Within unit three of principles and practice of assessment, we as students were required to research the following areas: Principles of assessment, Peer and Self Assessment, Feedback and Questioning and Assessment Record Requirements.
Research was completed on the four topics to help increase understanding and background knowledge of the areas. Further examination of these topics would allow me to think about the way in which I teach my students, be able to incorporate the ideas and illustrate the process of teaching and learning using these methods.
During the research, it was intended that we explore the topics given, selecting and analysing material and using it to relate to the specialised area in which we teach.
Initially, we worked as a group to research the principles of assessment which we were then to present back to other students as a micro teaching session. Petty (2004, pg 219) suggests that group work is active and gives students '…chance to use the methods, principles and vocabulary that they are being taught.'
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Assessment is a method which measures the extent and degree of learning which has taken place within or outside of the classroom. Skills, knowledge and attitudes can be measured against a pre determined standard set by the tutor or examining body of a subject module or qualification. Dictionary.com (2009) defines assessment as '...the act of assessing; appraisal; evaluation.'
As Petty (2004) suggests, assessment serves many different purposes. It can grade the attainment of learners, help to select candidates for jobs or courses, contribute to evidence the effectiveness of a course content and tutors abilities and provide a long term goal for learners. Assessment also allows opportunity to adjust teaching to ensure all targets or criteria is being met. However, it has been argued that assessment is unreliable and inaccurate and is a poor tool of predicting a student's future performance.
There are various types of assessment methods; these include initial diagnostic, formative, summative, norm and criterion referencing. Assessment starts at the very beginning of a student's academic career. The initial or diagnostic assessment can take on many forms such as an informal chat to an entrance essay or examination. The goal is to attempt to find out as much information as possible about the student. The more information we have on the student, the more we can adapt the learning experience, to suit the learner's needs. When working with adults with learning disabilities it is crucial that a tutor tries identify the abilities of a student as soon as possible. This is so we can identify their basic literacy and numeracy and as to whether we will have to place extra staff support into the classroom to ensure an inclusive environment.
Often a student and tutor will create an Individual Learning Plan or ILP, which will identify learners needs and support they may require as well as any goals they may have for the future. Initial assessment can also help identify a student's learning style. Gravells (2008) believes that '…a key part of initial assessment is to involve your learners in assessing their own skills and knowledge.'
Formative assessment is continuous and frequent and is a tool used to inform the student and the tutor of student's progress and whether they are meeting the objectives of the course. This form of assessment provides information and feedback upon which decisions and adaptations can be made and provides students with directions for future learning. Research has shown, (Petty, 2004) that this feedback while you learn has more effect on student achievement than any other factor. It gives students an intrinsic motivation to learn rather than extrinsic, therefore doing something or learning something because they want to not because they have been told they have to. Generally the results of formative assessment do not contribute to a student's final grade but are purely for the purpose of assisting students to understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to work towards improving their overall performance. A major barrier to the effectiveness of formative assessment is the fact that the mark generated doesn't usually count towards a student's final grade and therefore students can be less motivated to put a great deal of effort into such assessment. Brown and Knight (1999) suggest that if used in an effective manner, formative assessment can help students to be more autonomous in their learning and to reflect on their performances and take responsibility for their academic growth. As a tutor, I tend to rely on formative assessment with my students; the reason for this is to alleviate any stress or nerves for the student. Due to having a student with autism, the idea of a formal summative assessment would upset that student and impact on their final grade.
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Summative assessment occurs at the end of a course or academic year. It is often achieved by the means of an examination or test which is '…designed to differentiate between candidates on the basis of the breadth and depth of their learning.' (Petty, 2004 pg 466). Summative assessment is also seen as formal testing of what has been learned in order to produce marks or grades which may be used for reports of various types. Research by the Assessment and Learning Research Synthesis Group has shown that the emphasis of formative assessment can help students to learn and be motivated to learn, whereas the use of summative assessment can have a negative impact on pupils' motivation.
Within the learning environment, norm and criterion referencing is also used. James (2002) suggests that 'Best practice in grading in higher education involves striking a balance between criterion-referencing and norm-referencing.' A norm referenced test compares student's achievements relative to other student's achievements. This is often apparent with the General Certificate in Education (GCSE). Criterion referenced test does not compare student with student but requires the student to meet a certain set of criteria or targets to be seen as competent. This can be seen in National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ). Criterion referencing emphasizes the achievements of a student against a predetermined set of standards rather than comparison to another student. Criterion referencing can provide a tutor with the information of exactly what a student has learnt; therefore identify the abilities of that student. With this information, a student can then fill in any gaps of knowledge they may have missed. Whereas norm referencing can only show a tutor how one student has performed against another.
