Formal assessment has been described by Austin (1991) as a process of “gathering information and utilization of that that information for individual and institutional improvement (p. 2). The information gathered may include the students’ weakness and strengths in certain subjects’ areas. Emphasis in formal assessments is focused on the results of a standardized evaluation tests that are administered under strict and regulated environments. However, that information is very important for student since they are able to know how well they are progressing and measures to undertake to deal with their weaknesses.
Assessment forms an important component of teaching and leaning that has a greater impact on student learning (Saliu 271). Saliu goes on to demonstrate that assessment should be able to measure the criterion for which it was intended while maintaining consistence at the same time (271). This paper will discuss major components of formal learning which include reasons for assessing and administering tests to students, relevant formal assessments that may be administered, advantages and disadvantages of each particular assessment.
I will however, put forward some recommendations on what the teacher and institution needs to pay attention to in order to achieve the objectives of formal assessment. Reasons for assessing and administering testing to students The main reason for administering assessment is to monitor the student’s progress in learning as compared to other students of the same age or level (Wilson and Scalise 11). Assessments results are useful in screening and making decision on the level of qualifications to base career growth activities.
The results are very useful to the curriculum developers and syllabus preparation by both governments and institutions (Council of Europe 6). Results provide a good guide for program or course evaluation since it presents the information in form of scores. The results obtained are used by local and federal departments’ in policy formulation and implementation. Formal assessment should be viewed as a tool that can be used to measure the level at which students receives information from the teacher rather than just giving of grades 1 to 5 (Saliu 272).
Moreover, formal test can give valuable information regarding a student progress in mastering the subject content of a particular course at certain levels of study. The results offers a good insight to the teacher when organizing the materials and content for students to lean at comfortable pace yet achieving at their best level possible (Saliu 272). Clearly delimited results are very useful in facilitating students to focus their time and energy towards self improvement . The information obtained from standard test is very useful in deciding a student’s career interests and future goals.
The assessment report should be able to reflect a student’s goals and give a clear indication on which areas need help. Motivation is an affective factor in formal assessment which propels the teacher to be devoted towards helping students to learn (Wiggins 38). The teacher gets encouraged after seen students pass well in the subject or course given to students by that teacher (Fitzpatrick and Michael 101). Students get to care about their learning and seek to improve on their weaker areas after the results are released.
When a teacher is encouraging and appears to be responsive to students’ feeling, students respond by becoming very constructive and enthusiastic towards achieving higher scores (Weeden, Winter and Broadfoot 4). The information obtained from formal assessments may guide the teacher to group the students in a way that they can help each other hence creating a class relationship that supports learning process. There is a sense of self acceptance created by students admitting difficulties.
This forms a healthy atmosphere for learning from peers (Saliu 273). Grading in formal assessments provide documented information of what a particular student learnt which is useful in job application and academic advancement admissions (Saliu 273). Despite being crucial widely applied by all leaning institutions, grading has several shortcomings which have been put forward by critics. An example of critics includes Wilson and Scalise (2006) held a view that grading does not have a match with the effort students put in answering examination questions.
The ultimate grading does not allow the feedback by the students since it denies them the opportunity to review their work after a formal examination. Moreover, students do not get useful comments upon which they can build future progress on their work- those comments are destroyed with their poor grades (Weeden, Winter and Broadfoot 6). When feedbacks finally are given by the examiners it is either very shallow for instant a single line comment or so late since students may have moved to another grade.
Evaluation of the learner’s performance has been difficult for instance marking open-ended questions in standard exam papers (Wilson and Scalise 11). Since individual needs of students cannot be met fully by teachers, limited opportunities for the learner’s growth to realize quality results dominate. To make it worse, inability of all pupils to produce good hand written work hence true reflection in scores limit the learners capacity to acquire more knowledge and to develop deeper understanding of the subject involved.
These make it difficult for the pupils to be plausibly and effectively answer or tackle examination questions (Weeden, Winter and Broadfoot 8). No effective follow-up can be done by students who might be interested in enhancing their academic performance (Wilson and Scalise 11). Grading in formal assessment has failed to accurately give students’ strength and weakness to the teacher since it does not give adequate time. Nevertheless, it is not flexible both in terms of content to be tested and level of ability of each student (Weeden, Winter and Broadfoot 12).
