Is it the same to evaluate than to qualify?


We all remember the emotion (not always positive) that ran through the classroom the day they “gave us the note” of a specific test or exam. Especially in the primary stage (it is in these first courses where students face this numerical qualification process), “getting” a 5 or an 8 or the subtle differences between a 9 and a 9.75, can become in a matter of great importance for the students and their families, causing comparisons (“I am the one who got the lowest grade”) and labels (“he is an outstanding student”).

But what is the real difference between a 9 and a 5? Has the student who has obtained the highest grade learned more and better? The answer is not as simple as it might seem.

Rating vs evaluation

In Spain, until the entry into force of the LOMLOE , it was necessary to evaluate, in official documents and from the primary stage, with numerical grades that ranged between 1 and 10. This has been modified in the new regulatory developments (which will be implemented gradually in the next two courses) and invites us to reflect on the relevance and perception of a numerical grade.

Information for students

Any teaching and learning process must be consistent with the evaluation that is proposed in it. The student body, throughout the course (not just at the end!), must be aware of and aware of their progress, as well as of the difficulties that may exist in order to achieve the objectives set in advance. That is, the criteria are previously established and are common, in principle, for all students.

To do this, procedures must be established that are appropriate to the maturational level of the students. For example, if we use the recurrent exam as an instrument for the evaluation of students, the result obtained cannot be understood in the same way in a seven-year-old apprentice as in a university student who, presumably, will have greater skills to face this type of test.

It goes without saying that if, in addition, there is no subsequent return by the teacher, that is, if the result is not analyzed with the student to understand the reasons for said qualification, we will be converting the evaluation into a final qualification disguised as an evaluation. keep going.

In other words, taking many exams does not guarantee a true continuous and formative evaluation .

What they say a 5 or a 9

The evaluation criteria (present in the educational curriculum) must be the same for all students, but it should not be ignored that a classroom is always diverse. There are people who have a greater ability to solve a math problem, others who may be more competent in understanding a reading and others in performing a certain sporting activity.

People with their characteristics, difficulties and sensitivities that must be taken into account. That is why there are curricular adaptations, with which we try to achieve that equity in education that is so complex. Therefore, that 5 or that 9 will not be the same in one person as in another. It will depend on many factors and, in any case, it should not be forgotten that it is just that, a note that attends (or should attend) to the level of acquisition of skills and achievement of the evaluation criteria.

How we assess: the importance of the procedure

A part of the readers of these lines will wonder, probably with some surprise and with the reason given by their long experience as students, if we are denying the validity of the exams when they have so much presence in the different subjects.

The exam is useful as a method to know the strengths of an applicant and for him to learn . And we do not deny, therefore, its interest and practical application. But we do ponder its importance, especially in those in which memorization is the main protagonist (without wanting to detract from a cognitive process as essential in learning as memory).

There are many other procedures to assess learning, being notable those that allow linking the practice to real contexts and that favor it . As an example we propose the following:

  1. Observing skills and recording in a journal or rubric;
  2. Sincere and honest self-assessment processes, where the reflection of the students has a specific weight and is a reality in making decisions about the “mark” (not the only one, of course);
  3. Peer assessment (co-assessment) where the students themselves are responsible for their own learning and that of their classmates;
  4. Dialogues in class that allow knowing interests (and learning) to guide the next steps;
  5. Real contributions to society with the consequent methodological changes ( service-learning , for example).

This is essentially formative assessment. The one that allows constant information to be obtained throughout the process and not only at the end of it. For this, it is essential that teachers provide transparent information to students and their families (this is especially important in the early stages), so that the evaluation is a democratic process. Otherwise, as Santos Guerra states , there is a risk of shooting at a target with your eyes closed, where it will never be possible to hit the target.

The importance of thousandths

We are realistic: students grow up and may have to face, for example, opposition processes, where thousandths and rote learning are especially important. In these the note is crucial and we must work so that the performance, at a specific moment and with a specific test, is optimal. However, in these processes, the response obtained after the tests is minimal or non-existent, not favoring the learning of the person being evaluated.

In short, an evaluation process is much more complex than the estimation of a numerical grade, qualitative information being essential that allows the student to know what their strengths are and what aspects they need to improve.

Author Bios: Bruno Garcia Tardon is Doctor Professor at the Faculty of Education at Camilo José Cela University and Rodrigo Pardo Garcia is University Professor, director of the Master’s Degree in Teacher Training at Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM)