Unit Three: Principles and practice of assessment Methodology Firstly we had input during classes from our tutor on the categories of concepts and principles of assessments, how to use different types of assessments and some of the strengths and weaknesses of these methods, the role of feedback and questioning in the assessment of learning and the different types of assessment records and their uses.
Next we individually researched these topics, to do this firstly I used discussions with my mentor, observations of colleague’s sessions, discussions with my peers and evaluation and reflection of my own teaching sessions. My secondary research consisted of academic books, internet sources, as identified in the bibliography. I chose this approach because it gave me the widest range of resources, varying information and views on the subjects.
I could then collate the primary and secondary research to write my precis and form my opinions on the research I had undertaken. The focus of my research was on concepts and principles of assessment, the different types of assessments and how to use these, the different assessment methods available along with their strengths and weaknesses especially peer and self assessment, what is feedback and how to make it effective and reviewing and recording learner progress and achievement.
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This precis will then enable me to better evaluate my own practice and help me to ensure I undertake the assessment process more effectively in the future. Precis ‘Assessment is about several things at once... It is about reporting on students’ achievements and about teaching them better through expressing to them more clearly the goals or our curricula. It is about measuring student learning; it is about diagnosing misunderstandings in order to help students to learn more effectively.
It concerns the quality of the teaching as well as the quality of the learning. Ramsden (2003). Assessment is a regular process that enables both tutors and learners to assess the progress of a learner and make judgements about the learning. These judgements then guide the tutor and learner towards the intended learning outcomes, goals that are to be achieved and any improvements required to obtain the desired qualification. Good practice is to reflect and evaluate after each assessment as this will give you the opportunity to improve in the future.
The programme syllabus or qualification handbook is the starting point when planning assessments. These will ‘state how the subject should be assessed, and will give information and guidance in the form of an assessment strategy. ’ Petty (2009). If the subject you are teaching is with an official awarding body, they may also have some requirements with regards to assessments that a tutor should be familiar with. When planning assessments you should ensure they are valid, authentic, current, sufficient and reliable (VACSR).
This can be done by asking yourself what, when, where, why, who and how questions; for example, does it assess what is in the syllabus? Remember that assessments should never discriminate or exclude any learners and should always allow equality of opportunity. There are two forms of assessment; Assessment of Learning – this is basically what the learner has learnt at the moment. It measures knowledge retention and uses grading and/or marks. This is summative assessment. Assessment for Learning (AFL) – this determines learner’s goals/targets to build a program or course.
This type of assessment focus more on the gaps in learners knowledge rather than teaching the whole subject and about finding faults and fixing them (monitoring improvement). This is formative assessment. These two forms of assessment are both needed by individual learners and society but I think that AFL is a more valuable tool for the individual learner as it is much more centred on where a learner is in their learning, where they need to go, what is the best way to get there and allows time to achieve their full potential (learner focused).
The Assessment reform group (1999), list AFL having and learning * AFL should focus on how students learn * AFL should be recognised as central to classroom practice * AFL should be regarded as a key professional skill for teachers * AFL should be sensitive and constructive because any assessment has an emotional impact * AFL should take account of the importance of learner motivation * AFL should promote commitment to learning goals and a shared understanding f the criteria by which they are assessed * Learners should receive constructive guidance about how to improve * AFL develops learners capacity for self-assessment so that they can become reflective and self-managing * AFL should recognise the full range of achievements of all learners.
These principles mean providing effective feedback that enables learners to improve and plan the next steps; adjusting our teaching to take account of the results of assessments, including focusing on the whole person their feelings, skills and barriers; recognising the influences of assessment on motivation and self esteem of learners as well as learners taking responsibility for their own learning which in turn can help with knowledge retention and the need for learners to be able to assess themselves and understand fully how to improve through peer and self assessment and reflection.
This helps with the next steps needed for further learning. AFL is a particular view of learning that believes all learners can improve and achieve their full potential, that ability is incremental not fixed. Within these forms of assessment there are different types of assessments that are used at different points throughout a learners learning journey and these different assessments may be formal or informal.
Formal assessments are usually based on the results of standardised tests or other exams that are done under controlled conditions, the criteria is often set by the awarding body or organisation and the results can contribute to the final grade. Informal assessments are methods of measuring a learner’s performance by casually watching their behaviour or using other informal assessment methods, they check ongoing progress and the criteria are often decided by the tutor. The main types of assessments are; diagnostic/initial, formative and summative and ipsative.
Within my experience at the training centre of the YMCA and within most HE organisations the first assessment that learners would come across is Diagnostic/Initial assessment. Initial assessment occurs prior or at the start of a course. It is used to find a starting point for learning, making the development of a learning plan possible. During initial assessment you can ‘start to build up a picture of an individual’s skills, achievements, interests, previous learning experiences and goals, and the learning needs associated with these goals. ’ Skills for life improvement programme (2008).
Diagnostic assessment also occurs at the beginning of a course and then when needed throughout. It is used to assess more specific skills like a ‘skills check’ would and to identify learning strengths and needs. Diagnostic assessment also helps to ‘determine learning targets and appropriate teaching and learning strategies to achieve them. ’ Skills for life improvement programme (2008). These two assessments types are often done at the same time and are closely linked, together they help the tutor and learner build a clear picture of the individual to personalise the learning and develop an ILP.
When under taking these two assessment types a range of methods should be used to ensure the learner is able to show their strengths and weaknesses adequately. Use assessment methods that are relevant to the individuals interests (vocational area or life interests), select a blend of methods to suit them and their circumstances and try to gather information from other areas, for example, observe the learner on a work placement if possible.
There are many assessment methods that can be used during initial and diagnostic assessment, here are a few: enrolment forms – these can give you the basic information about an individual, however, they may not put all relevant information on this form such as any learning difficulties or cultural needs. APL – this can mean there would be no need for the learner to duplicate work done previously but the criteria may not be the same and you would need to check currency of the work.
Interviews – these allow tutor and learner to get to know each other and discuss any issues in more depth whilst enabling the tutor to see how much a learner knows. The disadvantage with this method may be that the planning has not been done carefully or thoroughly to ensure the consistency of questions between learners and some learners may not react well in this circumstance. Observations – this gives a broader picture of the learner and how they perform in a range of contexts giving insights into their strengths, team work etc.
Disadvantages with this method are time constraints and if a learner feels nervous of being observed you may not get a true picture of their abilities. Online assessments/tests – results are generated instantly, easily blended with other methods and can take place at a time to suit all parties. However, clear targets need to be set, may be technical problems and what is actually being assessed. Is the learner computer literate? At the YMCA I devised a short general computer knowledge diagnostic assessment worksheet for my learners. This worksheet consisted f naming different parts of a computer along with writing a brief description of what each listed software could be used for. I used this after an initial assessment informal discussion with individual learners to ascertain their level of computer knowledge as well as a basic writing assessment. The diagnostic worksheet then allowed me to assess their knowledge further so that I could devise ILP’s with each learner to cover any gaps in their knowledge, help them to achieve agreed goals and to offer further support to those learners that required help with writing skills.
The next assessment type that may be used is Formative assessment. This type of assessment is ongoing during learning and is used to ‘tell the student how the learning is proceeding as well as telling the teacher about the success of the teaching. ’ Reece & Walker (2007). Formative assessments are used to enhance learning; therefore the goal of formative assessment is to improve. William and Black believe that what a learner is taught is reflected in what they are assessed.
Formative assessment can be characterised as Assessment for learning. This type of assessment can produce; non-threatening results as they are scored but not always graded, direct and immediate feedback, structured information as tutors can see success and plan improvements and learners can see progress as well as experience success and they produce ways to improve by allowing the tutor to revisit areas that need further development and allowing learners to have additional support or time on areas they performed less well on.
As this type of assessment is ongoing many methods are used. In my subject area of ICT within the YMCA the courses are not accredited so there is no awarding body’s criteria to adhere to. As ICT is a very ‘hands on’ subject I use observations often in formative assessments. Gravells (2009) suggests that the advantages to observations are ‘enables skills to be seen in action, learners can make a mistake... enabling them to realise what they have done wrong, can assess several aspects of a qualification at the same time (holistic). According to Reece & Walker (2007) there are four types of direct observation assessments, global impression – look and describe what you see, this method has no structure and lacks reliability. Semi-structured – a number of open questions relevant to the tasks, answers to the questions are written either during, or after observation. Rating schedules – tutor rates a performance on say a five point scale, personal interpretation of scale can cause unreliability and finally Checklists – mark whether a specific feature of the task was or was not carried out.
My observations are mainly informal and consist of watching what the learner is doing and asking questions about why they have done something a certain way etc. When I have done a formal observation I have used the checklist formative assessment as I agree with Reece & Walker that this type of observation is less open to personal interpretation, the criteria is clearly set out and if being used by the learners as peer or self assessment they have a clear understanding of what is required and what is to be achieved.
Other methods I have used in both teaching at the YMCA and South Cheshire College have been questioning (both direct and indirect oral), multiple choice – as these can test a variety of levels in blooms taxonomy from knowledge, understanding and higher, discussions – these allow freedom of views and learning from peers, presentations – assess skills, knowledge and can help with confidence but if a group presentation some learners may do more work than others so it is important to assess individual contributions, assignments and projects – these help to ensure that the knowledge has been understood and retained, tutorials – used to discuss progress and address any issues, tests – assesses skills and knowledge, however, some learners do not perform well in test conditions and may need additional support to overcome this or if possible an alternative assessment method, traffic lights – used as a visual means to show understanding. During the courses at the YMCA in the next academic year I intend to introduce an informal mid-unit assessment. This will allow time to review, reflect and revisit any areas of weak understanding or areas that learners have struggled with. If assessments are left till the end of the course there is no way to revisit these unlearnt areas.
I am aware of online assessments but as of yet have not used these, mainly because the courses at the college that I have been teaching on do not use them and at the YMCA there is not reliable facilities for online assessment/testing. I do intend to look further into this aspect of assessment once the new premises at the YMCA are finished and I think that the learners would benefit from online assessments as these can assess both cognitive and practical abilities. However this method of assessment needs to be monitored carefully to ensure who is actually taking the test/assessment, is the software or hardware up to date and that extensive objective testing is not done as this can result in learners guessing the answers. Summative assessment is on completion of learning.
This may be at the end of a course or programme or may be at the end of a unit or topic. It is mainly used to see if the learner has learnt the material and is capable of going onto further learning. Brown (2001) suggests the purpose of summative assessment is ‘to give a license to proceed to the next stage of graduation (certification). ’ Reece & Walker suggest that summative assessment is ‘to satisfy the needs of society. ’ Both of these quotes imply that this type of assessment is about grades and is to show that the learner has the knowledge and at what level (pass, merit, distinction) to continue or not (failed). These grades do not always tell the learner why they achieved a certain level or why they failed.
Summative assessment can be characterised as Assessment of learning. Many of the methods used for summative assessment are the same as formative assessment but often done in a formal setting rather than an informal setting. During my teaching at the YMCA I have used the following methods for summative assessments; Individual presentation – knowledge, skills, creativity, performance, design and communication, exam – demonstrating knowledge and understanding, performing procedures and demonstrating techniques, Portfolio – managing and developing self, oral exam and observations – for learners with reading and writing difficulties. Ipsative assessment can be used as a form of self assessment.
It is assessing present performance against the prior performance of the person being assessed. They do not always relate to any external criteria or make comparisons to the performance of other learners. My teaching at the YMCA I have used this type of assessment mainly during feedback sessions, where learners and I will discuss previous work and present work, what has improved and what could still be improved upon. Another way to implement ipsative assessment is to encourage learners to assess their own work, to select the best pieces for their records of achievements folders and to identify areas for improvement. This can then be continued with self-evaluation of progress during sessions/lessons and on specific tasks.
