Assessment is a central process in education. If students learned what they were taught, we would never need to assess; we could instead just keep records of what we had taught. But as every teacher knows, many students do not learn what they are taught. Indeed, when we look at their work, it is sometimes hard to believe that they were in the classroom. In fact, it is impossible to predict with any certainty what students will learn as the result of a particular sequence of classroom activities. And because we cannot teach well without finding out where our students are starting from, we have to assess. Even if all our students started out at the same point (a highly unlikely situation!), each of them will have reached different understandings of the material being studied within a very short period of time. That is why assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning—it is only through assessment that we can find out whether what has happened in the classroom has produced the learning we intended.
Of course, assessment is also used for other purposes in education, which makes the picture much more complicated. In all countries, assessments of the performance of individual students are used to determine which students are, and which students are not, qualified for subsequent phases of education, and also to decide which kinds of education students should receive.
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