7 April 2014
7 April 2014,

Assessment is one of the most important teaching and learning tools available to educators.

But too often I see assessment being used as a yardstick and a reporting mechanism. It is easy for an institution to focus on its own needs and ignore the potential for assessment to enhance teaching and learning.

The institution needs to know the learner is competent, but if assessment is only used to find that out, they score and F for teaching.

Assessment helps learners become self-reliant, confident and able to make judgements about the quality of their own learning. Embedded assessment can alert learners to gaps in knowledge early enough to correct their path and get back on track.

Self-assessment and active use of teacher feedback should be an integral part of most courses. Even when the learning packages are small, the self-test or the simulation provide an edge when it comes to demonstrating knowledge and skill in an end-of-unit assessment.

I am not saying there should be no summative assessment, for the learner and institution this is vital. But a summative assessment should presume the formative assessments have been completed and dig deeper; assess the derivatives of the basic knowledge.

It is like asking a chef to prepare a chicken fricassee and failing them on their inability to cut up the chicken. Early assessment and feedback on the correct way to cut up a chicken allows the assessment to focus on the quality of the dish: the cooking, the taste, and the presentation.

Let the trainee mechanic drag and drop the components of a fuel system to get them in the right order as much as they like or need. Each attempt is a mini-assessment. The digital resource provides the feedback. This way the summative assessment can ask what symptoms to expect when a component is faulty, rather than simply how to order the components.

Assessment should support learning rather than simply test knowledge. With digital media we have an opportunity to change assessment practice. Digital resources can provide feedback immediately and confirm understanding. When it is time to test knowledge assessments can look for thinking rather than recall.

Assessment is not about testing to record a completion, it is about teaching and learning. The trick is to think as an educator, not as a business or service delivery agent.