Assessment is an important part of the learning process and is not only a measure of the learner’s progress but is used as an assessment of the success of the policy makers in the Government department , the teachers and other education providers. Fawbert (2003) defines the educational meaning of the word assessment is ’to judge the learners performance against identified criteria’.
Correct and reliable assessment of learners allow the education organization to identify strengths and weaknesses in the current programmes , this then should give the policymakers to monitor standards and formulate changes in policies. I enable teachers to monitor and measure progress not only in the learner but also in the teaching. For the learner it enables the identification of strengths and weaknesses but also can give motivation and help to make improved decisions about further education or career.
Assessment has an important role in education as it determines most of the work undertaken , affects the learner’s approach to learning and does give an indication of which parts of the course is most highly valued. In my education, in the early 1970’s assessment was concentrated on end of year examinations with the occasional classroom tests during the term. At University the final examinations were the only assessment in the final 2 years and very little was done in the interim period.
This showed virtual complete reliance on summative assessment, which has now been deemed as old, fashioned and flawed. This was superseded by Lawrence Stenhouse’s (1975) ‘process curriculum model’ where the teacher started to integrate formative assessment into the learning experience. In the last 10 years OFSTED have regularly inspected Further Educational Colleges which as noted and emphasized by Fawbert (2003) made one of the key questions in the Common Inspection Framework is ‘How effective are the assessment and monitoring of learning’.
Further research and review of classroom based assessment was carried by Black and William (1998) and they use the general term assessment ‘to refer to all those activities undertaken by teachers and by their students in assessing themselves, that provide information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning activities. Such assessment becomes formative assessment when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet the students’ needs’.
There are several types of assessment which all have relevance bur differ in importance during the learning process. At the earliest stage, but unfortunately not exercised in every case, it is advisable to screen the candidate to identify the possible needs and weaknesses of the learner. This can be delivered by a non-expert but should be critically judged by a professional. The next stage of assessment and should never be omitted and delivered prior to the learner joining the course is described as the ‘initial assessment’ or traditionally called ‘the interview’.
This should be delivered by a tutor who would be involved in the delivery of the course. This assessment is done by questioning the candidate about their application and collecting information. It should identify the learner’s needs, aptitudes, and aspirations and reveal their range of ability against a set of national criteria. Although often underestimated initial assessment is vital to both tutor and candidate to identify the suitability of the course and the expectations and objectives of all involved.
The information gathered during this assessment is likened to enable the assessor to form a ‘jigsaw’ of inter-locking pieces giving a more complete and reliable appraisal of the candidates suitability. Initial assessment is the foundation of the learning process and should be valid, reliable and effective which will impact on the retention and subsequent success of the learner. As student retention gains in importance in the judgment of the success and quality of the college and the individual course management then this form assessment also gains in importance.
Initial assessment is four times more likely to be found a weakness rather than a strength ( Ali 2003) showing that the providers are not adequately trained in it’s provision and he also states ‘Vocational teachers make little use of the results of initial assessments when planning their lessons’ In conclusion initial assessment is of paramount importance at the start of the learning process, which when done effectively can identify the suitability of the learner and the course which will positively impact on the student retention and the learning success in the course.
The next stage of assessment that should be considered is described as Diagnostic Assessment in which a trained assessor administers tests to provide specific information and knowledge about the learner’s strengths and weaknesses in the learner. It gives an indication of the areas where the learner needs development in different skill areas e. g. numeracy, this leads to the formation of the Individual Learning Plan of the specific learner which is discussed and agreed by both the teacher and learner early in the course and from which review of progress is assessed.
All of these early assessments are brought together to produce a ‘Pen Portrait’ of the individual learner, this is then distributed to all the tutors involved in the course to assist in the appropriate teaching styles and support for the individual learner. During the course the progress of the learner with respect to the Individual Learning Plan and its goals is assessed by a continuous ongoing type called Formative Assessment.
This type is used to check the success of learning during the course and is often referred to as ‘assessment for learning’ as it assists not only the learner but also the tutor in informing that an appropriate style of teaching is being used its success and if necessary changes need to be implemented during the course. Formative assessment to be effective it is important that the learning objectives and targets are shared and understood with the learner, he or her has an active involvement and effective feedback is provided. If required adjustment in teaching.