessments such as self-evaluation, portfolios, and individual research questions creates an environment where the students feel more responsible for their learning. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development:

In so doing, it teaches students an understanding of how they learn, and why they learn in that way. The recent shift in teaching strategies, such as the incorporation of multiple formative assessments, brings the student into focus, creating an atmosphere of mutual learning, where in the past there was only a teacher oriented setting. The ultimate goal of educating students is to teach them how to learn, to explore and to understand their own cognitive processes--a very important step in a student's education. By learning that early and developing a solid understanding of their own cognitive processes, students are being helped not only to learn, but to develop their own lifelong learning experiences.

Implementing a formative focus into the Academy of Health Sciences will add a level of proficiency for our medically-related Soldiers. Many military occupational specialty courses use a combination of LXR tests (Logic Extension Resources Inc, Georgetown, South Carolina) and hands-on skills exams to show student proficiency, while other leadership courses use a combination of capstone exercises to demonstrate understanding. To date, one significant piece of technology being wholly underutilized is the BlackBoard (Bb) Enterprise System (Blackboard Inc, Washington, DC). LXR tests and Bb are both assisting instructors in course assessments, however, the collaborative environment is all but untouched. Within Bb, as with other learning managements systems, is the capability to ask and answer questions and to interact with instructors in an asynchronous environment. This asynchronous environment can give instructors an opportunity to view how well students are relating to the material being presented. Questions can be posed in a forum, promoting a collaborative learning environment that can aid the instructor in personalizing or redirecting instruction when necessary.


The shift from summative assessment to the incorporation of more formative assessments over the last 20 years has improved curriculum overall. In study after study, it has been shown that the use of multiple assessment types has helped students become active stakeholders in their education, and makes them guardians of their own career progression. The key aspects to formative assessment and the integration of those key aspects has been the determinant of change in the educational world. Creating assessments that focus on cognitive interactions will create multidimensional students who can better integrate into an operational environment. As we develop new and better ways to teach, train, assess, and evaluate our students, we will continually improve the development of better students, and eventually a better workforce.



(1.) Angelo TA, Cross KP. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc; 1993:116.

(2.) Herman JL, Aschbacher PR, Winters L. A Practical Guide to Alternative Assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; 1992.

(3.) Eldridge G. Does formative assessment aid learning?. Int Educat. 2008;22(3):28.

(4.) Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Website. Formative assessment: improving learning in secondary classrooms. Policy Brief. November 2005:2. Available at: http://www. Accessed August 10, 2008.

Stephanie Hamilton, MEd

Ms Hamilton is Chief, Health Education and Training Branch Curriculum Development Division, US Army Medical Department Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Note five recent trends in assessment. They are
   movements from (1) behavioral to cognitive views of
   learning and assessment, (2) paper-pencil activities to
   authentic assessment, (3) single-occasion assessment to
   samples over time (portfolios), (4) single-attribute to
   multidimensional assessments, and (5) near-exclusive
   emphasis on individual assessment to group assessment.

In terms of learning, the formative cohorts
   demonstrated a rate of growth in proficiency that was
   36% faster than the summative cohorts for listening and
   3.2% faster for reading. (3)

Formative assessment builds students' "learning to
   learn" skills by emphasizing the process of learning,
   and involving students as partners in that process. It
   also builds students' skills at peer-assessment and
   self-assessment, and helps them develop a range of effective
   learning strategies. (4)
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