Important to clarify assessment


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It is very important to clarify assessment and evaluation in education. In my view, assessment is about making a judgment or an appraisal. It is not just giving grades or marks but more about identifying strengths and weaknesses and making judgments. This often involves subjectivity on the assessors' part that is fair and transparent. Assessment is a continuous process of setting high goals student learning, monitoring their progress towards a set learning objectives, and providing a basis for the student to see if they are achieving these set learning goals(NWHSU, 2009). It can also be described as job that is undertaken by the teachers to establish learning and the learning requirements of a student (Headington, 2003, pg.23).

Evaluation is appraising and making judgements. In this case, it refers to studying, assessing progress and monitoring the progress using a particular assessment method. It is used in order to allow pupils and teachers to assess the level of learning which has taken place and provides a sense of direction for achievement.

The purpose of using assessment and evaluation strategies is to encourage pupils to learn with a positive direction. Assessment can be split into two major forms; primary function and a secondary function. The primary function is a formal type of assessment and is an assessment of learning where pupils are given a summative assessment to form a result and receive a certification for it, e.g. BTEC, AS and A Levels. However the secondary function is a formative type of assessment, using assessment for learning. It is assessment used in many forms so that pupils and teachers can evaluate and identify the strengths and weaknesses and allow the teacher to facilitate the learning. Assessment can be carried out in many ways including making observations in the classroom, use of questions, inspecting pupil's work, listening to them and discussing to ensure that learning has taken place; this is also addressed as formative assessment.

Assessment lets the teacher to establish quality of pupils learning (Headington, 2003, pg.24).

By carrying out an evaluation at the end of each session I will be able to assess the level of learning of each individual pupil. This will also enable ed me to work with pupils and make constructive predictions of results and improve on future learning. Evaluation will also make it easier for me to manipulate teaching methods in a more interesting way so that learning & teaching are at their most effective. Although assessment is used by the classroom teacher, the content that the teacher uses for teaching, learning and assessing the student is defined in the curriculum (Headington, 2003, pg.25).

Currently Assessment for Learning (AFL), which is also known as formative assessment, is very much encouraged in all teaching establishments as it is a powerful way of improving learning and raising standards.

This centres its attention on the new fundamentals of thinking, reasoning and learning how to learn (Gipps, 2004, pg. 25).

As the Assessment reform Group (1999) states, it is the centre to more effective classroom practice as it can improve the focus and the way of teaching and enhance pupils' learning (Denby, 2008, pg. 143).

Assessment for learning is a very effective tool if the teacher's plans are effective and provides opportunities for both pupils and teachers to obtain useful information about the progress towards learning goals. It should also build and support on creating a positive relationship between teachers and pupils leading to a successful achievement towards these goals. This only works, if planning includes the pupils understanding what goals they are pursuing. Assessment and effective planning allows to:

To provide feedback

Motivate pupils

Provide a record of progress

State current attainment

Assess for future learning

Provide evidence of school effectiveness

Assessment for learning is a method of guiding pupils towards their learning objectives (Dymoke and Harrison, 2008, pg. 144)

Assessment for Learning should be in the minds of both the pupil and teacher. It helps towards pupil's understanding of how learning takes place as well as 'what' they are learning. This also supports pupil's confidence and motivation and encourages them to want to succeed rather than focusing on failure. I have found that by using more interactive tasks, pupils are willing to participate more in lessons as they find the lessons more interesting, which therefore encourages pupil's progression.

It is very important to know each individual pupil's ability as 'Every Child Matters', and by offering individual support to each child and catering for their SEN (Special Education Needs) and G&T (Gifted & Talented) needs, their needs are more satisfied. For example, in practice I will differentiate objectives for individual pupils, allowing them to achieve results at their potential, using a more pragmatic approach. This is a very successful method towards pupil progression as the students could achieve the objectives depending on their ability.

In practice I found out that there is one student (student A) who did not achieve any outcome by the end of the lesson in the lessons I observed, due to English being as an additional language. To accommodate this learner and to ensure she progressed towards her learning goals I will provide a list of definitions and explain the lesson in simpler terms so that she can be able to participate and not feel excluded.

This shows that assessment is not an effective tool towards progression if used all alone, as students can lack in many abilities that assessment cannot cater for. By providing an opportunity to elaborate and explain the vocabulary and by having a list of definitions, the student was able to partake in the lesson and furthermore, I took this into account when evaluating her learning.

Vygotsky's theory of zone of proximal development (ZPD), suggests that the scaffolding assessment offers a more Interactive model of learning potential (Gipps, 2004, pg. 26).

By questioning and offering pupils support to go to the next level, would provide more Analytical information for the teacher (Gipps, 2004, pg. 28).

He believed that pupils learn through small guided steps. This theory reflects the assessment I used for learning in my teaching practice. I began my teaching at a very basic level and differentiated tasks as the lessons progressed, where students could attempt different tasks depending on their ability. From this I evaluated each student's progress and was be able to see that to develop their knowledge in some subject areas I had to provide very small steps of scaffolding so that students could follow and then work to the next level.

Some students required constant assessment so I could understand their learning capability and therefore guide them throughout, for example student B with SEN required extra attention so that his motivation within the learning process was maintained as they could attempt the same tasks as others. However, some students needed little or no support and I was confident in their ability to leave them alone to perform the tasks. I have found that Vygotsky's theory did not reflect all students even though the majority did require some scaffolding in order to progress their learning.

Competition encourages motivation and is an important factor of norm referencing, however, this can discourage students who don't do well in competitions. It is necessary to give clear explanations and elaborate on learning, which reduces the possibility of failure. Competition through performance feedback can be very encouraging. Rewarding students is one of the effective ways of affecting the student's behaviour for better performance (Cowley, 2006, pg. 81).

