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Coursework 1 – Reflective Account of Peer Assessment Activity Within this piece of work I will be reflecting on an assessment activity used by a peer whilst I was observing their lesson for A-level psychology. The learners were all aged 17-19 and the lesson was on theories of depression and was a revision session for learners before their exams the following month. The assessment activity was an informal formative assessment where the students were placed into groups of two or three learners and were then given an area of the subject matter, the learners then had to create revision notes as a group on a piece of flipchart paper using their own notes and text books. The learners were then given 15 minutes to revise these notes, once this time was up the tutor then asked the learners to all find a new partner and then teach their revised notes to their peer. The ‘tutor’ peer would try to give all their key notes without looking at the flipchart, but some learners were allowed when they got stuck on certain points. The ‘student’ peer would have to take written notes to aid with their revision.
The learners would then swap in their pairs and the roles would be reversed, after both learners had shared their revision notes they would then swap again to find a new learner to pair with, this process continued until all learners had a full set of revision notes for the subject. Brown et al on the subject of assessment ‘validity’ state ‘It is often described as the match between what is intended to be measured and what is measured.’ (Brown et al., 1997, p.239). I believe this activity was very valid as it allowed the tutor to assess the notes the learners would be revising from for a summative exam in the future. The aims of this assessment were explained in full detail and the learners understood what was expected of them from this activity.
The point of the activity was for peer learning to take place to aid revision in the subject of theories of depression; this was definitely achieved by the end of the lesson as every learner had a full set of revision notes on each aspect of the subject confirming the validity of the assessment. The students were in charge of creating their own notes in each group and then passing these notes onto their peers, this does cause some reliability issues as with all learners some students may have put more effort into their revision notes than others.
Therefore you may get a learner who has put as much information into his or hers notes as possible giving a vast amount of knowledge on a certain area of the subject and they may then receive from a peer basic knowledge of another area of the subject. Reece and Walker talk of ‘reliability’ as ‘the ability of a test to consistently measure what it is supposed to measure.’ (Reece and Walker, 2007, p.348), I believe this method of assessment does not consistently measure but the tutor did circulate the classroom at all times aiding learners if they were finding it hard to put key points down on paper. This method does however aid differentiation as less able learners were given the chance to gain knowledge of the subject from more able learners. The more able learners also had the chance to practice and develop their subject knowledge aiding revision in the class. Word Count: 520
Brown, G., Bull, J. and Pendlebury, M. (1997) Assessing Students Learning in Higher Education. Oxon, p.239. Reece, I. and Walker, S. (2007) Teaching, Training and Learning: A Practical Guide. 6th ed. Sunderland: Business Education Publishers Ltd, p.321.
Coursework 2 – Assessment Information within own Organisation Assessment information within my own organisation is recorded from the beginning of a learner joining the college. Every potential student as part of the interview stage takes part in a minimum core assessment; this is a basic screening test to assess the student’s literacy and numeracy skills. This initial assessment allows us to correctly place the learner on the right level of course. These results are placed in the college database, following the enrolment of each learner the minimum core results form a group differentiation profile for each class; put together by the course leader. This profile is used by the tutor so they can differentiate learning tasks and understand individual learner’s needs from the very beginning.
Once the course commences formative assessments are created by the tutor and used in each lesson. Each learner receives feedback from these assessments and if needed, targets can be set so the learner is clear on what is expected of them. Validity and reliability of assessments used during a course are checked at regular standardisation meetings within curriculum teams, these take place to sample marking of formative and summative theory assessments. Allowing tutors to internally verify samples of learners work so all tutors in the department are consistent in their marking. Reece and Walker explain ‘validity’ as ‘how well the test measures what it is supposed to measure” (Reece and Walker, 2007, p.321). Within these meetings the team will also evaluate and create formative and summative assessments for future use; a chance to share good practice. The meetings are also used to discuss practical assessments as different tutors can have differing views on assessment criteria; this aids the reliability of the assessments. Summative assessments are entered on a standardised tracking document which every tutor in the department can access.
Updating this tracking document then enables each tutor or the head of department to see the progress of every learner helping to identify any ‘at risk’ students who may need more attention or end up not completing the course. This document is shared with the learners; they can see what still needs to be achieved to gain their qualification and how far they have come in terms of progression, this aids motivation in the classroom and also a sense of achievement to see how much they have already completed. The learners have logbooks provided by the awarding body VTCT, this is where tutors record all practical summative assessment and sign off to say they have met the criteria set by VTCT. The logbook is used by the learner to build a portfolio of consultations forms and photographs from practical’s, written assignments and any online tests the learner has to complete during the course.
The college also uses Pro-Monitor a computerised package which tutors can record individual learner progress and set targets for learners to achieve by a certain time. Learners can access Pro-Monitor and input individual targets they wish to achieve, it can also show them graphs and visual aids on how much of their qualification they have achieved, this is brilliant for more visual learners who may find written feedback harder to understand. These different ways of recording assessment information are vital in enabling tutors to identify when students are falling behind and planning for future development, a side effect of not using these implements could be learners nearing the end of their course without completing assessments that are mandatory.
Reece, I. and Walker, S. (2007) Teaching, Training and Learning- a Practical
Guide. 6th ed. Sunderland: Business Edition Publishers, p.321.
Coursework 3 – Evaluation of Assessment Activities
Assessment is defined by Gravells and Simpson as ‘a measure of learning, at a given point in time. Relevant skills, knowledge and/or attitudes can be measured towards a subject or qualification.’ (Gravells and Simpson, 2008). There are three main types of assessment; initial, formative and summative; these types of assessment can then be informal in the way of crosswords, gapped hand-outs, quizzes, discussions and journals or they can be formal in the way of exams, assignments, tests and observations. Formative assessment, used properly, is such an integral part of the teaching and learning process that it could be argued that it shouldn’t even be called assessment. When we consider teaching and learning methods, many of them – questioning, case studies, and projects – are also assessment methods used as learning checks. Scales states ‘Assessment for learning is based on the belief that everyone can learn and formative assessment is a key strategy to help learners improve and develop’ (Scales, 2010) With this in mind the first assessment activity to be evaluated is a crossword used as an informal summative assessment.
Crosswords are a simple and easy way of assessing learner’s knowledge during a unit. Crosswords can be uploaded to the college interactive website ‘cloud’, learners can then download the activity as a form of homework or as an extension task during directed studies. These can then be handed in to the tutor for marking. A more effective method is to use a crossword as learning check during a lesson; once the learners have completed the crossword they can then discuss as a group the answers. The tutor can also use extended questioning, asking more able learners to explain in more depth an answer to help aid differentiation. Feedback from learners suggests that crosswords are a challenging way of testing knowledge and encourages the learners to look at subject matter in different ways without having to sit tests all the time, which can be very daunting for certain learners.
Something gained from feedback from a group of level 1’s, is that because a majority of the learners have learning needs which affects their literacy; they find the crossword in itself challenging to complete. To overcome this it has been noted that providing learners with a word bank of key words for each unit has helped in completing such tasks as crosswords, as the learner still needs to know which word they are looking for but aids in developing their spelling for the future. Feedback is the most important part of formative assessment; research suggests that immediate oral feedback is the most effective, whether this is done by one on ones or as a group discussion. The feedback provided should be developmental and make the learners extend their thinking and learning to a higher level and should also focus on positive points first before moving onto more ‘developmental’ area’s for the learner to consider.
By conducting formative assessment it can ensure that the teacher gains a full understanding of the learners existing capabilities so that realistic goals can then be set and additional support if needed can be organised. With this feedback individual targets can then be created for each learner and placed on the college Pro-Monitor system where the learners can access their targets as and when needed to see how they are developing in the course. Learners are also encouraged to create their own personal targets on Pro-Monitor, using feedback from formative assessments it allows learners to realise key strengths and weaknesses to help in creating these targets. The use of this feedback is very much like the idea of ‘scaffolding’, Bruner (Wood et al., 1976) coined this term in the 1950’s and believed using a more knowledgeable other to challenge the learner to achieve more by providing ‘scaffolding’ to help them climb to higher levels.
