Introduction Assessment is the process of judging a learner’s skills and knowledge within the work place or training environment, set against the National Occupational Standards. (NOS) These standards reflect best practice in the particular industry. Learners will be assessed as either competent or not yet competent and their evidence will be judged as sufficient or insufficient for them to have reached these standards.
The assessor will work closely with the learner and work towards a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Note – NVQs in the UK are now progressively being replaced with the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) NVQ’s are typically arranged in levels which are structured into units – each unit carries a number of credits, they are competency based – i. e. they require the demonstration of abilities to perform a standard of job, both in skills and an understanding of what the learner does and why.
Learners can undertake an NVQ at any time, they will be required to attend an initial induction session within which the learner will choose units to work on. Each unit covers a general area of work and carries a certain number of credits and outcomes. Learners are required to complete a number of mandatory units and then optional units are chosen to achieve the required number of credits. Learners will have regular meetings in the workplace, with their assessor to discuss evidence criteria, progress and set targets.
The Assessment Process The assessment process can be broken down into the following sections :- 1 – Recruitment, induction & initial assessment Once the learner is recruited and inducted into the programme an Initial assessment is carried out. This involves the identification and collection of a wide range of information to enable the assessor to develop an effective, efficient, personalised and positive training programme for the learner.
The assessor’s role is to aid the learner to gain an overview of the qualifications he or she hopes to gain and to plan their route to achieving it – involving selecting the right units, in the right order and identifying any extra support they might need. Information collected during the initial assessment includes:- * Social/ethnic background. * Learning difficulties, disabilities and health or personal difficulties. * Previous abilities, experience, education, qualifications and achievements (RPL) * Learner strengths. * Areas for development – weaknesses.
* Current job role. * Learners short and long term ambitions, goals, needs and expectations. * Time resources. * Available facilities and support. It is the assessor’s responsibility to determine the learner’s attitude and commitment and to ensure that he/she is fully involved in the process. Failure to carry out a thorough initial assessment can result in guiding the learner to unsuitable options, the training taking too long and wasting time, effort and resources, leading to frustrated learners and resulting in a high rate of “drop outs”.
2 – Planning Before the assessment of a learner begins, it is important to make a plan of how the assessor will carry out the assessment. The overall aim is to plan for the types of evidence needed to inform the assessor’s decisions. A holistic approach is important here i. e. the assessment process needs to be planned around what the learner is doing, then linking these activities to the occupational standards, not the other way round – Important for learners in the working environment. Valuable steps for the assessor during planning are to :- 1.
Ensure an overview of all the relevant units within the learners chosen path, taking into account the results of the initial assessment. 2. Have all necessary documents concerning the learners existing achievements to hand 3. Gauge the level at which the learner is currently working. 4. List day to day activities, responsibilities and functions and link units to these key activities It is vital that the learner is involved at every step of the process, and crucial that all details are agreed by him/her especially the learning goals and time scales.
Assessment plans The results of the planning stage should be recorded by the assessor on a document called The Assessment Plan. Each assessment plan should record :- * Who is being assessed, where and when. * What activity is being assessed, and the units for which the evidence will be provided * What assessment methods will be used, how they will be recorded and where the evidence will be stored after the assessment. * When and how feedback will be given. * Who else needs to be informed of, or involved in the assessment.
* What the arrangements are for reviewing progress and updating arrangements for assessment. * Anything the learner needs to bring on the day of assessment. 3 – The fundamental responsibilities of the assessor Good assessment practice relies greatly on an honest and trustworthy relationship between the assessor and the learner, vital for successful and credible results. Credibility in assessment is guaranteed by ensuring that all assessment practices and procedures are governed by the following set of principles :- Fairness, transparency & objectivity.
The assessor must :- * Give the learner the best opportunity to demonstrate their learning and knowledge and the assessment process must not hinder or advantage the learner in any way. * Consider the needs and characteristics of the learner. * Provide transparency i. e. communicate clearly with the learner to ensure he/she is fully informed about, understands and is able to participate in the process. * Inform of appeal opportunities and procedures. * Not discriminate on sex, race or disability (the equality act 2010) Validity.
Validity is a measure of the accuracy of an assessment or is the assessment actually doing what it is supposed to be doing? Each assessment should be designed to allow learners to produce the evidence to show that they have the required knowledge, understanding and skills for the qualification they are aiming for. An assessment is valid when it :- * Is appropriate for the purpose, e. g. a practical assessment should be used to assess practical skills, a written assessment that asks learners to write about a skill rather than demonstrate it would have low validity.
* Allows learners to produce sufficient evidence of the knowledge, understanding and skills that are required to satisfy standards of the qualification. * Allows assessors to make reliable assessment decisions for all learners. Reliability Reliability is a measure of the degree of consistency with which a learners responses to an assessment are judged. To be reliable, assessment decisions on learners performance must be consistent across all assessors for all candidates undertaking the same assessment task. In any assessment system, procedures have to be put in place to ensure this.
Assessment decisions are reliable when :- * They are generated by valid assessments which are produced under conditions of assessment that are consistently applied. * They are consistent across the range of assessors applying the assessment in different situations, contexts and with different learners. * They are taken on the basis of clearly-defined standards of performance. * The authenticated work of the learner is being assessed. * They are consistent over time. The relationship between validity and reliability Validity and reliability are interdependent.