Behaviour has a great part to play in the process of learning and assessing. Often 'misbehaviour' such as shouting across the classroom and disrupting others as they work often is because students are not being challenged in the task they are set.

Furthermore, Crook (1988) has mentioned that a very important factor of learning is how the student deals with motivation and evaluation in the classroom (Gipps, 2004, pg. 41)

Kellaghan and Madus (1993) suggested that policy makers don't put the role of assessment in motivation a lot in their minds (Gipps, 2004, pg. 44).

They suggested that if students and the colleges itself works towards a certification, such as BTEC, then this encourages them to work even harder and want to achieve a reward and make the students achieve raise (Gipps, 2004, pg. 24).

I do agree with this theory as keeping the end result in student's mind, their aim to achieve a qualification, and teacher's goal is also recognised then the process of assessment and learning takes place more effectively. Feedback is a good assessment because it keeps the teachers and the students informed about their progress and their achievements within the course (Gipps, 2004).

In practice I will ensure that all students know their main target and through daily work I will provide feedback on a cover sheet and I'll include additional targets to work towards. After evaluating their responses, I will have found if this is a very good way of communicating with students and ensuring that they achieved their target and progress in their learning outcome. This will offer great support for students to take charge of their learning and progress. However it is essential to make sure that all students have set realistic targets in case of downgrading their motivation but at the same time it is very important that they are told of their realistic targets before, so they know what actions they need to take. This method is also known as personalised assessment. Personalised learning is very important, where resources and more support should be provided in match with the learner's individual needs, to the gifted and talented and to the challenged as well (Sewell, 2008, pg. 28).

Brigs et al (2003), suggests that it is very important when assessing pupils needs in ICT, numeracy, language and literacy because they may be talented in this area but they may now be able to meet the needs of highest level achievement (Kyriacou, 2007, pg. 107).

Therefore when assessing, it is very important to understand the full requirements and criteria and that a fair approach is considered. In practice I will have to ensure that when marking I am strictly marking against those requirements of the national curriculum, and this is shared with pupils in 'pupil speak' so that they understand where these grades have come from and could see a fair balance as to how they are assessed. This assessment method is also known as criterion reference. I believe that this is a good method of sharing marking with pupils, as they are able to follow criteria for their learning and then structure an approach towards progression.

Formative assessment is a great tool for encouraging learning throughout my teaching. This particular assessment can be used to inform teachers and students the level that they are working at and how teacher could encourage and facilitate their learning further. In practice when assessing pupils to support their coursework, I will use quizzes and effective questioning, using traffic light system so that each answer will have a specific colour allocated to it. Whilst using this method I will ensure that students are given feedback for incorrect answers so that they could learn from them. At the same time this method is interactive and enjoyable and easier to learn from. After evaluating their performance from the tasks I will be able to see the topics which students understand and the ones which will need more focus. I think this will be an effective method to use towards student progression as it will inform them if they are correct or not. The entire method of assessment is interactive which certainly will allow students to remember the answers to their initial incorrect answers.

In practice I will also come up with the process of summative assessment where students have to hand in their coursework's, which then will be marked against a national criteria and then submitted as their final grade.

I will encourage student to hand in their draft coursework early. This will allow me to make corrections to their work and give feedback, where I'll suggest improvements and by doing so I will be able to see the level of work the students produce and I will be able to support them in their weaker areas of knowledge for example, by drawing spider diagrams or doing a checklist to gather ideas. I believe that this is a great way of evaluating student's current knowledge and then offering them the opportunity to assess their own ideas through spider diagrams. This method of assessment can also be the least effective for students to progress, as everyone is a different type of learner.

Diagnostic assessment is a very good basis of formative assessment and planning targets. This usually consists of finding pupil strengths and weaknesses. Assessment is not just about judgment in isolation for performance; it should be part of the system for reviewing, recording and reporting achievement (Armitage, Bryant, Dunnill, Renwick, Hayes, Hudson, Kent and Lawes, 2006, pg. 187).

Disadvantage of assessment is that it is often time consuming. It could lead to being too overly concerned about a pupil's progress without any necessary cause. Therefore, in assessment, it is difficult to distinguish between individuals as pupils may perform differently depending on the different ways of being assessed as I believe every child is different and individuals learn in different ways. It is very important to ensure that when assessing the students these tasks are differentiated. Another question to be raised is about assessments in examinations; how reliable examination results are as there are other things that influence the marking of papers by the examiner for example, moods (Child, 2004, pg. 509).

I also feel that in order to improve the quality of my lesson delivery and I make my lessons more interactive and rewarding, I should have ticked off the objectives met during the course of that lesson with pupils so that they could see the learning outcomes being met at the end of each lesson. I also believe that if I applied the method of norm referencing where pupil results are compared with their peers, this could have been very beneficial for pupils, so that they all could have had an idea as to what level they were working at, but at the same time ensuring not to disparage their confidence.

In summary the benefits and virtues of different forms of assessment have been discussed and I will also relate this to my own experiences in practice along with reasons as to why I will adopt certain methods. Furthermore, the pros and cons associated with each method have been discussed and now I am in a position to say that I believe assessment is a valuable tool in teaching for identifying any areas of concern, to showcase achievement and in helping the teacher to plan better.

The teacher has a responsibility to employ different methods of assessment as discussed in the report, as we know that learners have a number of learning styles i.e. auditory, visual etc and the assessment should be a reflection of this.

I am very much in favour of formative assessment, as it allows for constructive feedback and anticipations of areas of development, but I feel we also need summative assessment for pupils' to be standardised in terms of achievement. It can be argued that it's not a true reflection of understanding or learning, but society or the employment sector needs some evidence of achievement.

In conjunction both formative and summative assessment can give the learner the path way to achieve their potential and prepare them for the employment market or further study.

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