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Assessing Learning

Assessing Learning

Introduction

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Developing competence in lifelong learning is essential in enhancing the efficacy with which teachers in the lifelong learning sector impart knowledge and skills to students hence stimulating their professional and lifelong learning (Great Britain 2006). The Further Education and Skills Sector is one of the fundamental components of the UK education sector. Further Education can contribute to improvement in students’ careers (Gravells & Simpson 2010). However, teachers in the lifelong learning sector must ensure that relevant teaching practices are taken into account. Gravells and Simpson (2014) emphasise that ‘the key purpose for being a teacher is to create effective and stimulating opportunities for learning, through high-quality teaching that enables the development and progression of all students (p.4). This assertion underlines the fact that teachers should observe equality in the teaching process.  Thus, the teachers should ensure that the practices adopted enhance learning amongst students in order to strengthen their employability.

One of the practices that teachers in lifelong learning should take into consideration entails assessing the students’ performance. Tummons (2011) affirms that assessment entails testing the students’ progress.  As a teacher specialising in teaching Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS) Level 5, I am committed to enhancing the employability of students pursuing different vocational courses such as beauty, carpentry, welding, and youth work. Subsequently, I have employed assessment as one of the teaching practices. This report illustrates the application of assessment in enhancing learning amongst students pursuing a course in DTLLS, Level 5.

Analysis

The purpose of assessment in lifelong learning is multifaceted. Tummons (2011) identifies some of the core purposes of assessment to include evaluating whether learning has occurred, determining the student’s or learners’ needs, and encouraging and motivating learners.

Designing effective assessment

To improve the efficacy of assessment in stimulating learning, a comprehensive approach is adopted in designing the assessment program. In designing the assessment program, different stakeholders in the lifelong learning sector such as academic administrators and faculty members are included in designing the assessment program. The engagement of different stakeholders aids in setting broad learning outcomes or goals (Banta, Jones & Black 2009). Integration of learning outcomes in the learning process is critical in ensuring that students are focused on achieving the set targets.  In addition to the above approach, the process of planning or designing an assessment is perceived to be an institution-wide affair. To ensure that the process of assessment is effective in stimulating learning, the expected learning outcomes are used as assessing the minimum core that students are required to achieve.

The minimum core elements are evaluated by entrenching practical tasks in the learning process. Therefore, by integrating practical tasks into the teaching process, the teaching and assessment processes successfully entrench the constructivism theory, which is based on the concept of learning by doing (Ollin & Tucker 2012).  Amongst the minimum core elements that students have assessed on include literacy, communication, and numeracy. Integration of these minimum cores is critical in preparing students to be effective in dealing with the real-life situation.

Peer and self-assessment

To enhance learning, different methods of assessment that include peer and self-assessment are applied. Brown, Bull, and Pendlebury (2013) and Jarvela (2011) affirm that peer and self-assessment methods entail providing learners an opportunity to make judgement regarding their own work and that of their colleagues. The applicability of peer and self-assessment methods in assessing learning amongst students emanates from their relevance in examining the extent to which students undertaking different vocational courses learn. Peer and self-assessment methods provide an opportunity for collaboration between the teacher, individual students, and groups of students. One of the self-assessment activities applied entails learning logs or journals in which students are instructed to document their learning experience with regard to DTLLS level 5.

The rationale for integrating the learning logs is to provide students with an opportunity to identify learning gaps. The learning logs play a fundamental role in assessing the student’s capability in applying the vocational skills trained (Brown, Bull & Pendlebury 2013). Thus, peer and self-assessment methods of assessment are both summative and formative learning approaches. Through the integration of self-assessment, it is possible to understand the student’s individual learning needs.

Peer assessment in the learning process is enhanced through the incorporation of practical activities during the training program. For example, students undertaking a course in beauty therapy are provided an opportunity to apply the skills learned in real-life situations in through group-based activities. Students in other groups are subsequently provided an opportunity to evaluate their performance. By incorporating practical activities in the learning process, I have succeeded in enhancing formative learning. Tummons (2011) is of the view that ‘peer and self-assessment are effective in preparing students for real-life situations in the workplace’ (p. 31).  For example, the students may be requested to provide feedback regarding the performance of their colleagues, which is not only encouraging but also motivating (Tummons 2011).