An assessment that produces inconsistent results cannot provide valid information about a learner’s achievement. On the other hand, highly consistent results do not necessarily indicate high validity, since the test may be inappropriate for the competence being assessed. For example, the results of a maths test involving routine calculations may have a high degree of validity for indicating arithmetical skills but a low degree of validity for indicating problem-solving abilities. High validity and high reliability are more likely to be achieved when assessors :-
* Measure learners against outcomes of learning which have clearly defined performance levels. * Use assessment instruments that are appropriate to the outcomes. * Minimise subjectivity. 4 – Learning and development The learner undergoes training and development over time and :- * Acquires skills and knowledge. * Practises and applies what they have learned. * Starts to perform to the standards. * Consistently performs to the standards under a variety of conditions at work. Assessment for learning takes place at regular intervals to see how the learner is progressing.
Learners are given feedback on their performance, targets are adjusted and further training and development are arranged as necessary. Formative Assessment Formative assessment is an informal process used by assessors and learners to recognise and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning during the learning. It is a method of assessing for learning as opposed to assessment of learning (summative assessment) It takes place during the assessment, is an integral part of the learning process and involves the assessor indentifying the learner’s present standard of abilities and work.
It provides feedback which supplies suggestions on how the learner can develop and helps the assessor to modify the learning process to suit the learner on an ongoing basis. Advantages :- * Provides the learner with a “safe place” allowing him/her to make mistakes and learn from them as opposed to the penalties of summative assessment. * Guides assessor into making decisions about future instruction enabling them to keep track of progress and adapt training to the needs of learners. * Improves learner motivation and achievement.
* Engages the learner in self assessment. * Facilitates continuous improvement for both learner and assessor. Summative assessment Summative assessment focuses on learning completed, happens after a learning period and comes in a form of formal testing of what has been learned to produce marks or grades. Advantages:- * It acts as a formal measurement and evaluation of a learner’s growth and achievement after instruction. * Enables learners to enhance their achievements. * Provides rigorous, reliable and valid verification of a learner’s performance.
* Develops learners as active participants in their own assessment, enabling them to develop as independent learners and effective professionals. 5 – Assessment methods There are many assessment methods available to the assessor. It is important to choose methods which are fair, valid and most effectively assess the objectives of the unit. See table below which lists the key methods and their application – METHOD| DESCRIPTION| APPLICATION| Observation| Watching learners perform in the workplace or simulated environment | To see learners demonstrate their practical skills as they do their job activities.
Most standards specify observation as a mandatory method| Examining or evaluating work products| The outcomes or products of a learners work activity or task| In conjunction with observation,questioning or professional discussion – must be the result of real work| Questioning| Using a range of questioning techniques either spoken or written| To find out whether the learner has learned necessary knowledge| Discussion| A conversation in which learners describe and reflect on their performance and knowledge in relation to the requirements of the standards| To test the validity and reliability of a learners evidence.
Can often be used to cover a range of work activities and units. An affective way to test deep rather than superficial learning| Evidence from others (witness testimony)| Another person’s account of what the learner has done, usually to confirm existing knowledge from assessors own observation| To support an observation and to confirm consistent performance over time. May be used in conjunction with RPL to verify a learners claim to existing knowledge and skills| Learner statements| The learners account of what they have been doing in relation to the standards to be achieved| To support consistent performance over time.
Or for evidence of reflection on, and improvements in, performance | Projects, assignments and case studies| Assessing the outcomes of case studies, projects and assignments that the learner has undertaken as part of their vocational learning against specified criteria| In conjunction with questioning or discussion (although projects and assignments set as part of the learning process provide no evidence of competence)| Simulation| Using a replica of the work environment to assess competence.
When it is impossible or unsafe for the learner to perform in a real-life work environment| Skills tests| Formal testing of skills under test conditions| When it forms part of the requirements for independent assessment in certain qualifications. Usually where the learners need to acquire a range of technical skills before they can perform them in the work environment, or safety related knowledge and skill requirements.
| Recognition of prior learning| Assessment of a learners existing level of knowledge and skill in relation to the standards| To match prior learning to units in a qualification so the leaner doesn’t have to repeat what they have already learned. Without detailed assessment it can be difficult to judge whether prior claims constitute valid, authentic and current evidence. | 6 – Evidence All the different methods of assessment have one thing in common – the collection of evidence. Evidence can be defined as – The proof produced by a learner that shows that he/she complies with the requirements of the criteria of the standards they wish to gain credits for.
Evidence can come from a variety of sources, it is the responsibility of the assessor to ensure that the evidence collected is valid i. e. is authentic, sufficient and current before he/she can make an accurate judgement of the learners competence. Authenticity of evidence * Can the evidence be attributed to the learner? * Is the evidence the learners own work? The assessor has to verify that the evidence is the learners own work therefore the learner must be able to explain and substantiate the evidence produced. Sufficiency of evidence * Is there enough evidence to meet all criteria needed to judge the learner as competent? * Is the assessor confident that the learner has the relevant level of knowledge and skills and that performance can be repeated?
Rather than focussing on quantity of evidence the assessor needs to ensure that assessment decisions are based on quality of evidence that demonstrates the learner is competent. To be sufficient evidence must show that :- * The learner has attained all of the relevant skills and knowledge outlined in the standards. * The learner has shown competence over a period of time. *
The learner is confident to repeatedly demonstrate skills and knowledge. Currency of evidence * Is the evidence related to current competence? The assessor needs to judge the evidence as up to date with the latest developments and environmental factors such as legislation and must assure that it is the most recent available, especially important when assessing prior learning.