There are many more methods to use during assessments each with its own advantages and disadvantages, such as; Accreditation of prior learning (APL), buzz groups, case studies, discussions, e-assessments, homework, journals, professional discussion, projects, puzzles and quizzes, reports and dissertations, role play, tutorials, tests, etc. The main disadvantage to any assessment method is that many learners and tutors may not be use to them as some of them may be new and innovative or there may be a lack of technology available. By ensuring tutors are up to date with assessment methods and a variety of methods are used learners will benefit by being able to fairly show their strengths and weaknesses in a range of circumstances, therefore, it is best practice to use a blend of methods to get the best and most reliable results for your learners.
Two other types of assessments I would like to investigate further in this paper are Self and peer assessment. These are often combined or considered together and have many potential advantages in common. Peer assessment can help self assessment. By judging the work of others, learners gain insight into their own performance. ‘Peer and self assessment help students develop the ability to make judgements, a necessary skill for study and professional life. ’ Brown, Rust & Gibbs (1994). Black & Wiliam’s research ‘Inside the black box’ concludes that self assessment is an essential component of formative assessment if it is to be used to improve student learning.
I agree with the findings of this research in that self assessment is a skill that should be encouraged and developed as it can have a positive effect on learners performance and motivation. Peer and self assessments are used to enhance learning by increasing learner involvement in the learning process, increasing social interactions and trust in others, facilitation of individual feedback and to help focus learners on the process rather than the product. For both peer and self assessment to be successful Black states that ‘criteria must be understood by students.... students must be taught to collaborate in peer assessment for this helps develop objectivity for self-assessment..... students should be taught to assess their progress as they proceed keeping the aims and criteria in mind.... This means that tutors should plan lessons that will teach learners to collaboration skills and make it visible as a part of the classroom, criteria could be provided by the tutor or devised by the learners and could also include a mark scheme, making these judgements about another person’s work can clarify a learners own understanding of the subject. During teaching at the YMCA I used self and peer assessments in group projects. I gave the project a final mark but used these assessment methods to give individuals within the group marks. To do this I got the learners to peer assess each other and based my individual marks upon these peer assessments. However, I was aware that there could be problems with this method such as some learners being too generous with marks or too low with marks. To overcome these problems I checked the marking to ensure consistency throughout the group and set out clear mark schemes. Another method of self assessment I use is ‘learning loops’ Petty (2009).
This is where at the beginning of the next piece of work the learner will write a target from the last piece of work and then work towards that target, then I will mark this work with that target in mind and comment as to whether the target was met or if any improvement was shown. This method was useful with my learners in getting them to reflect upon their own work and take responsibility for their own learning as well as helping with their motivation. I have also used an adaptation of the feedback sandwich, called the Peer assessment Hamburger (included in my portfolio). This assessment activity was given to the learners to assess each other’s work; they first had to write about something positive about the piece of work then something to work on and how to work on it, then something positive again.
This method was successful in my group of learners as getting them to receive any form of constructive feedback or advice is difficult, so by praising first they were more willing to listen and act upon the points for improvement. This method also helped the learners to gain skills in judging and evaluating work which in turn helped with self assessment/evaluation techniques. It is important to follow up on the improvement points at a later stage to ensure that an improvement has been made or to offer further assistance or teaching in that area if necessary. These areas for improvement were also noted in ILP’s during tutorial sessions as ‘Medals and Missions’, medals are what has been done well this may be the work itself (product) or may be the effort and planning (process).
Missions are information about what needs improving along with how to do this, they are not criticism but advice and help to close the gap between where learners are and their goals. I believe that peer and self assessment are two very important and useful methods of assessment as ‘whatever a person discovers himself is what they really know. ’ Shapiro (2003). A learner needs to know where they are in their learning, where they are going and how to get there, these two methods help learners to understand this and achieve much more. Feedback simply put is ‘the passing of information to the student of their ability to perform a task’ Reece & Walker (2009).