Learners in dialogue with teachers can see where they want to reach but initially may need help in the form of questions, prompts and pointers to get there. Summative assessment is the assessment of learning and it leads to the gaining of qualifications and grades. Weeden suggests ‘Summative assessment is a snapshot judgement that records what a learner can do at a particular time.’ (Weeden et al., 2002, p.19) This process of qualification is important for learners and it is good to keep in mind the emotional aspects and design of assessment in relation to validity and reliability. With this in mind the second assessment activity to be evaluated is a practical observation used as a formal summative assessment. Practical observations are used throughout all 3 NVQ levels in beauty therapy as the subject is extremely vocationally based. Beauty therapy NVQ’s are broken down into units, for each unit there will be practical assessments that have to be completed at the end of the unit, where the learner is observed and assessed by the teacher.
VTCT are the awarding body for the beauty therapy NVQ’s and they set out the practical assessment criteria for each unit, this criteria is printed in the learners logbooks which is where each assessment is signed off if a pass has been achieved. To aid the reliability of the practical assessments all beauty lecturers at the college come together at standardisation meetings where the criteria is discussed in detail and a learner marking sheet is created which includes each of the areas the learner has to meet to gain a pass in the assessment. If this was not done each teacher could interpret the assessment criteria in different ways therefore learners would not be assessed fairly and reliably. Petty states ‘the same examiner should give the same mark if they unknowingly mark a script twice on different days’ (Petty, 2009), using standardisation this means that even with practical based assessments the results should always be the same.
To help learners during practical assessments learning outcomes are written on the whiteboard to highlight key points they will need to show competency in or do to achieve a pass in the assessment. During the observation the teacher will also ask questions to the learners to help achieve the unit criteria, this is also where differentiation of the learners can take place as more able learners will be asked more open-ended and higher order questions then less able learners who will be asked standard criteria questions. The use of cameras in practical assessments is something that is still fairly new and is being experimented with but does seem to show some success. As part of the observation learners have to keep their working area clean and tidy and show due regard for health and safety, the teacher can now take pictures of each learners working area before the assessment takes place and then at the commencement of the assessment.
With regards to practical assessments like nail art, make-up and face painting the finished article can also be documented by a photo that the learner can then be used in their own portfolio to be sent to the awarding body. From these pictures the teacher can then feedback to the learner at the end of the assessment any positive points of the practical and also any areas that the learner would need to further develop, the learner can then have these pictures as a visual aid to understand how they can improve for the next assessment and also works as a good revision aid for the future. Another approach to embrace ICT in assessments is to video learners assessments so they can themselves evaluate and feedback on client care and professionalism during their observation.
It has been noted that using cameras in practical observations has been received well by the learners, they have commented that it brings a new dimension to receiving feedback and allows them to visualise areas they need to focus on improving and reinforces the assessment criteria for them too. Feedback from practical observation is given individually immediately after the learners assessment, feedback is given verbally with key points both positive and ones for development are written on the bottom of the consultation form the learner completed during the assessment (these consultation forms also go into the learners portfolio). Practical assessments can leave a lot to interpretation by the teacher so it is important the practical marking sheet is filled in during the observations and a pass or fail is determined by how many of the boxes the learner showed competence in, depending on which level the learner is currently studying determines the number of criteria they need to meet.
Learners can feel very nervous and daunted by practical assessments at the beginning of the year as it the proverbial ‘unknown’, formative practical assessments do help to calm learners worries as they are a ‘trial run’ of the summative assessment, also setting out some time to explain and discuss the unit assessment criteria and what will be expected of them from this. During the practical observations themselves the use of cameras also seems to help learners forget the formalness of the observation and relax into the assessment.
In conclusion all assessment methods should be a positive contribution to learning and good assessment activities are important to aiding teaching. However assessments are only worthwhile if they assist the learner and teacher to move through the learning outcomes of the unit, otherwise it is irrelevant. Designing assessment activities which stretch the learner’s abilities and promotes their development is a skill that comes with experience and understanding of the current learners on your course and it is definitely something that will always be tweaked and changed throughout your career. Word Count: 1,594
Gravells, A. and Simpson, S. (2008) Planning and enabling Learning in the Lifelonf Learning Sector. Exeter: Learning matters, p.50. Petty, G. (2009)
Teaching Today – A practical guide. 4th ed. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes. Scales, P. (2010) Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill Education, p.180. Weeden, P., Winter, J. and Broadfoot, P. (2002) Assessment: What’s in it for schools?. London: Routledge Falmer, p.19. Wood, D., Bruner, J. and Ross, G. (1976) The role of tutoring in problem solving. In: Journal of child psychology and psychiatry., pp.89-100.