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(a) Adults only learn when they are ready to learn. They cannot learn under pressure. The conditions must be right and they must feel motivated enough to desire to learn. The approach applied must be suitable to them
(b) Adults learn only when theu feel the need to. They must be able to see the applicability of what they are learning to their present situation
(c) Adults learn by practical application and hands-on approach with lots of practice makes the learning process much more effective for them
(d) What they learn must be applicable with their reality. Adults like to apply what they learn to deal with the issues that are going on in their current situation. If they do not see the immediate relationship, then learning is hindered greatly.
(e) Their experiences interfere with their education and any new information given to them needs to be integrated with their experience.
(f) Adults prefer to learn in informal environments. Lectures, sitting on desks and written home works will only discourage them.
(g) A trainer must learn to apply various teaching methods and for short periods of time otherwise the learner will get bored very fast.
Needs assessment is the process by which a trainer sits and works beside a learner with a view to learn about their social and educational background, proficiencies, their goals and the outcomes expected by the learner when they join the trainerï¿½s program. The trainer assesses the literacy skills that the learner already has or believes he or she has, what the learner needs to know in order to function in this context and the gains he or she expects from joining the training program and what the trainer needs to build on the learnerï¿½s abilities, strength and accomplishments. This encourages the learner to display and articulate what they know and can already do.
This assessment is a continuous process that will be used throughout the learners stay under the trainers program. This learning takes places in a class on terms agreed upon between the learner, trainer and the coordinator when the training begins but can be negotiated when need arises. At the beginning, this assessment can be used in determining what type of program and course content is appropriate for them, while during the assessment the learner gets assurance that the program is meeting his or her goals and allows them to make necessary changes to the program. These changes can be used at the end of the program to plan the future directions of both the learner and the program
Why it is necessary to do a needs assessment
A needs assessment is intended to serve such purposes as:
- It informs both the learner and the trainer, the learnerï¿½s capabilities at the beginning of the program, accomplishments expected during the program and what the learner will accomplish at the end of the program.
- It ensures that the curriculum is flexible and responsive instead of being linear and pre-determined by instructors. This ensures that the specific needs of the learner are addressed.
- It guides the trainers and administrators in developing teaching skills, materials, skills assessment, the curricula and teaching approaches. The learner is aware that the trainer understands his needs and interest and wants to address them. This motivates the learner to stay with the program.
Features of Learner Assessment
The key feature of learner assessment therefore involves collecting data provided by these learners and analyzing it to give the trainer and the learner a clear picture of what they are accomplishing both individually and as a group. This assessment also provides information to the different groups with which the learner is involved. The trainer is able to assess the progress of their learners and the assessment aids them in instructing their learners towards their particular goals. The learner on the other hand is able to assess his progress and determine whether they are leading him or her to the ultimate achievement of his or her goals. The program managers, use this assessment in evaluating the efficiency of the program and can then decide what elements need to be integrated into the system to give the users maximum satisfaction. The funders use this to weigh the success of the program and also for accountability (lytle and wolfe 1989). Literacy assessment should be used throughout the period the adult is involved in the literacy program. There are various considerations that can be used in development of these programs. It is worth noting that in order for there to exist a mutual trust and respect between the trainer and the adult learner the certain conditions should be present. The learner will learn best:
ï¿½ When they participate actively in determining what and how they learn
ï¿½ When they understand why they are learning
ï¿½ If the goals are important to them
ï¿½ If what they are learning and the skills being imparted is relevant to them
ï¿½ If they are comfortable in their environment
ï¿½ If their skills and talents are explored and acknowledged
ï¿½ When the activities are practical and problem solving, meaning they can draw on their experiences and knowledge
ï¿½ When their values and beliefs are respected
ï¿½ When there is variety in teaching styles
ï¿½ When there are small group activities where they share, reflect etc
ï¿½ When there is feedback on regarding their efforts
ï¿½ Where there is follow-up and coaching When the experiences are enjoyable
Assessment can occur before training, during training and after training. However, it is not necessary to do this assessment at all these stages. A standard assessment may be necessary for new trainers joining a faculty to determine the levels of their learners. It may also be necessary to do frequent assessment on slow learners to ensure they get adequate coaching to help them catch up with the others.