If we consider a grade of “2” in philosophy of education course awarded, it will only say that a student learned a great deal of the information but it will no show what content was or was not mastered (Wilson and Scalise 12) Teachers form the majority of assessors of students’ learning for formal assessments. Students can also test their work and test that of their peers and provide an immediate feedback for improvement. The test can be administered by other external examiners such as Standard Aptitude Tests (SAT) (Council of Europe 8).
Assessment may be administered at any time of student leaning but it has to be regulated if its purpose is to achieve a defined set standard. The nature of an assessment is determined by the type of cohort of students and upon the need for assessing. The content of what to asses should entirely be guided by the desired end results and the application of those results (Weeden, Winter and Broadfoot 5). Pros and cons of deferent forms formal assessment Formal assessment may take different dimensions according to where it is administered and the target group.
Tests may be in form of standard set examinations which are mainly norm-referenced. Formal assessment may also include examinations designed locally by a faculty to offer an objective or subjective assessment (Council of Europe 9). Standardized exams are administered to a specific group which is entirely structured in a multiple-choice question (objective) or descriptive questions (subjective) in one subject area. The results are compared with a set standard (reference). It is applied to students in a given program, course or a level.
The main advantage of standard set examination is that it can be adopted view quickly and its implementation is quite easy. It reduces the faculty time requirements in tools design, development and grading (Council of Europe 9). Norm-referenced assessment gives objective scores which provides for generalizations of the results with other student in other places or times. It provides a reference group that is required by the faculty or the testing body. Another benefit of standard test is its application by state or national standards exist for a given discipline or profession such as accountancy, medicine among others (Saliu 273).
May be beneficial or required in instances where state or national standards exist for the discipline or profession. It can be applied in comparing the levels of knowledge across several institutions (Astin 3). There are several shortcomings that are associated with this form of assessment. One of the major disadvantages of standard tests according to Wilson and Scalise is that, it has a limit of what it can measure in during testing time (636). It is a culprit of the elimination of the proper process of learning by not reflecting what a student has actually learnt in a given program or course.
It may not be able to completely evaluate a particular objective of an entire course (Council of Europe 9). Since most standardized tests are done at the end of a course or program, they fail to provide relevant feedback to both the teacher and the student which would otherwise be used to motivate the student learning. The tests can neither determine a student’s progress on a daily basis nor the achievements in varying periods (Hart 17). They cannot also effectively evaluate the knowledge of a specific course content area which keeps on changing such as social sciences.
Another demerit of standardized achievement tests arises due to the administration of multiple-choice tests which pose a grater potential error of guessing the correct answer. (Saliu 243). It only provides a summary evaluation of few parts of whole course. The outcomes may not have direct deductions for course improvement or that of an individual student’s advancement. The results are highly liable to misinterpretation by the teacher or other interested parties such as admitting institutions and employers. Since majority of these tests are commercialized someone (student or program) have to pay to obtain them.
When pressure is so much pressed on the passing the tests, the teacher may be forced to teach to the test and not the development of the student skills (Council of Europe 9). A single test is not perfect in providing enough information that ensures a complete assessment. Different tests on a particular subject at deferent times provide almost different information on a student. Locally developed exams can be beneficial since its content and mode is inclined to specific objectives and students’ features of the course or program (Wiggins 37). It can establish specified criteria for measuring performance associated with to curriculum.
It can be useful in the development of relevant process of learning of particular group of students. A more localized grading system by faculty can provided a speedy feedback mechanism for teaching betterment. The teacher will have a greater control over the analysis and use of the results in improving students leaning processes and course materials (Wiggins 38). However, locally developed tests require a substantial coordination more so throughout the phases of design and development (Fitzpatrick and Michael 101). It may not provide a basis for cross-institutional comparisons for students in same level of study.
These particular tests are time consuming on side of the teacher since they require a lot of attention and effort in designing and administering. In order to provide validity and reliability in these tests an expert may be required expertise in accurate measurement (Council of Europe 11). It may not provide the element associated with the external comparison in relation to other institutions offering similar course or program. Performance appraisals are another form of formal assessments that can be administered to measure competency of acquired skills in a real world situation (Burke 29).
