the question "Why am I assessing?" should not be answered
with the feeling "to ambush and trap the learner!"
Stielau J. & Lephalala
M. Authentic Assessment in Distance Education: some practical
suggestions. NAETE Conference (1997)
Answering the questionnaire in Activity 1 has
given you some idea of what you currently assess and how you do
it. It may be useful now to ask yourself why you are assessing learners.
For example, would you assess the learners if you did not have to
produce marks for reports? Do you assess learners because you have
to, or because you want to and find it valuable? Different teachers
working under different circumstances may give quite different answers
to these questions.
Click here to
read about some of the reasons why people assess. While doing so
record at least one specific example of how you have used assessment
for each of the following purposes
- to help students learn
- to report on student progress
- to help you make decisions about your teaching
Equally important to the question of why we assess
is the question of what we assess. An understanding of the principles
of your curriculum regarding assessment would help you answer this question.
In fact what we assess and when we conduct assessments are very
similar issues that break the mold of traditional testing and examination.
Integrating assessment with teaching and learning
means that what you assess, when you assess and why you assess are closely linked. Continuous assessment requires
us to assess the learning processas as well as
the product of learning. Both are important in
the development of skills and knowledge.
When assessment helps to form
the learning, we call it formative assessment.
For example, if we give feedback to learners to help them to learn
further, then we are assessing formatively. Formative assessment
may take place during and after a particular learning process. One
of the shortfalls of examinations, and even tests, is that we hardly
ever provide meaningful formative feedback afterwards. If you do
give specific feedback after examinations and tests you should be
congratulated on some sound assessment practice!
Formative assessment is as much a part of learning
as it is a part of assessment. The dialogue between the teacher
and the learner that takes place during various forms of formative
assessment is a vital part of the learning process.
"In order for
learners to gain insight into their learning and their understanding,
frequent feedback is critical: students need to monitor their
learning and actively evaluate their strategies and their current
levels of understanding."
John D Bransford et al., How
When assessment tells us about the end product
or a sum of the learning, we call it summative
assessment. Both forms of assessment (summative and formative) are
valid and have their place, depending on what you want to assess
and for what reason you are doing the assessment. Most summative
assessment could also be formative.
Summative assessment is not bad practice - not
providing feedback after summative assessment, in which feedback
could be given, is bad practice. Admittedly the exam system
at the end of the year does not allow us much opportunity to provide