Tools of assessment
The following tools can be used in needs assessment:
ï¿½ Survey questionnaires. The learners are encouraged to fill in the questionnaires with accurate information based on which the trainer assess the learners needs
ï¿½ Interviews are conducted with the trainer either individually or in small groups where the learner gives as much information about him or herself to the trainer. This is the information the trainer will work with to assist the learner achieve the necessary competencies.
ï¿½ Another tool is class discussions where a trainer may ask one question and expect many different answers from the learner. This encourages the learners to answer questions in a personal way.
ï¿½ Learners are issued with a personal journal and they write about their experiences and plans. The trainer then uses this as a source of information in evaluating the learnerï¿½s literacy needs
ï¿½ Reading materials can be made available and the learner chooses what he would like to read and explain why. This can be done with different types of materials and provide a useful assessment tool
There are four major approaches that have been identified for this assessment. Each of them reflects on different perspectives and philosophical orientations relating to educational contexts, literacy, and to the learners. These are:
In this system, progression is determined by how one masters certain skills and knowledge and is centered on the learner. This learning is based on oneï¿½s mastery of skills (tasks that are performed to meet specific levels of proficiency or attitude) and competency (tasks performed under specific conditions to specific standards). Competence based assessment method assesses an individual not against others but against a set performance whose standards have been predetermined. It is individualistic and addresses the need to measure up to a functional framework. (Sticht 1990). It has been found to be more friendly to adults and is well recognized because it rewards what one has already leant to do and one is assessed frequently. This provides the learner with frequent feedback and helps them recognize when they are ready to advance to the next level.
Characteristics of this assessment:
ï¿½ Competencies are identified carefully, then verified and made known in advance
ï¿½ Skillful practices is used when integrating supporting theory. To be able to support these skills one must apply essential knowledge.
ï¿½ Training materials must be made available to support acquisition of skills and knowledge
ï¿½ The learner must be able to grasp concepts, skills and knowledge and the time provided must be sufficient. Training methods must be appropriate
ï¿½ Those learners entering the program are properly assessed and those with prior and satisfactory skills and knowledge may bypass training that they already attained.
ï¿½ One is allowed to learn at their pace
ï¿½ Training methods should be flexible to include large and small groups and individual study
ï¿½ Support materials including audio visual, print and simulation are used alongside the skills that are being mastered
Once the learner has mastered all the above competencies, he/she is considered to have Satisfactory completed their training.
This system focuses on making each of the participants successful and is useful in fields where each participant is expected to obtain a few job-related and specific competencies. (Watson (1990) Its advantages include:
ï¿½ The participants have received their required competencies by the time they are released to the job fields
ï¿½ As they succeed in mastering these specific competencies, the participants are able to build their confidence.
ï¿½ There are transcripts available for each completed training that the participant obtains and can use in the job market
ï¿½ There is efficient and effective use of time since the trainer is not there just to provide information but to facilitate learning with a goal
ï¿½ Trainees work in groups or as individuals and therefore more time is devoted to them as opposed to lectures were all the trainees are crowded together in a room. The trainer is able to learn from the members of the group as well as from the trainer.
ï¿½ More time is spent evaluating the ability of each participant to perform skills that are essential for their job.
The following are the disadvantages of this assessment
ï¿½ The trainer must be empowered by Training and subsequent follow-up to eliminate the tendency to teach in the traditional methods. Regular checks must be made on the trainer to make sure he does not slip back to the traditional role of a trainer
ï¿½ If the trainer fails to give due attention to the identification of skills that are essential to the job market, the learners they are likely to find themselves misplaced making the training course ineffective.
ï¿½ Unless specific training approaches and materials are designed as part of the course, it cannot be referred to as competent. If learning guides, checking and coaching methods are not applied, then the training cannot be competence based.
ï¿½ Despite being quite compatible with adult education practices and philosophies, this assessment, still takes place in a classroom setting. It does not effectively assess a learnerï¿½s ability to perform in life roles. It only tests the learnerï¿½s grasp of the lessons they have been taught in class and not the practical application.
(b) Standardized Testing Assessment
This is very popular in all parts of the world and refers to supervised tests set by a selected group of administrators with expert knowledge of the test subjects. Minimum training is required for one to administer these tests. One administrator can assess a large group of learners and the assessment can be done by a fairly small group making these tests relatively inexpensive to administer. However, the assessors must have expert knowledge of the subjects.