Although feedback is about giving the learner information on how they have performed it is much more than this, it is about progression, motivation, encouragement, self-esteem and confidence, promoting communication, improving standards etc and is a two way process. During all the research I undertook for this part of my paper I found one thing in common throughout, that feedback is a very important and powerful tool in relation to achievement when done constructively and properly. ‘The most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement is feedback’ Hattie (1999). Feedback can be formal or informal, it can be written, verbal or online, and it can be given after an assessment or during a lesson or tutorial. Whichever form feedback takes it should be constructive, descriptive not judgemental, specific, fully understood and timely.
Feedback is used often during formative assessment and Sadler (1989) suggests ‘three elements of enhanced feedback are; recognition of the desired goal, evidence about present position and some understanding of a way to close the gap between the two. ’ This means the learner needs to have some understanding or concept of the goal being aimed for, learners need to be shown the comparison with current level of performance with that of the goal and learners should be shown ways in which the gap between the goal and current level can be closed. It is important to prepare learners for feedback to help them gauge how well they are doing, to actively involve them in the assessment process and to help them to understand the feedback. To do this you should agree the purpose of the feedback prior to the assessment, state the type of feedback to be used, show learners how their work.
Written feedback is important for giving positive encouragement and correcting errors but is more effective if this feedback is accompanied with dialogue where possible. This dialogue or discussion can improve learner involvement and ownership of the feedback and create a deeper understanding of what was done well and what can be done to close any gaps. Also Gravells (2009) states that ‘you need to appreciate that how you write it may not be how they read it. It is easy to interpret words or phrases differently to what is intended. ’ Therefore when using written feedback you need to use a level of language suitable for your learners, make it clear how the required outcomes were met and what to do next.
Using some form of feedback sandwich or hamburger is a good form for written feedback as this nestles the negative between two positives. This makes it more likely to be listened to and acted upon, whereas starting with a negative can stop the learner from listening/reading anything further. Another form of written feedback is comment only marking, this provides learners with a focus for progression instead of a reward or punishment for their ego as marks can. Comments can be made in books, in a learning diary or journal for example. Learning journals are useful for tutors and learners to track the progression of these comments and see improvements.
During feedback sessions there should be time for questions as these will help to open up the assessment process and eliminate ambiguity. Using questions to ask learners how they feel they have done prior to giving them your feedback allows them to consider their own achievements, ‘gives them the opportunity to realise their own mistakes, or reflect on what they could do differently. ’ Gravells (2009). Also learners may need time to reflect upon the feedback they have been given and then have questions to it later, time to discuss these questions at the earliest opportunity should be made. Another important point in the feedback process is timing.
Feedback should be given as soon as possible whilst the task and goal are still fresh in both the tutor and learners minds. Peer feedback is another useful form of feedback. This enhances learners active engagement in learning, can increase the amount of feedback they receive and they can receive it quicker than a tutor can give sometimes, it uses higher level thinking skills as it requires explanation and justification. The process of reviewing someone else’s work can help learners understand what is considered good work and increase their ability to achieve. Peer feedback should be monitored carefully as not all learners will be accustom to this and there may be some friction amongst your learners.
To help overcome this allow practice sessions on peer assessment and feedback, set clear assessment criteria, stress that all will gain as much from reviewing the work of their peers as from any feedback they receive, use tutor-selected groups to peer assess and feedback work, have multiple peers review work, reviewers should feedback immediately, orally preferably, and tutors should explain clearly the best feedback method of Medal and Mission as suggested by Black & Wiliam. As well as giving feedback on assessments you should review learner’s progress at regular intervals on a one-to-one basis. This will allow you to motivate learners, plan for future learning and assessments, discuss any concerns, learners can ask questions, enhance learner involvement, update ILP, review your lessons and ‘differentiate effectively, ensuring that the needs of your learners are met, and that they are being challenged to develop to their full potential. ’ Gravells (2009).
