Assessment as a Process of Making Judgements of Learners Knowledge
What is an assessment? Alan Rogers (1994, p172) defines assessment as collection of data on which we base our evaluation. According to Reece and Walker (2008, p5) assessment consists of tests and observations that we, as tutor, use to determine how well the students has achieved the objectives. Geoff Petty (2004, p449) writes that “Assessment measures the breadth and depth of learning”. Assessments are used in all areas and domain of everyday life, whether formal or informal, ranging from taking a written or practical driving test to claims for income support or acquiring life insurance on-line.
Assessment is used to make a specific educational decision and is the process of evaluating the extent to which participants in education have developed their knowledge, understanding and skills. Assessment, both formative and summative, plays a significant part in the learning experience as it determines progression and enables learners to demonstrate that they have achieved their desired learning outcomes. There are generally two ways of assessment, formative and summative.
According to Ashcroft and Forman-Peck (1994, p54) “Assessment is generally taken to mean a judgement about the progress (formative assessment) or achievement (summative assessment) of a particular student’s learning”. Reece and Walker’s (2008, p323) distinction between formative and summative is one to satisfy the needs of the society (‘summative’ assessment) and the other type of assessment is to help in both teaching and learning (‘formative’ assessment).
Formative assessment is the assessment that takes place throughout the course or programme of study and is usually carried out by the assessor during mentoring and training. It provides feedback to both the learner and the assessor on how things are going and how learning can be improved. In contrast summative assessment is assessment of learning and is often used to determine what has been learnt or achieved in terms of acquired skills, knowledge and understanding at or towards the end of a course or programme of study.
Further functions of assessment in learning and development are the measurement and recording of achievement, the identification of individual learners’ needs, that the assessment reflects the required standards and performance/assessment criteria and are fit for the purpose intended and that they contribute to quality assurance and the development of best practice. There are many reasons why we assess learners. Assessments enable tutors to measure learner’s progress towards their goal. And feedback can be given to help them such as outlining their strengths and weaknesses.
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Feedback is used to help learners learn and improve, and is the most important aspect of formative assessment. This can be given in various ways such as written, oral, in the form of graded/marked assignment etc. When giving feedback it is good practice to bear in mind the following points. It is important to give immediate feedback if possible; turn negative comment into constructive comments such as what to improve on before the next assessment; make assessment criteria clear, accurate and available; feedback to be clear, accurate and recorded; praise learner on achievement; encourage positive attitudes and make further suggestions.
Learners can be encouraged through communication of how well they are doing and what skills and knowledge they are developing. I assess my students at regular intervals. Every time I ask a question to an individual or to a class I am assessing their knowledge and understanding. When I walk round the class watching students doing their tasks, checking their printouts, I am observing and noting against a checklist of expectations in my mind.
When I receive or look at a printout from a mock exam I am comparing their performance with that which I would hope for from such a group or individual at such a stage in such a course at such a level. When giving verbal feedback to my learners, I use the following words of encouragement: very good, well done, brilliant, excellent, spot on. Throughout the delivery of a course I give my students formative, diagnostic and summative assessments and feedbacks.