The functions of assessment in learning

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 24 September 2016

The functions of assessment in learning

Explain the functions of assessment in learning and development – include initial, formative and summative assessment. (1.1) The fundamental function of assessment in learning and development is to ensure that learning has taken place. The role of the assessor is to evaluate the nature, ability or quality of a candidate against a set of criteria (informal) or to check that legal standards have been met (formal). The first step is to conduct an initial assessment at the beginning of any programme related to the subject being studied so to ascertain the learner’s prior knowledge and levels. Initial assessments can also take the form of a skills check which identifies the learner’s preferred learning style; functional skills such as Maths and English and competency with ICT. These checks can be used to help and support learners.

The next step is to assess formatively; this is a continual process which is used to inform future planning and assessments and ensure that prior learning is built upon and progress in learning is made. This approach, often called assessment for learning, takes place every time the assessor comes in to contact with their learners; asking the candidates questions, observing what they are doing and demonstrating their skills and knowledge through discussions, activities and tasks. It is a method in which judgements are made about their progress and how they could improve. The final type of assessment comes at the end of the programme or unit and can come in different forms including: exams, projects, interviews and observations. These Summative assessments are used to evaluate what has been achieved during the learning process, whether it is academic achievement or skill acquisition. Describe the key concepts of assessment (1.2)

Assessment ought to be a systematic procedure which should be followed so that the learner has positive involvement and experiences an improvement in their skills and/or knowledge. This good practice can be adhered to by following the assessment cycle which has a number of elements. First, taking into account any initial assessments which could include information on any support or reasonable adaptations the learner may need to access the course; their preferred learning style or any further training they may need. Next, the planning stage, where the assessor and candidate will agree upon suitable methods for assessment, set target dates, involving relevant colleagues and following any organisational guidelines. After that comes the assessment activity where the candidate demonstrates their skills or learning, which can be evaluated with assessor led, with questioning or an observation or learner led, taking the form of completing assignments, gathering evidence or writing statements to identify the extent of the learning that has taken place.

Following the activity a discussion should take place to review the progress of the candidate, where the assessment plan can be reviewed and updated, and any other issues related to progress could be discussed. Then the cycle will begin again with an initial assessment regarding the next unit or topic. There are five key concepts that support the principles of good practice in assessment: 1. The assessment must be valid so that it measures what was intended 2. It must be authentic, so there is no doubt that the evidence has been produced by the candidate and nobody else. 3. The results must be reliable, so that the same results could be consistently reproduced in another place or under a different assessor.( This principle is strongly related to fairness) 4. The evidence must prove that the candidate is up to date on current skills, methods and knowledge in their chosen area. 5. The assessor must be convinced that they have seen sufficient evidence, so they can make a judgement that the learner has the knowledge and/or skills to consistently carry out the activity and not just in a one off situation.

There are two further concepts that underpin good practice in assessment, these are objectivity and transparency. Transparency refers to how clear the assessment expectations are for the candidates and so they are clear nothing problematic is happening. Learners should be clear on what they are expected to do and have a clear set of criteria so they know what it is they will be judged upon. Auditable records must be kept throughout the assessment process to aid transparency. Secondly, an assessor should not let their own attitudes, beliefs and values interfere with providing an objective assessment.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 24 September 2016

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