Understand theories, principles and applications of formal and informal assessment

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2 March 2016

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In this assignment I will briefly discuss the various types of assessment available to myself as a teacher in the lifelong learning sector, highlighting some methods of assessment and their qualities and the involvement of IT as an assessment resource and learners in the assessment process.

There are primarily four different types of assessment used whilst teaching in the lifelong learning sector, all as crucial and relevant as each other; they are Initial assessment, Diagnostic assessment, Formative assessment and Summative assessment. Each ultimately may be conducted using any method of assessment loosely categorised into four different groups: Iinitial, diagnostic formative and summative as stated, objective and subjective, referencing (criterion-referenced, norm-referenced, and Ipsative) and finally informal and formal.

Indicative by title, the initial assessment is a gauge of the students’ ability to complete the required work and learning necessary to complete any particular course. It should take place before commencement of study and there are many ways in which this assessment can be carried out, for example via audition for students wishing to study music or other practical skill based discipline, or through tests, examination or even a simple interview where the proposed student can be asked about relevant experience learning and skills. Initial assessments are vital to help ensure that students are able to manage any learning challenges that may present themselves upon commencement of studying. They also help the teacher ascertain any ability differentiation between the students so that applicable grouping or referral strategies may be utilised.

In IT, which is currently my area of focus, an accurate initial assessment is crucial in determining a candidates suitability for the prescribed course, without it, the challenges I will face within my classroom are difficult, tedious and often frustrating for all involved, Teacher, student and other learners in attendance.

To explore a student’s support needs and tutelage direction we use Diagnostic assessment, this is an investigatory assessment that takes place at the start of the course and can conducted in many forms such as an interview, questionnaire, learning style assessment or written work. Diagnostic

assessment will help a teacher grasp a better understanding of the student’s needs and abilities. According to Marton & Booth (1997 p179), effective learning depends on ‘meetings of awareness’ between the teacher and the class, the teacher divulges the knowledge in ways designed to ensure that all the students to understand it. “That ability depends on an empathetic awareness of what students already know and how they learn.” Entwistle (2000 p8).

Formative assessment is a continual form of assessment that should be paramount whilst teaching, it enables the teacher to understand and ensure the students digestion of any given knowledge throughout the length of the course. Common ways to asses could be found using quizzes, tasks and of course discussion. As a guitar teacher, I make formative assessments continuously as mistakes like incorrect technique once learnt can be difficult to eradicate at a later date.

Finally, Summative assessments take place at the end of the course and ensure that any course objectives are achieved. They commonly take place in the form of an exam, practical test or by verification of any on-going portfolio or final product and an award; grade or certificate is often awarded for successful candidates. Summative feedback is important for my learners, I offer it at the end of every days work as I feel it helps to improve a students poor output as they realise that someone actually reads what they’ve written. Equally it bolsters the confidence of the higher ability learners too.

Methods Of Assessment
There are many methods that are useful in assessing learning within the classroom. Initial observatory assessment is common, where the teacher can simply watch a student perform/conduct a task, and also by witnessing social interaction with other students within the context of the subject matter. Performances of understanding require students to show their knowledge in an observable way. They make students’ thinking visible. “It is not enough for student’ to reshape, expand, extrapolate from, and apply their knowledge in the privacy of their own thoughts… Such an understanding would be untried, possibly fragile, and virtually impossible to assess.” (Blythe et al., 1998, p.63). Question and answer sessions can be useful in the right environment, bearing in mind that group question and answer sessions can sometimes make the more unassertive students feel uncomfortable and may not gauge learning accurately. I would agree with this wholeheartedly from my experience using these sessions in my IT class. Similarly group discussions can have the

same pitfalls, however the use of more open and probing questioning often lends itself to a more involved debate during which vocabulary, understanding and the depth of knowledge can be assessed. Role play can also often favour the bold, though some teachers rely on it as a very useful method of assessment, in language education for example, where social interaction skills are necessary. In my class, many of the aforementioned methods of assessment are regularly and successfully utilised. Using IT as a key resource, offers a broad spectrum of learning challenges to suit most types of student, used in conjunction with proper teaching; IT as a resource can deepen learning exponentially. The ease of evidence gathering with a well-designed curriculum is a major asset to the subject matter as a topic of study and can ease assessment with instant leaner feedback, IT excels in these areas, however it simultaneously falls harshly at the feet of progression and new found knowledge can be difficult to retain if not used regularly and may quickly become redundant anyway.

I can involve learners in the assessment process by engaging the learners in assessment activities which may include reflective diaries, peer marking and self-assessment via marking against a given criteria. All of these methods help to gather, reflect and compile any attained knowledge gained by the student and also allows the teacher to assess where necessary. Peer assessment involves a student assessing another student’s progress. Self-assessment involves a student assessing their own progress ( Gravells, 2011, Kindle location 2077). Self/peer assessment can play an important role in a students’ life and in some instances due to time constraints can also ease the pressure on teachers. Self/peer assessment has many benefits such as allowing a learner to make decisions about their progress which in turn enables improved self-reflection.

An awareness of your individual learning strengths and weaknesses allows for a more concise, time efficient learning process. As an extra benefit it can also help develop social skills and self-confidence. Though useful, it should always be supported with other assessment methods to ensure that there is accuracy and consistency amongst the results. The teacher must analyse the findings of peer/self-assessment ultimately making sure that any learning objectives are met for instance. I use peer assessment in my class, though I feel it is more of a paperwork exercise than actual trustworthy assessment, it does however contribute when utilised by the noble and trustworthy amongst us.

“Today’s student is more and more learning as a member of a team, where students are partners in the education process. Many researchers have found that devolving some responsibility to students by involving them in self and peer assessment is an excellent way of enhancing the learning process.”(Falchikov 2002, p107)

The limitations and success of Self/Peer assessment can depend on factors such as class size, discipline and honesty amongst students, the ability to remain objective can be difficult for some students and administration difficulties. Many students would rather have their work marked by the appropriate authoritative person as it often lends confidence having appraisal from a professional. For teachers, peer/self-assessment can be beneficial as it may save time in some instances with regards to marking, though it can’t negate the need for proper assessment by a professional, it can help a teacher cut down on the small “chore-like” marking of informal tests, questionnaires or activities. There is a sharing of responsibility, the teacher delegates the responsibility of learning and awareness of
self-ability/standards to the students themselves.

Clearly, assessment is a vital part of progression and the methods to do such are numerous. This essay was a brief foray into an often sensitive area of teaching that has shown me how to use and combine a more motivational approach to assessment within my IT classroom environment. Bibliography

Marton, F. & Booth, S. (1997) Learning and Awareness. Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Promoting deep learning through teaching and assessment: conceptual frameworks and educational contexts. Noel Entwistle, University of Edinburgh. 2000.

Blythe, T. and associates (1998). The Teaching for Understanding Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gravells, A (2011)Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector: The New Award Fifth edition, (Lifelong Learning Sector Series) (Kindle Locations 2077, 2128). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Psychology Learning and Teaching, 3(2), 102-108, Involving students in assessment, Falchikov, N. 2002 http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/subjects/psychology/p20040519_falchikovpdf.pdf accessed on 10th February 2014

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