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Decoding Assessment Techniques

In a classroom, assessing decoding skills is critical for gauging student progress. This type of assessment measures students' ability to recognize individual sounds within words, and how those sounds combine to form whole words (Wren, 2004).

Various decoding assessment techniques can be used to identify misconceptions or gaps in learning. This allows teachers to adjust their instruction accordingly.

Formative Assessment

A formative assessment process is designed to engage students along their learning journey, fueling their sense of agency and ownership. These processes help them to make small, immediate, impactful decisions that will support their well-being and learning-goal achievement.

To make a formative assessment effective, teachers need to be skilled at drawing inferences from students' responses. Whether this is through observation, dialogue, asking for a demonstration, or a written response, it is important to analyse what learners have achieved and not yet achieved. This is what enables the teacher to identify the "just right gap" in their students' understanding and skills.

It is also necessary for the teacher to be flexible when implementing formative assessments, as different students may respond differently to particular activities. For example, a wordsearch puzzle might be useful for some students whilst others might prefer a quiz or an activity based assessment such as 'Who wants to be an Anatomist?'. Incorporating these type of activities throughout a module or course can encourage a spaced educational approach and ensure that students are able to retain the knowledge they have gained.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments evaluate student learning, knowledge, and proficiency at the end of an instructional period – such as a unit, course, project, program, semester, or educational year. These are typically formally graded assessments and weigh heavily in students’ final grades, though they don’t have to be.

While the primary purpose of summative assessment is to judge academic achievement and skill acquisition, according to Cizek (2010), it can also serve a supportive role if carefully designed. This includes giving students feedback about their progress, helping them reflect on their own performance, and facilitating peer assessment. The most effective way to support this function of summative assessment is through clear, high-quality formative assessments.


Quizzes are an important tool for assessing decoding and encoding skills. They provide valuable data for instructional decisions. In particular, they help teachers analyze students’ errors to determine their instructional starting point and needs (Carpenter, Cepeda, Rohrer, Kang, & Pashler, 2012).

Multiple Choice questions are a common assessment question type. These questions present a statement with multiple possible answers that can be selected by the student to assess information recall, reading comprehension, critical thinking/problem solving and other student learning factors.

Multiple choice questions with “none-of-the-above” or “all of the above” as answer options may not assess reading comprehension or other student learning factors because the student does not need to retrieve information for a correct response and is exposed to many incorrect answers. Using these question types can also rob the learner of potential learning that comes from the recall processing that occurs during answering the question. These types of question should be used sparingly.

Open-Ended Questions

A great way to collect rich and detailed data from respondents is by asking open-ended questions. This type of question allows for more space in the response to let people express their opinion and gives them the opportunity to explain what is going on in their mind when they answer. Open-ended questions are best used as follow-ups to closed-ended questions or on their own when the study warrants a more detailed response.

The key to utilizing this technique effectively is careful question framing and understanding the process behind the evaluation. For example, if you ask “What did you do this weekend?” it is likely that many responses will say something along the lines of “I went to the beach,” and this is not the kind of feedback you want to collect. However, if you frame the question to be more specific, “How did you spend your weekend?” you will get a different type of response.

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