These tests come in two forms: Criterion-referenced or norm-referenced. The former measures performance against a certain standard or criteria and not against a group. The later measures performance of an individual against others in the group, all who have taken the same test. This assessment is used to strengthen measures of accountability in Adult learning. This has been seen as the first step in improving teaching practice, improving schools and improving educational methods by using data collection.
Advantages of this system
ï¿½ Learners are ranked according to their ability and given equal chances to succeed. Their abilities are tested and their placed in their ability levels and the trainer attends to their specific needs
ï¿½ Standard based tests are aligned with the assumption that all learners have the ability to succeed as they are based on education reform.
ï¿½ Passing the exams means that the learner is graduating with skills tht are necessary in order for him/her to succeed in the 21st century.
ï¿½ Learners cannot be passed on to the next grade without obtaining what is required of everyone of them to know and do at that level.
ï¿½ The graduates produced are competent and can read their own diplomas. They have not just passed through a system but have worked hard to be able to pass through this system
ï¿½ Standardized assessments, though very extensively used, have their weaknesses which can be traced to their misuse and their defects (BCEL (1990 p.6), Standardized tests having normally been used on children rely strongly on grades and do not show the advantages of an adultï¿½s experience and knowledge and how they can affect or develop the program. The adults may associate these tests of a school failure they had experienced earlier and discourage them from learning. These assessments have also been used as the only component to determine success and failure in a test. This is not fair to the learner because, to effectively assess the learner, many factors have to be considered including the management of the program itself, how it is taught and the curriculum used.
ï¿½ Other problems associated with this method include problems with the validity of the tests, reliability of the same and false correlations. While mandatory national curricula is preferable, mandatory testing has been found to distract schools focus on instructing their learners in the manner that they find fitting.
(c) Materials-Based Assessment
In this assessment, learners are assessed upon completion of set curriculum materials. Learners are tested at the completion of the curriculum. This task is then organized so that the learner can provide feedback for the teacher and for the other learners. These assessments are available through commercial publishers and show oneï¿½s literacy e.g. reading and writing skills. The trainer thinks up a learning task for the learners and to effectively use this system, the trainer must first decide whether they want their test to be qualitative or quantitative. In most cases, the tests are reported using grades or marks. This performance however is of little to help the trainer in deciding what the learner needs to improve their grades if they constantly obtains grades that are below average. What would be most useful to a student though, is the learnerï¿½s understanding why the marks were given for certain answers they provided and not others. In order to give meaningful and useful assessment therefore, qualitative results about a learnerï¿½s performance must be used in profiling their assessment. The learners must be given their results soon after the tests have been taken so that action by the trainer and the learner are planned along the material that is still fresh in the learnerï¿½s mind. The time spent marking these tests is an important factor affecting these results, as essays may take much longer than multiple choice questions. The teachers can involve the students more by explaining to them where they lost marks and inviting them to redo their work after which they can grade them again to determine whether the learner has understood the whole principle. Teachers must find ways to mark tests more easily and to involve students in the testing process if they expect to see results. This assessment shares some of the features such as ease of administration from the Standardized assessment.
ï¿½ This approach establishes a close link between assessment and curriculum.
ï¿½ If the trainer involves the learner, then feedback is immediate. The learnerï¿½s memory is still fresh on what they have learnt and the method used to grade and correct them has a lasting impression on him/her.
ï¿½ Appraisal of the course is process-oriented, diagnostic and formative and outcomes are descriptive and qualitative as opposed to tests that are formal, product oriented and grade the learner.
ï¿½ This assessment is easy to administer
ï¿½ It however gives little opportunity to make practical analysis of materials and teaching processes and it is not possible to assess any literacy activities outside the program. The learner is not able to direct his/her own study.
ï¿½ If essay questions are involved, the time taken to mark them could be notoriously long. In this time, the learner may have moved on to other lessons in the curriculum and it may take a while to refresh them.
(d) Participatory Assessment.
