Assessments are either Initial/ diagnostic – Occurs before teaching begins to identify learner’s current knowledge, skill sets and capabilities. Knowing learners’ strengths and weaknesses assists with effective lesson planning and how to teach it. Types of Assessments include
- Pre-tests i.e. current abilities
The advantages are that it enables the tutor to determine the level the learner is at and any specific requirements. This means the lessons can be adapted to specific learner need. The disadvantage is by doing this the tutor may have developed pre conceived ideas which may inhibit learners progress
Formative – Formative assessments are a two-way process. Provides ongoing feedback to ensure learners are on track. Focus is on areas of improvement and not usually graded. They are used to determine learning progress and teaching effectiveness. It helps students identify strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement and address problems immediately. Examples of formative assessments include:
- concept map to represent their understanding
- provide a summary of the main points of the lesson
- Role play
- class discussions
- Reflections journals
- Question and answer sessions
- In-class activities
- Student feedback with questions about delivery and self-evaluation
The advantages are that they are not graded removing anxiety for learners. Instead, they enable learners to get assistance in areas they are struggling in. This enables early intervention into issues, to enhance learning and ability. As it is ongoing this is a continuous process so ensures effective intervention.
Effective large scale assessment is difficult to achieve, and potentially logistically impossible. It is a very time consuming process and requires significant, ongoing commitment. Formative assessment doesn’t provide objective and comparable measures required for accountability. Tutors may also lack training on how to use formative assessments successfully.
Summative – An end of course evaluative process assessing levels of achievement and effectiveness of course delivery. High-stakes summative assessments i.e. accredited exams are given at the end of a set point and take a standardized format. Then levels of understanding can be assessed against a universal benchmark, in an unbiased way. Types of Summative Assessment include
- Accredited Examinations
- Final examination
- Student evaluation
- Instructor self-evaluation
The advantages are it can show how much a learner has learnt and determine progress and achievement, is usually graded against a standard so is universal, and can measure improvements. However, they cannot intervene before issues become critical as they only occur at the end of the course. Tests such as these put pressure on learners who become anxious which could then in turn affect performance in the tests.
There are many forms of assessment which can be formal or informal. The method of assessment selected will be dependent on various factors
- Validity and reliability – if the course is accredited than assessments need to be more valid and reliable so assessment need to be graded against a universal benchmark, such as marking criteria (which also enables complete fairness and an objective set of criteria in which to grade learners). This then ensures that people who have achieved this accreditation have actually achieved a specific standard. So if this is the required goal of learning then more formal methods of assessment are required.
- the needs of individual learners – assessments will be dependent on the individual learners, and adaptations need to be made to incorporate this even in more formal forms of assessment ie adaptations need to be made for those with dyslexia including additional time to complete exams. For more informal assessments assessment selection will be dependent on factors on individual learning styles
- current predominant theories of teaching and education. Methods of assessment have expanded over time and, prevailing theories will impact on the likely selection of assessment methods used
- the prevailing methodologies of the organisation – if the organisation is more top down or delivering more academic courses it is more likely that more formal types of assessments are used
- accreditors requirements – accreditors will set the methods of assessment of their courses, and will also be influenced on course content
Below is a discussion of various forms of assessment
- Written questions -An evaluation of knowledge acquisition e.g. multiple-choice, true and false, fill-in-the-blank questions. This can also be used for formal assessment. This type of assessment assesses both the learner and the subject matter. In relation to the learner it assesses whether they have absorbed information throughout the lesson. In relation to the course content it shows tutors whether the level of the course is correct or needs to be adapted accordingly. If learners do not perform in end of lesson quizzes this shows that the level needs to be adapted. They can also be used to assess prior knowledge and assess what level the course needs to be taught at. For a comparison questions could be taken at the beginning and the end of the lesson to compare how knowledge has improved.
- Observation – Performance of a task, witnessed directly to evaluate understanding. This can be used to identify learning needs and what needs further clarification. It also provides another way of learners to understand the learning material. A practical example of this would be through the use of role-play in a simulated real life situation where skills can be practiced in a safe environment before testing them out in the real world. Or create a problem and get the group to find a solution based on their own experiences
- Oral questioning – Learners can ask about specific points they are unsure of. Tutors can question to determine how well the learners have understood the lesson.
- Practical exercises – Putting new knowledge and skills into practice can be one of the best ways to improve learning. And for some this will be more effective than written work or just telling the learner
- Role play – a simulated real life situation where skills can be practiced in a safe environment before testing them out in the real world
- Self – assessment of the learners own achievements and areas for improvement this process involves learners taking greater responsibility for their own learning
- Peer – this is where peers e.g. by learners on the same course. This also benefits the person providing the feedback as it requires them to analyse the work of the other learner.
- Ipsative – comparison of learner’s test results at differing times, used for formative assessments (Kleeman 2012) i.e. comparing tests of knowledge prior to the start of the course and then at the end of the course
- Criterion referenced – learners are compared against external benchmarks (Kleeman 2012) i.e. GSCE exams
- Normative referenced –learner’s performance is compared to their peers doing the same subject (Kleeman 2012) i.e. results are compared with those in the class
- Computerized – these assessments are test that are conducted on a computer. They usually take the form of multiple choice. Results can be instantaneous.
- group work – this enables time to be saved as many learners can be assessed at the same time. It also enables assessment of transferable skills such as collaboration and team work, it also enables learners to perform roles in the assessment that they have strengths in so thus showing them at their best for the assessment. Marking as a group work also more closely mirrors the work environment (Primer 2010)
- test – can be formal (e.g. exam) or informal (e.g. quiz), they are usually written, and can be paper based or computerized