What Assessment Means to Me: Reflective VS Determinative

As a teacher, assessment is something that requires ongoing development and thought. In my 5 years of teaching, my beliefs and knowledge about assessment have deepened greatly. This includes my understanding on formative and summative assessment, reflective and determinative assessment, schooled readiness, and finally standardized testing. Similar to one of

Murphy’s (2013) Principles of Epistemically Responsible Assessment, I believe that teachers must keep an open mind in terms of assessment and must consider a variety ways about how to administer assessment. This week I will be discussing my own definition of assessment, my experience with both reflective and determinative assessment, as well, standardized testing.


As stated above, my understanding and feelings toward assessment has changed throughout my career as a teacher. If I created my own definition or statement of what I believe assessment is today, I would say:

An assessment should truly reflect what a child can do both in an informal and formal setting. Assessment should be a combination of formative and summative. Assessment should also be adapted for students in order for their needs to be met.

Like I said, this definition would have been completely different if you would have asked me my first year of teaching. I don’t think I would have truly understood the importance of the balance of formal and informal assessment.

Murphy(2013) describes many principles of reflective assessment. Most seemed attractive to me in terms of student success in the classroom. In my experience, I find that my students get a lot more out of  this style of assessment. I see a lot more student engagement when asking them to represent their knowledge. Not always using the traditional assessments allows students to truly show what they know. Other aspects of this assessment I like is the flexible grouping and small group instruction time. I currently do both Daily 5 and Explore +4 in my classroom which allows me to work very closely with my students. This type of environment allows me to have very valuable time with my students, especially those with extra needs. Although attractive, it is not always possible to effectively assess reflectivly. Resources, materials, and time definitely is a factor. As Murphy (2013),  states “every assessment is marked by limitations in design because no design can serve all possible functions(p.3)”.

Determinative assessment is also not an assessment I completely avoid. Murphy (2013) describes determinative assessment as three assessment types. “Three different assessment types fall within those involving determinative judgments: 1) standardized testing, whether large in scale or individualized; 2) rubric-based assessments; and 3) assessments based on

observational or developmental checklists (p.5)”.  Fountas and Pinnell is considered a standardized test in which all grade threes in my school division need to complete two times a year. I  actually like this assessment because we can see what students reading levels exactly are. When I first started teaching however, we had about 3 different standardized assessments we needed to do at both the beginning and end of year. These test included a math, writing, and comprehension test. I was not a fan  of these assessments. They were very time consuming and very irrelevant to students and content being taught in class. I also appreciate the rubric based assessments as sometimes that is the best way to assess students knowledge.

Overall, I believe that both styles of assessment are extremely important for our students success. As Murphy admitted (2013),  “the type of assessment you choose to use as a teacher depends on the different people and places we are in” (p.10). Therefore, it is up to the teacher to decide what type of assessment they use to best meet the needs of their students.


Murphy, S.(2013). “Towards Knowing Well and Doing Well: Assessment and Early Childhood Education,” In. J. Larson & J. Marsh (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy. New York, NY: SAGE

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