Developing effective online assessments is highly nuanced, requiring a large amount of thought and preparation. For educators, creating effective assessments means understanding which approaches to testing are most suitable in differing learning scenarios or for different curriculum units. Objective and subjective assessment are two styles of testing that utilize different question types to gauge student progress across various contexts of learning. Knowing when to use each is key to helping educators better support and measure positive student outcomes.
Both objective and subjective assessment approaches can be applied to common testing types, such as formative, diagnostic, benchmark, and summative assessments. In this post, we break down the differences between subjective and objective testing, when these approaches may be most suitable, and how an assessment system can support fair and accurate measurement of student results.
What is Objective vs. Subjective Assessment?
In the classroom, objective and subjective assessments are two common methods used by teachers to evaluate student learning. Objective tests, such as multiple-choice tests and fill-in-the-blank exercises, are designed to measure students’ knowledge and understanding of specific facts and concepts. These assessments are typically graded using a rubric or automated scoring rules, which allows for consistent and fair evaluation across all students.
Subjective assessments, on the other hand, require students to apply their knowledge and demonstrate critical thinking skills. Examples of subjective assessments include essays, portfolios, capstone projects, and oral presentations. These assessments are typically graded based on the quality of the student’s work, rather than on specific correct answers.
Both objective and subjective assessments have their advantages and disadvantages. Objective assessments are typically faster and easier to grade, and they provide a clear and precise evaluation of student knowledge. However, they may not capture the full range of a student’s understanding and can be limited in their ability to assess higher-order thinking skills.
Subjective assessments, on the other hand, provide a more comprehensive evaluation of a student’s knowledge and skills. They can assess critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving abilities, and can be used to evaluate complex tasks and projects. However, subjective assessments can be more time-consuming to grade, and they may be subject to bias and inconsistency in evaluation.
When to Use Objective Assessments
Objective assessments are best used in the classroom when there is a need to evaluate students’ knowledge and understanding of specific facts or concepts. Here are some situations where objective assessments may be appropriate:
- Testing for basic knowledge: Objective assessments, such as multiple-choice tests and fill-in-the-blank exercises, can be effective in testing students’ understanding of basic concepts and knowledge.
- Evaluating content mastery: When you need to evaluate students’ mastery of specific content, objective assessments can help provide a clear and precise evaluation of student knowledge.
- Assessing understanding of terminology: Objective assessments can be used to test students’ knowledge and understanding of specific vocabulary and terminology used in a particular subject.
- Providing quick feedback: Objective assessments can be easily graded and provide students with quick feedback on their understanding of the material, allowing them to identify areas where they need to focus their study efforts.
There are several benefits to using objective assessments in the classroom, it is important to match assessment needs with the purpose of the assessment. Objective assessments are typically quicker and can provide accurate information about what a student knows or has learned at a surface level. Facts, processes, and memorized skills are all easily assessed with objective assessment, some other benefits include:
- Clear and Precise Evaluation
- Efficient and Time-Saving
- Less Subjectivity
- Preparation for Standardized Testing
Objective assessments are a useful tool in the classroom for evaluating students’ knowledge and understanding of specific facts and concepts. However, it is important to balance the use of objective assessments with other types of assessments to provide a well-rounded evaluation of student learning.
Using Subjective Assessments in Context
Subjective assessments are best used in the classroom when there is a need to evaluate students’ ability to apply knowledge, demonstrate critical thinking skills, and express creativity. Here are some situations where subjective assessments may be appropriate:
- Testing for critical thinking: Subjective assessments, such as essays, projects, and oral presentations, can be effective in testing students’ ability to analyze and synthesize information, evaluate arguments, and express opinions.
- Assessing problem-solving skills: Subjective assessments can be used to evaluate students’ problem-solving abilities and their ability to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions to complex problems.
- Evaluating creativity: Subjective assessments can be used to evaluate students’ creativity and originality in their work, such as in art, music, and creative writing assignments.
- Assessing communication skills: Subjective assessments can be used to evaluate students’ communication skills, such as their ability to present ideas clearly and persuasively in a public speaking or debate format.
While there is a time and place for objective assessment, many times a teacher will get a much more complete picture of what a student can do through subjective assessment. While these assessments take more time to develop and grade, they are often meaningful learning experiences themselves. Benefits of subjective assessments include:
- A complete picture of learning
- Multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning
- More inclusive of all students
- Can reduce bias in testing
- Allows for continual growth
In essence, subjective assessments are useful in creating a holistic and potentially more accurate picture of what a student can do. It also enables students to demonstrate how they can use learning in context rather than simply answering questions correctly on a test.
Develop Practical Applications
The reality is that no teacher should assess only using one style of test, there is a time for objective assessment and a time for subjective assessment. Giving objective assessment early on in a unit can inform a teacher as to what the students know with regard to background knowledge or terminology, it also gives the educator a good idea of where the student is starting at. However, moving from objective to subjective assessment gives the students opportunities to show what they know in real-life scenarios.
Digital learning platforms make it easier for teachers to develop and implement both subjective and objective assessments across a wide variety of content areas. Open Assessment Technologies provides technology designed to provide adaptive learning and assessment to students at all levels. To learn more about how Open Assessment Technologies can improve student learning click here.