From the feedback provided by the students, the teacher is able to model the teaching approach to integrating in order to meet the students of individual students. Therefore, the assessment process is transformed into a ‘double duty’. According to Boud and Falchikov (2007) the concept of ‘double duty’ in the assessment process entails ‘ensuring that the immediate goal for student achievement is achieved while establishing a basis for learners to undertake their own assessment in the future’ (p. 41). Jarvela (2011) emphasis that peer assessment enables the teacher to collect feedback regarding a student’s performance. The significance of feedback in enhancing the contribution of assessment in stimulating learning is underlined by Carol Dweck, who accentuates that teachers should incorporate feedback as a way of controlling the learning process by examining the students’ failure and success (Elliot & Dweck 2007). The feedback can either be suggestive of alternative, corrective or confirmative (Boud 2013).

However, in applying peer assessment, I undertake an extensive evaluation of the suggestions provided by colleagues in order to determine their relevance to the learning process. By incorporating peer and self-assessment methods, I have been able to transform the learning process into an inclusive process. This arises from the fact that the students become actively involved in the learning process.

Application of summative and formative assessment

In addition to the aforementioned assessment approaches, learning amongst students is undertaken through the integration of questioning as one of the peer assessment activities. The questioning technique is usually applied at the end of the learning program. Application of the questioning assessment activities enables the teacher to undertake summative learning.  One of the instruments integrated into undertaking summative assessment entails checklists or marking schemes (Marzano 2012). The checklists are optimally designed to assist the teacher or trainer assess the extent to which students have gained the knowledge and skills taught in the course of the program. Therefore, in designing the marking scheme or checklist, the teacher ensures that a high level of validity and reliability. The element of validity examines the degree to which the instrument used in measuring student performance is consistent across time while the element of validity assesses the degree to which the checklist evaluates the elements that are relevant to what has been taught (Gargiulo & Metcalf 2017).

Integrating the questioning technique aids in determining the extent to which students have gained skills that will enhance their future employability. This is achieved by assigning students grades in accordance with their performance. The grades are based on optimally designed evaluation criteria, which indicate the student’s level of qualification. According to Tummons (2011) employers examine job applicants’ qualifications in ascertaining their suitability for a particular job.

Apart from integrating questioning as a summative assessment approach, the questioning technique is further applied in enhancing the level of engagement in the classroom environment. Aubery and Riley (2015) emphasise that the nature of the learning environment plays a fundamental role in enhancing learning among students. Therefore, the integration of questions increases the effectiveness with which teachers and students interact.  Different types of questions, which include elaborative interrogation and general inferential questions are integrated (Marzano & Brown 2009). The efficacy of questioning in assessing learning amongst students is supported by Robert Marzano, who affirms that questioning should be integrated into enhancing formative assessment. Additionally, Paul Black and Dylan William affirm that formative assessment is critical in ensuring that assessment is applied to learning. This means that the assessment process is not only designed for the purpose of accountability but ensuring that students gain relevant skills and knowledge (Ecclestone 2010).

Robert Marzano and David Boud emphasise that apart from feedback should be integrated into the questioning process in order to provide students with a clear picture of their performance. The feedback on performance provides students insight into the areas that they should improve (Marzano 2006; Boud & Falchikov 2007).

Recording outcomes of assessment, internal and external requirements

In my career as a teacher in lifelong learning, I am committed to ensuring that the learning resources allocated by the relevant authorities are optimally utilised.  For example, in the UK, the education system is funded by taxpayers (Machin et al 2013). Thus, ensuring accountability in the teaching process is fundamental. To achieve this outcome, I ensure that the assessment of student performance is optimally recorded, which enables the relevant internal and external authorities to evaluate the level of accountability in the teaching process.

Recording of students’ performance for comparison purposes is based on two main types of tests, which include norm-referenced tests. This strategy enables internal stakeholders to compare the student’s performance in relation to that of their colleagues. Conversely, criterion-referenced tests provide internal and external stakeholders an opportunity to evaluate the student’s level of mastery with regard to a particular course (Gargiulo & Metcalf 2017). Therefore, on the basis of the recorded student performance, it is possible for internal and external stakeholders to undertake a comparative analysis of the effectiveness of further education in enhancing the student’s level of employability. Through this knowledge, the authorities in the lifelong education sector are able to determine the effectiveness of the learning system (Machin et al 2013).

