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Issue: 502 b Assessment

Editor: Tony Hobson

ConclusionThe principles of assessment, when combined with learning theories and the work of researchers like Black and Wiliam and Petty give teachers a solid framework they can apply to assess learning in the classroom. There are limitations to the choice of assessment method used such as:- The requirements of different courses set by examining bodies- Learner experience- Over arching learning theory of the course and preference of the teacher.However despite these limitations feedback FOR learning can, and should be used to help promote learner growth. Even on courses with strict curricula and exam frameworks such as maths, continual formative assessment will help: - the learner to build confidence, - improve their self assessment and self perception,- allow the teacher to reflect and improve- build learning across the whole yearTo continue the example, in the teaching of maths learners can:- Track their own progress between each module and track and set their own goals.- Get learners to self mark and peer mark work .- Avoid scoring assessments, and where they have to be used put the formative feedback on the front, and the score right at the back. - Use medal and a mission format.- Avoid situations where norm referencing is used.- Use the class scores privately to reflect on teaching methods and strategies used to drive improvement.The use of these sort of techniques even in a prescriptive framework such as maths will help remove fear and improve confidence, skills and attainment in learners, and help teachers continually improve.

Principles of AssessmentReliabilityAre the results repeatable, would it work the same way with any group?Validity‘covers the course as a whole, uses appropriate real-life methods, is most suitable to the subject or vocational area and helps predict how the learner will perform in future’ (Tummons, 2007:38)CurrencyThe assessment must meet all current standards required and measure competencies accordingly. Relevant to skills based competencies (e.g electrician) and when assessing APEL.AuthenticityThe assessment must be realistic to the learning that has taken place and provide genuine evidenceEquityThis part is covered by the requirements of the Equality act 2010, reasonable adjustment should be made to mitigate any issues from learning disabilities / difficulties.SufficiencyHow often should a learner be assessed? How much is needed and how much is too much?TransparencyThe assessment needs to be understandable and transferable with the learner if they move to a different college. Also the assessment must only measure what it is being set out to measure.EfficiencyIs the assessment practical given the constraints on academic time, resource and space?Assessments should consider and meet of all the above principles to be truly effective.

Learning Theories and AssessmentBehaviouristIn a behaviourist environment formal and summative assessments are most commonly used. The teacher is the source of the knowledge, and the learners demonstrate their ability to recall the facts or skills shown to them. Behaviourist assessment will used grades and norm or criterion referencing so a learner knows their ‘level’ of performance.CognitivistAssessments used in congnivitism need to focus on the development of the processes used by the learner. The higher levels of learning identified in Bloom’s taxonomy are a useful guide in identifying useful assessments. Using essays, assignments and group discussion techniques help identify a learner has developed their mental processes as they assess, debate, judge and evaluate concepts. Problem solving assessments are also useful in understanding improvements in learner development.ConstructivistA constructivist teacher when faced with a learner giving an incorrect answer should not say ‘no’, they will ask non-judgemental questions to explore how that learner reached that conclusion, and then use a scaffolded approach to construct new understanding or skills. Constructivist assessment techniques are really useful in practical, skills based courses such as plumbing, hair dressing etc. Observation is useful to assess learning as in a constructivist classroom the learners drive the direction of the lesson, and collaborative learning can be observed and feedback given to help construct new knowledge. This is an example of ‘assessment as learning’HumanistThe key to assessment in humanism is that it must be focused on learner growth, enable the facilitator (teacher) to support learning and respect the value of the learner as a whole. The opportunities to use quantitative assessment methods are limited as they usually contain a value judgement, unless they are accompanied detailed feedback to help the learner grow. Ipsative assessment is useful so the learner assesses their own progress, not against a target but for personal development.

Assessment Today

Dylan Wiliam - Assessment for learning

Geoff Petty

Assessment of, as and for learning

Assessment OF learningThis is the behaviourist approach, it is a summative assessment which occurs at the end of a unit of learning, it has a grade or score and compares learner performance (criterion or norm referenced)Assessment AS learningThis is linked to the constructivist learning theory. The assessment is shared and understood early on by the learners, and using an ipsative approach learners set their own goals, monitor their progress and reflect and act on their results. This occurs throughout the course of the learning process.Assessment FOR learningSee Black and Wilian and Petty articles on this page

Geoff Petty – Learning Centred Feedback In PractiseGeoff Petty offers several pieces of advice for delivering learner centred feedback which include:- Avoid giving out grades- Use of self assessment techniques- Using tasks, personal targets and areas for improvement in feedback, and using feedback proformas which require the teacher to give learner centred feedbackMedal and a MissionThe other technique he eschews is to give learners a medal and a mission:This requires the tutor to set clear goals, get the learner to self assess their performance against the goals (medal), and then provide non judgemental feedback on how they can improve (mission)

In 1990 Professors Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black first published ‘Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment’. In this paper which studied several hundred classrooms, they showed that formative assessment has more effect on learning than any other single factor, and can deliver an up to 2 grade leap in grade at GCSE level.Formative assessment can be described as ‘ Ongoing, interim or continuous assessment. Can be used to assess skills, knowledge and / or understanding in a progressive way, to build on topics learnt and plan future learning and assessments.’ (Gravells 2011:35)Formative assessment is not focused on the grade, it is learner centred and gives the learner feedback on what they have done well, and detailed suggestions for how to improve. It also gives the teacher the opportunity to reflect and improve on the teaching methods and strategies they use with that particular learner.Their work, along with further publications, describes several practical techniques teachers can use to deliver successful formative assessment in the classroom.


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