When working with students with learning disabilities, I often rely on initial/diagnostic assessment to ensure I can provide the correct support for that student. Using formative assessment can also motivate my students, 'Most student's with learning disabilities respond favorably too seeing their academic progress charted, and this can become…a very motivational tool.' Bender, 2002, pg 116).
Another area that we researched, through individual research and peer micro teach sessions were peer and self assessment. Petty (2008) believes that 'Self assessment encourages reflection and purposeful activity towards useful goals, as well as encouraging learners to become responsible for their own learning.' Kolb (1984) proposed a four stage cycle of learning and within one of those stages was observation and reflection. This stage allows students to take a step back from the task in hand and review what they have done and the experience of it. Which then moves on to the abstract conceptualisation stage and allows students to plan how they might carry out the task differently. Whilst working with students with learning disabilities, I often use peer assessment. Behaviourist theory suggests that giving feedback whether positive or negative, will enable students to behave in a certain way. Skinner (1974) believed that a learner will repeat a desired behaviour if positive reinforcement follows. During a session with my students I often allow them to assess each others work, students are always almost honest and do not hold back their thoughts and feelings. This often motivates students to work harder or continue that particular behaviour due to the fact they get praise and can encourage self correction. On the other hand, when working with mainstream students, they may not always be honest when assessing each others, worrying in case they upset their peer or being bias because they have issues with the student they are assessing.
Feedback and questioning can play an important role in assessing our students. There are many reasons why as a tutor we would use questions, but mainly it is to assess our student's learning. Questioning allows us to check understanding and whether learning has taken place. It can also encourage participation within a classroom and allows us to draw on students experiences. Effective questioning is an assessment tool in which I use as a tutor of adults with learning disabilities, as many students cannot portray their ideas or thoughts on paper due to their lack of literacy skills. Using probing questions, either open or closed allows differentiation within my classroom and ensures an inclusive environment. Petty (2008) implies that questioning has a crucial advantage when considering student motivation in the classroom. 'Nothing motivates quite as much as the glow of satisfaction that a student gets when he or she answers a question correctly.' (Petty, 2008, pg 183). Giving rewarding feedback following this will encourage student learning and they have seen they can succeed.
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Feedback is a way of communicating information back to the student. We must ensure that when giving feedback to a student, it should be done in a positive manner which enhances, rather than damages their self-esteem. Negative feedback will often demotivate the student and make them feel as though they have failed. Internet site Brooks.ac.uk (2009) suggests that 'There is a school of thought that praise of a student's work will lead to under-performance, whereas criticism will spur them on to greater achievements. There seems to be very little evidence that such a strategy is successful in achieving its goals. While there are dangers in becoming too blasé about one's achievements, negative criticism can be highly de-motivating.' However, it is necessary that as a tutor we must point out the shortcomings of a students work to ensure they meet the criteria set, it is the manner in which we do it to ensure progression. We as a teacher should '…support the student in finding their own way of correcting problems, and should not do all the work for them. (Rogers, 2001). When giving feedback to my own student, it is essential that it is clear and specific and must not focus on too may aspects at the same time as this may confuse or upset the student. We must also ensure that feedback is delivered in a suitable area or environment so not to distress the student. A feedback session should also conclude with the student and tutor agreeing what should be done for the student to succeed.
The final area that was to be researched was the types of assessment records that which would be needed to meet organisational and external requirements. It is important that as a tutor we keep records of our learners, both personal and how they are progressing. Initial assessment records are an essential tool as this would inform us of the student's background and where the student expects the course to take him or her. Information received by these methods needs to be recorded in a way that the student, tutor, organisation and external bodies can access at any time. External bodies may need access for funding reasons. They can be stored in a portfolio for the student for ease of access by all concerned. An awarding body such as City and Guilds will monitor the teaching of a course and therefore teachers must keep records of what and how they are teaching, as well as formative and summative assessment records. This will allow a process called internal or external verification to take place to ensure quality teaching and learning is taking place. Formative assessment records will also allow teachers to fill in any gaps of knowledge that their students may have. Learning institutions will often be inspected by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), this is to promote service improvement and ensure an inclusive educational environment for all students.
The points which were researched, by group work, individual research and through peer micro teach sessions are areas that tutors need to be aware of and are imperative to successful teaching. As a tutor we need to be tuned in to a variety of issues to ensure that we meet the needs of all learners and organisations.