Communicating assessment information

To improve the efficacy of assessment in enhancing learning, an inclusive communication approach is adopted. Inclusive communication aids in entrenching diversity and equality in communicating assessment information. Thus, the communication process takes into account the element of cultural diversity (Appleyard & Appleyard 2010). Therefore, the teacher ensures that understandable language is used in order to enhance the value of assessment to different educational professionals. Salvia, Ysseldyke, and Bolt (2010) assert that the ‘language barrier can hinder effective communication’ (p. 405). This aspect enhances inclusivity in communicating results. The teacher further ensures that the students understand any difficulties that students might experience in understanding the assessment results. By ensuring inclusivity in the communication process, constructive feedback is provided to different stakeholders, such as educational professionals, which according to Dylan William enhances learning (William 2011; Gravells & Simpson 2012).

Conclusion

The report underlines the significance of assessment in promoting the effectiveness with which students in lifelong learning acquire skills and knowledge that enhance their future employability. To enhance the value of assessment, it is imperative for teachers to consider entrenching different methods of assessment. Amongst the methods of assessment that teachers in the lifelong sector should consider include formative and summative assessment. These assessment methods are essential in assisting teachers to evaluate learning among students. The report further affirms that assessment can enhance learning through the incorporation of two main approaches, which include peer assessment and self-assessment. These methods are not only valuable in evaluating the student’s performance but also play a fundamental role in enhancing inclusivity in the learning process. Thus, students are adequately involved in the learning process. The report further underlines the significance of entrenching the concepts of communication in providing feedback on assessment, effective recording of assessment results, and integration of minimum core in designing assessment programs.  By, integrating these concepts, teachers increase the effectiveness with which assessment enhances learning amongst students. To improve lifelong learning amongst students, I am committed to pursuing long-term personal and professional development in order to enhance employability amongst students.

References

Appleyard, K & Appleyard, N 2010, Communicating with learners in the lifelong learning sector, Learning Matters, Exter.

Aubery, K & Riley, A 2015, Understanding and using educational theories, Sage, New York.

Banta, T, Jones, E & Black, K 2009, Designing effective assessment; principles and profiles of good practice, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Boud, D 2013, Enhancing learning through self-assessment, Routledge, New York.

Boud, D & Falchikov, N 2007, Rethinking assessment in higher education; learning for the longer term, Routledge, New York.

Brown, G, Bull, J & Pendlebury, M 2013, Assessing student learning in higher education, Routledge, New York.

Ecclestone, K 2010, Transforming formative assessment in lifelong learning, McGraw-Hill International UK Limited, Maidenhead.

Gargiulo, R & Metcalf, D 2017, Teaching in today’s inclusive classrooms; a universal design for learning approach, Cengage Learning, Boston.

Gravells, A & Simpson, S 2010, Planning and enabling learning in the lifelong learning sector, Learning Matters, London.

Gravells, A & Simpson, S 2012, Equality and diversity in lifelong learning sector, Sage, New York.

Gravells, A & Simpson, S 2014, The certificate in education and training, Learning Matters, London.

Great Britain 2006, The further education; raising skills, improving life chances, Norwich Stationery Office, London.

Machin, L, Hindmarch, D, Murry, S & Richardson, T 2013, A complete guide to the level 4 certificate in education and training, Critical Publishing, Northwich.

Salvia, J, Yesseldyke, J & Bolt, S 2010, Assessment in special and inclusive education, Cengage Learning, Belmont, CA.

Marzano, R 2012, Questioning sequences in the classroom, Marzano Research, London.

Marzano, R & Brown, J 2009, A handbook for the art and science of teaching, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Va.

Ollin, R & Tucker, J 2012, The vocational assessor handbook; including a guide to the QFC units for assessment and internal quality assurance, Kogan Page, London.

Tummons, J 2011, Assessing learning in the lifelong learning sector, Learning Matters, London.

Tummons, J 2012, Curriculum studies in the lifelong learning sector, Learning Matters, Exeter.

William, D 2011, Embedded formative assessment, Solution Tree Press, Bloomington.

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