What is Assessment?

Assessment entails establishing how much an individual learner has learnt, and involves learners, tutors and assessors. The assessment process can begin before a course starts and may continue after it has finished.

Learning is essentially a change in skill and/or knowledge.

Assessment is the judgement of evidence showing that learning has taken place (an act of measurement) and confirming that a learning outcome, or part of a learning outcome, has been achieved. Measuring these changes are the steps in the assessment process.

Assessment should be be:

  • • Current
  • • Comparable
  • • Consistently applied
  • • Manageable
  • • Open and transparent
  • • Reliable
  • • Rigorous
  • • Relevant to the target group
  • • Sufficient to produce enough evidence to meet the assessment criteria, and at the right expected level of attainment

The ‘blend’ of assessment methods chosen must be relevant and reflect the needs of the learner.

An assessment strategy sets out the approach to assessment.  A good assessment strategy should include a variety of assessment methods and activities appropriate to the target group and subject, such as:

Observations of naturally occurring activities e.g. practical activities, performance

  • • Simulated activities e.g. role play, simulations
  • • Discussions, ranging from unstructured informal conversations to guided professional discussions
  • • Production of diagrams, drawings, annotated photographs
  • • Structured tasks e.g. project, essay, case study, assignment, role plays and simulations
  • • Examination/test
  • • Reflective diary/journal

When authoring assessment materials, consideration must be given to ensure they are free from bias and any direct or indirect discrimination.

It is good practice for IQAs to ‘internally verify’ the proposed assessment strategy, materials, tasks and assessment methods before they are given to learners to check that they are fit for purpose and to identify if any changes/modifications are required before implementation.

Formative assessment is useful during learning to provide feedback, support learner progress towards outcomes and inform the learner and tutor/assessor of any action that needs to take place.   An example of formative assessment could be a reflective portfolio or a journal to record progress.

Summative assessment occurs at the end of a period of learning.  Summative assessment is used to evaluate learning and achievement at the conclusion of a defined period – typically at the end of a project, unit, course, term/semester, programme, or academic year.  An example of summative assessment could be a completed evidence portfolio of the learner’s work or a single assessment of selected assessment criteria (such as a test).

Informal assessment is naturally occurring, ongoing, integrated and flexible. It is varied, and could include a self-assessment checklist, role play, or unstructured discussion.

Formal assessment is structured, usually takes place in clearly stated conditions, and is commonly used for summative assessment. e.g. a set time to make a presentation or undertake a practical task.  Formal assessment could include a project, a structured/planned professional discussion, or a planned observation.

The verbs used in the assessment criteria of SFJ Awards units are very important. The evidence the learner provides needs to show that they have met the assessment criteria, so it is important that the assessor and the learner understands what the criteria expect them to do.  For example, the expectation of a learner who is describing is very different to a learner who is analysing.

It is also important to consider the ‘level of demand’ of the unit when making assessment judgements.  For example ‘evaluate’ at level 7 will be different to ‘evaluate’ at level 5.

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