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PTLLS Adult Education: Principles of Assessment in Lifelong Learning

Updated on January 16, 2015

The assessment is a very important stage of teaching and there are few steps a teacher needs to follow in order to assess their learners. As Ann Gravells (2010) states:

All assessments, whether produced by yourself or others, should be valid and reliable. Validity will ensure you are assessing what is meant to be assessed and reliability will ensure that if the assessment was used again with a similar group of students, you would receive similar results. Most assessments will be internally and/or externally quality assured to ensure fairness and consistency, as well as validity and reliability. (p. 100)

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Assessment Circle

Following the assessment cycle:

  • the first step is the initial assessment where a teacher assess the learners previous knowledge about the subject and will try to understand their learning styles;
  • the second step is the assessment planning where the teacher will start planning assessment activities and set dates for assessment;
  • the following step is where assessment activities take place so the teacher will have to ask questions, observe and give assignments;
  • the following step is the assessment decision and feedback where a teacher has to make a judgment whether the learners are successful or not; then we have the final step that is the review of learners progress where the teacher and the learners will have the chance to discuss issues and amend them if necessary.

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Types of Assessment

We can also divide the types of assessment in 3 big groups:

  • initial assessment,
  • formative assessment,
  • summative assessment.

The initial assessment takes place before the course starts, during the induction, when the teacher first meets the learners. This type of assessment is very important because as the teacher has to assess the learner’s needs, they also need to assess their starting point in order to plan the course and meet the learner’s needs. At this stage the teacher will base the assessment on the information they have already have (CV, application form) and they can also take advantage of the induction to ask open questions about their needs, their learning styles or anything else. The formative assessment takes place continually during the course. The teacher will observe the learners progress, will ask questions and organise activities to make sure active learning is taking place. The summative assessment takes place at the end of the course and it can be a final exam, an essay, a project or anything that will demonstrate what the learners have achieved during the course.

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What's your opinion?

What assessment method do you think is more effective?

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Formal and Informal Assessment

In these 3 stages the assessment can be formal or informal and a teacher can use a lot of different methods to assess their learners. As formal assessment we can list: essays, exams, projects, professional discussions and tests. Examples of informal assessment are: group discussions, questions and answers, peer assessment, group activities, self assessment. Asking open questions is the quickest and easiest example of informal assessment and it’s also very effective as formative assessment because allow the teacher to verify step by step if the learning is taking place, at the same time it can be intimidating for some learners. Observation is also a good way to keep track of the learners progress and needs. This informal method can be very useful in lifelong learning sector as it is not invasive. Asking open questions can scare some shy learners and can make them lose confidence if they make a mistake; observation instead allow the learners to be independent and even make mistakes and correct them. Having a group discussion is also a great way for a teacher to assess their learners progress. This method allow the learners to feel free and give their own opinion but on the other hand shy students may not participate and more confident students may take over making feel the others less confident. The most common formal method of assessment is to give the learners assignments and essays to write. This method is useful for academic subjects and it’s useful because in the mean time it also checks the learner’s language and literacy skills but at the same time, for the teacher can be very time consuming to read and mark all the essays in their class and plagiarism can be an issue in some cases.

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Peer Assessment and Self Assessment

Two other great assessment methods used in lifelong learning are peer assessment and self assessment. Peer assessment involves learners assessing each others; self assessment is a learner assessing their own progress. These methods are very effective in lifelong learning as they promote interaction and involvement (peer assessment) and reflection and personal responsibility (self assessment). Thanks to peer and self assessment, learners will get to fully understand the assessment process and criteria and they will pay more attention during activities such as peer presentation as they need to give them feedback. On the other hand these methods are not objectives as learners may be subjective with their decision and the feedback also needs to be confirmed by the teacher in case they weren’t right. Also some learners can be anxious and not have the confidence to give direct feedback. In the same way for self assessment, this method of assessment needs to be confirmed by the teacher as the learner can have a different perception of their own achievement.

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