Assessment, evaluation, and the learning process

Nitko and Brookhart (2011) examine how assessment can aid teachers and students to make decisions about the learning process. Assessment procedures can be used to give feedback to students and teachers, to motivate students to study, and to give guidance about what students should focus on learning. It is necessary to bear in mind the context of the decision making process when using assessment information.

Nitko and Brookhart provide clear definitions of four terms:
assessment, tests, measurement, evaluation.

  • Assessment is the “process for obtaining information that is used for making decisions about students; curricula, programs, and schools; and educational policy” (3).
  • Tests are narrower than assessment and can be defined as the instruments or procedures for “observing and describing one or more characteristics of a student using either a numerical scale or a classification scheme” (5).
  • Measurement is the procedure in which numbers or scores are assigned to a “specified attribute or characteristic of a person in such a way that the numbers describe the degree to which the person possesses the attribute” (6).
  • Evaluation is a more subjective term that involves “making a value judgment about the worth of a student’s product or performance” (6).

Although it is important to remember the distinction between these four terms, they are interrelated terms that can be used effectively to evaluate students, lesson material, policies, and educational institutions.

There are a number of ways assessment procedures can aid teachers and students. They are a primary way to gather information that can be used to make decisions before, during, and after teaching. Decisions need to be made regarding

  • selection

  • placement

  • counselling and guidance

  • credentialing and certification

Finally, assessment procedures can be used to

  • give feedback to students and teachers

  • motivate students to study

  • give guidance about what students should focus on learning



Nitko, A.J. and Brookhart S.M. (2011). Educational assessment of students (Kindle version). Available from



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