Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that this is probably the most important question driving all teaching and education.  Different individuals use different means by which to establish and measure one's learning.  The most popular is to use external assessments, such as grades on exams or quizzes, or high stakes standardized tests.  These are believed to provide the best reference point as to whether or not someone is learning.  I tend to find a flaw in this because learning might not be considered as an end product, such as producing a widget on an assembly line.  Learning is an internal process that encompasses many variables.  I tend to think that a more accurate measurement of learning would be a realm where individuals can actually talk about or express what it is they learned or understood.  This might allow for a more wide ranging conception of learning, one where individuals feel as if their voice in the learning process is validated and authenticated.  The challenge here is that this thinking flies in the face of years of regimented practice where tests and external assessments are seen as the only and "best" measurements of learning.  I believe that our challenge in the new setting is going to be to figure out how to construct a meaningful understanding of meaning that can appeal to both camps of individuals.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Most educators measure learning on an individual basis through progress.  They look at where a student starts and where he or she ends up (at the end of a unit, course, or year).  In order to regulate (or standardize) this measurement for all students the standarized test was created.

Most teachers would agree, however, that although the test is standard, it does not necessarily reflect how much a student has learned.  It can simply show what he or she knows (or how well he or she tests) at the time the test is taken.

I think the best measurement of learning comes from demonstration through teaching.  It is easy to tell what a student knows or has learned when listening to him teach someone else.  This not only shows knowledge, but understanding.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to say that the most valuable and meaningful way for me is almost always centered in very informal assessments, whether they be writing assignments that the students choose or in conversations with them and the differences in those assignments and conversations from the beginning of the year until the end.

But it would also be incredibly arrogant for me to take any credit for it, particularly because so many students grow so much during a year and it has nothing to do with what we are doing in class or their experience in my class.  Of course every so often there might be something that really means something to one or two of them, but it is almost always a result of the maturing they do on their own.


Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm with #7.  Talking with students, hearing their contributions in class, reading what they write, listening to what they say to others...these are all, to me, the truest measures of learning.  I guess I would add one more important element--whether or not students are able to apply current learning to past learning.  Making those connections is essential to becoming a life-long learner, and that's what I look for to measure success and failure. 

Unfortunately, that doesn't cut it in the real (practical) world, so I have to use a few more objective measures than pure observation to document their progress.  Learning, though, is what matters most to me.  Thanks for asking!

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are multiple ways to measure learning. One way to measure learning is through testing and there many different ways to test. Teachers use testing in the classroom to determine if children have learned what they were supposed to have learned. One problem with testing is that some students do better on tests than others for many different reasons. For example, some students are better at certain types of test questions than others, such as multiple choice or essay. Also, some students experience a great deal of test anxiety, therefore they do not do well of their exams. Another way that teachers measure learning is through discussion.


lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This probably needs to be moved to the discussion section, as you are bound to get all sorts of opinions! For me, though, learning is NOT measured by how much a student is able to repeat of a subject that has been taught. Unfortunately, this is how a lot of testing is set up. An ideal measure of learning is how well a student can take what has been taught, and apply it to solve a new problem. For example, in math or physics, being able to plug numbers into an equation doesn't really show understanding, but being able to use the correct equation when presented with a real life problem, does.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Using testing works for me only when you consider the 'value added' aspects: where a student starts from, targeted teaching to improve from this point then final testsing to assess the progress. This only works when aspects of a subject, eg a spelling pattern in English, are measurable. I rely on the holistic approach as a better indicator. I have begun using a half-year review with students and a portfolio approach to allow me and the student to see how they have developed across all areas of my subject.

mmmbarkley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Measure absolute growth (raw growth) as well as relative growth (as compared to peers). Compare scores measuring both of these over time. If you learn something, there should be some output to show that learning, whether it be through demonstration, discussion, testing, performance, etc.

carolynrowe | Student
How do you measure learning?

How do you measure learning?

  This is such a paradoxical version of "is testing overrated?"  Mercy, we have to measure.  We have to be accountable.  There are only so many ways to "measure."  I make sure my students know they have a portfolio in the event there is ever a discussion with a parent.  We maintain the same portfolios.  The one I keep shows my "red pen" stuff.  The one he/she keeps shows the product.  Measuring a student is about measuring one's important to only monitor that one person as compared to him/her self.

hani8425 | Student

by the period of time which the courses remain in minds!