The review should be arranged at a suitable time for both the learner and tutor, be used to plan future assessments and targets with SMART objectives and you should ensure that all relevant records are available, etc. When doing any type of assessment, review or feedback there are records that need to be kept, this is important ‘otherwise how would you know what your learners have achieved? ’ Gravells (2009). Assessment records are used by tutors, your organisation, awarding body, regulatory authority, stakeholders and learners. Records can be electronic, paper or a mixture of both. The types of records I keep at the YMCA are; ILP’s, feedback sheets, tracking sheets, assessment forms, lesson plans, schemes of work, evaluations and review sheets.
These records are kept in their original forms and used to help me plan future lessons and make any adaptations to existing courses if necessary, keep track of learners marks to be able to see any progression and if a learner loses work I have a record of when it was handed in, marked and what mark it got, what feedback they received to help learners know what they did well and what needs further improvement and how to do this improvement also feedback sheets can be used by an IV or EV to check your judgements and assessments are fair, and to keep a record of learners progress, areas that need attention, learning difficulties etc if any, agreed goals and targets. Whatever method or type of record is used there is legislation that must be adhered to with regards to these records and the information held within them. These legislations are; Data protection Act (1998) and Freedom of information act (2000). These acts cover how the information about living eople is used and stored, and give learners the right to see any information held about them, so tutors need to be aware that anything they write about a learner they can see at any time. Records should be kept organised, up to date, confidential, legible, accurate, secure and only kept for as long as necessary. Once these records are no longer needed they should be destroyed in a secure manner such as double shredding and bagging for paper based records, and hard drive cleaners to ensure computer based records are completely deleted. Assessment is a large part of the work teachers, tutors and trainers; it is an ongoing process throughout a learners educational journey and can be the most difficult part of the teaching process. There is recognition here that assessment is more than an isolated judgement of a specific performance; that is should be integrated into a system of reviewing, recording and reporting achievement which teacher and student are at the centre of. ’ Armitage et al (2007). Bibliography Books: Armitage et al (2007), Teaching and training in post-compulsory education, 3rd Ed, Berkshire, Open University Press Gravells. A. (2009), Principles and practice of assessment in the lifelong learning sector, Exeter, Learning matters Ltd Hattie, J. (1999), Influences on student learning, University of Auckland, New Zealand: Inaugural professional lecture paper Petty G (2009), Teaching today, 4th Ed, Cheltenham, Nelson Thornes Ltd Ramsden.
P, (2003), Learning to teach in higher education, 2nd Ed, Routledge. Reece, I. & Walker, S. (2007), Teaching, training and learning a practical guide, 6th Ed revised, Tyne and Wear, Business Education Publishers ltd Shapiro, (2003), Case studies in constructivist classrooms and teaching, Lanham MD, Scarecrow press. Websites: Assessment reform group (1999), available from http://nationalstrategies. standards. dcsf. gov. uk/secondary/assessment/assessmentforlearningafl [accessed 06 July 2010] Brown, Rust & Gibbs, (1994), available from www. lgu. ac. uk/deliberations/ocsd-pubs/div-ass5. html [accessed 04 July 2010] Department for education and skills, available from www. dfes. ov. uk [accessed 04 July 2010] Excellence gateway, available from www. excellencegateway. org. uk [accessed 04 July 2010] Petty. G, Feedback: Medal and missions [online] Available from www. geoffpetty. com/feedback. html [accessed 05 July 2010] Queens University Belfast, available from www. qub. ac. uk/directorates/AcademicStudentAffairs/CentreforEducationalDevelopment/Resources/Assessment [accessed 06 July 2010] Sadler, (1989), available from www. leeds. ac. uk/educol/documents/00001862. htm [accessed 03 July 2010] The Higher Education Academy, available from www. heacademy. ac. uk/ourwork/teachingandlearning/assessment [accessed 06 July 2010]
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