As the name suggests, this assessment works closely with the learner to assist him achieve the objectives he/she set out to achieve by actively involving them in the assessment process. The learner participates in all stages of the assessment and is encouraged to own it. It concentrates on the learners strengths and experiences with the sole purpose of helping him achieve his/her goals and objectives.. What the learner wishes to accomplish or learn must be the primary reflection of this assessment. It should build on the learnerï¿½s aspirations and needs and developed for use by trainer and learner but with the learner as the primary focus. It should not be something that is done to the learner. Rather it should be something done with the learner. It should be a continuation of the learnerï¿½s regular activity. (Lytle and Wolfe 1989).
ï¿½[a]although various approaches assess literacy as skills, tasks and practices, only participatory approaches have the potential for assessing literacy as critical reflectionï¿½ Lytle and Wolfe (1989) (p. 58). This is because the learner is actively involved in assessing him/herself and his/her world compelling him/her to make conscious changes from inside. This is the basis of self directing learning. The learner appreciates the context of knowledge and becomes aware of frameworks, moral codes and belief systems which influence his ability to grasp concepts. The learner begins to understand the relationship that exists between reflection and action and gets actively involved in his/her own assessment.
Experimenting with participatory assessment practices goes a long way to help learners, researchers and practitioner in understanding how critical reflection influences adult learning Evaluation
By recognizing the importance of actively involving adult learners in participatory assessment, the trainer seeks to overturn the traditional roles where a class setting involved trainers and students.
The trainer must seek ways to involve the learner in use, development and revision of the processes and tools used to assess their progress. The learner can assess if they are fit to move to the next level. At the job market, the learner is able to fit in well as he/she is aware of knowledge they possess and their capabilities and how it relates to the world.
How participatory Assessment works
(1) Adults are assigned active roles as participants or investigators aimed at described and determining their own strengths, strategies and literacy practices, This does not necessary have to be initiated by the trainer. They can also get involved in designing and implementing procedures which determine their success. This is done through reading, writing and discussions. This contracts the traditional role where the learner took tests as this assessment expects the learner to generate their own goals and answer questions through discussions and self evaluation. They are then able to place themselves in classes upon discussion with the trainer depending on their level of understanding of concepts and subject materials.
Concerns have been raised as to the feasibility of encouraging learners to evaluate their progress on their own terms. According to Adventures in Assessment Volume 6 April 1994 learners have a grip of their own literacy and the progress they are making with language. For example one might ask a learner a question like ï¿½what have you learned between the time you started this program and now?ï¿½. The learner may answer ï¿½when I joined this program, I did not under any French but now I understand a littleï¿½. That means the learner can see the positive progress they are making and that it is possible to achieve what they set out to. They reveal an appreciation of the trainerï¿½s work and an awareness of their progress.
The trainer must be careful however, especially with those learning new languages that they do not silence them in the process. If a learner is not making progress, they can be encouraged to communicate in their native language or non verbal signs to express what difficulties they are encountering. How then can the trainer and learner work together to build these frameworks? The trainer must involve the learner in the design, revision and reporting of assessment practices in an attempt to build new frameworks.
(2) Participatory assessment involves interaction and exchanges among learners, trainers and text rather than adhering to a preset script.
Assistance is given when a learner encounters difficulty leaving the learner room to experiment and take risks. Learners are encouraged to give feedback regarding programs and classes. The trainer then uses this to feedback to formulate new lessons for the learners and in problem solving.
However, this assessment has its short comings as it is seen to demand less achievement from a learner. It is also not easy to compare this with other program when it comes to program
Taking into consideration all the available methods therefore, tutors should establish the purpose of each assessment, whether it is appropriate for use with adults, its reliability, practicality and validity. It is not possible to conclude that any single assessment is superior in meeting all the needs of an individual to accomplish their literacy tasks.
Use of all or a combination of the assessments is necessary to meet the variety of accomplishments and goals that a learner sets out to achieve in adult education. It also provides all the parties involved with more views to the solutions of the learnerï¿½s accomplishment needs.
The only way businesses will be propelled is by finding newer and better ways for adults to learn. With the changing technology, every individual is most likely at one time to feel the need to advance and catch up with these new trends. It is necessary for organizations and individuals to embrace adult education in order to capitalize on the available resources and build systems that satisfy their needs. Our environment can only be recreated by individualï¿½s continuously improving themselves.