They are set standards that seek to evaluate students in a specific class or level (Hart 74). They are credited to providing a relatively direct measure of what has been learned rather than taught in a program or course (Ryan 290). They are mostly preferred to other methods of measuring since they are able to evaluate the application skills learnt in specific settings. They are in tandem with aims of professional training programs and fields which have well specified skill development programs (Ryan 290).
Nevertheless, performance appraisals have their share of limitations which include high costs associated with effort and time consumption. Their grading are mostly more subjective than other formal assessments (Fitzpatrick and Michael 118). The sample of performance appraised might not as well be the typical of the student since it might have been triggered by the presence of appraiser. An aptitude test forms yet another important form of formal assessment. An aptitude test has the advantage of measuring the level of knowledge that a student already possess before entering a grade level or a program (Fitzpatrick and Michael 118).
This provides the teacher with prior information on the likelihood of a student’s degree of performance and success in the class. It will determine the information which a student already has compared to set norms. This will further illustrate the level of learning for a particular student which comes in handy when designing individualized instructions (Fitzpatrick and Michael 118). The teacher will have no difficulties in giving advanced instruction for those students that are gifted while at the same time giving a remedial assistance to those who need help.
Since modern education is taking learner-centered approach, results of aptitude test provide relevant information that can teachers use to group students for effective cognitive learning. The results are applied in determining when a student develops a learning disability (Council of Europe 12). Aptitude tests face some challenges and limitations that are usual to test. They are limited to measuring students’ capacity to learn new projects and accomplishments. The results do not reflect on the skills or knowledge that students have had no previous training (Fitzpatrick and Michael 118).
Since information obtained from an aptitude test gives skills and knowledge students had already acquired in past, it fails to guide the teacher on the application of future instruction. Teacher involvement in formal assessment Recommendations for reducing the shortcoming of formal assessments lie heavily on the teacher and the entire institution involvement in setting exam questions and administration of the examinations. The teacher should choose a test very carefully that will match with the requirements of a course or a program (Council of Europe 28).
The teacher should review information on previous sample of performances to ensure the test’s reliability and validity from test publishers. The faculty should engage experts to review the previous summary reports of similar exam results in creating a more updated report for the faculty (Fitzpatrick and Michael 118). The teacher is not supposed to teach to exam otherwise the results would be compromised. The instructor or teacher should be involved in grading systems that focus more emphasis on the feed forward.
The institutions should make sure that standardized tests are marked and the papers that can be returned are done in time increase the feedback flow. The grading system should be focused on the offering a true picture of what has been mastered and what has not fully mastered. There should be model answers drawn from others student solutions to provide those who have failed with a way of what was expected of them (Saliu 274). A syndicate with other institutions which have similar objectives in testing can be formed to reduce the costs of developing instruments and to provide an element of externality.
The exams department should incorporate outside experts to provide relevant input for development and grading system (Fitzpatrick and Michael 118). In order to reduce the shortcomings associated with performance appraisals training for appraisers should be provided so that they are able to stick to specified criteria (Wiggins 38). It is imperative to alter criteria till acceptable consistency of measurement is reached for testing in multiple situations. Since the result of performance appraisal cannot be used alone to grade a student, Ryan (1994) suggested that results should be cross-validated with other measures of performance (290).
Formal assessment includes undertaking fixed, regulated and standardized tests. Grading forms a major part of measurement for mastery of content. Although grading in standard tests is a norm accepted everywhere, it its shortcomings. There are several reasons for formal assessment and standard testing which include monitoring students’ progress, comparing the results with peer; it also provides a measure of level of student knowledge. When the assessment is done appropriately, it can be a source of both the student and teacher motivation. It can create trust among the students and teacher.
The component of grading has been an issue of hated debate due to its inadequacy to address all areas of students’ learning. Grades are issued but they cannot be rectified since the doors are closed immediately after results are released. Standard tests, locally developed tests, aptitude tests and performance appraisal are major shapes taken by formal assessment. Although formal assessment provides a standard measure for evaluation of learning among students of a particular cohort or group, it fails to give comprehensive ability of a student. Works Cited Astin, Alexander W.
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