Apart from those imposed by the awarding bodies, it is the teacher’s responsibility to create and use fair and ethical assessment methods.The strategies that I do - and would like to - employ fall into three categories:
I refer to the results of initial assessment to inform my teaching but as I don’t currently set this type of assessment they are not included here. I am, however, going to analyse strategies from each of the above categories in relation to their validity and reliability and explain how they can be differentiated to accommodate diversity.
As Avis et al. point out, any competent teacher practices the simplest version of formative assessment automatically. Assessment should not be restricted to a summing up at the end of a lesson but a continuing process of evaluation.Informal, verbal questioning and feedback on answers are a quick, preparation-free method of establishing whether learning is taking place.They are unable to give a precise estimation of learning as they are often delivered to a random selection of the class.When opened to the entire class the knowledge of those who do not respond is not assessed.They do however differentiate well as when delivered to individuals the pace, language and complexity can be adjusted for lower level literacy students, those for whom English is a second language and those with reduced hearing.This does of course depend on the sensitivity and flexibility of the teacher.Like questioning, informal observation can build up an impression of a learner’s progress in the mind of the teacher. It has a wide scope because actions are overt and more easily captured but with questioning the analysis can go deeper and be more precise.Observation works perfectly with all types of learners as there are no barriers.If the information gleaned this way is used diagnostically then the assessment becomes formative.
Appleyard & Appleyard advocate that all adult learners should have equal opportunities to pursue their goals regardless of the success of their elementary education. As the literacy levels in my Practical Horticulture class range from Entry Level 2 to Level 3 I have been experimenting with written assessment tools .I introduced gapped hand-outs as an extension exercise for the early finishers. Instead of marking their work in isolation, in the next lesson I gave everyone else a copy of the hand-out and it became an oral revision exercise for the whole class. I read out the sentences so those who have difficulty reading could join in and the students called out the answers. Students with reduced hearing could read the hand-out and write down their answers.The early finishers were able to self assess by marking their own work and the rest of the class took part in peer learning.The lower literacy level students wrote in the missing words and I put any difficult spelling on the whiteboard for them to copy.I printed copies on coloured paper for the dyslexic students which became popular with their peers too.The students can also work in pairs or groups to even out the differences in their levels.The use of paper is the only drawback to this resource so I am experimenting with re-usable encapsulated hand-outs.Sustainability is the beauty of mini-whiteboards for short written answers, although I have found their application to be rather limited.I adapt their use to my wide range of literacy abilities by encouraging the dyslexic and low level literacy students to draw images rather than write words, which suits their creativity.
Gravells recommends embedding ICT into the teaching of adults to benefit their employment prospects and affirms that technology overcomes barriers to learning in many ways.Computers can be adapted to capture the spoken word and transfer it into text.Data recorded in the lesson on a Dictaphone can be fed straight into such computers.This is excellent support for dyslexic students and those who suffer with ME.A version which also outputs spoken words is made for blind students with a braille keyboard.90% of my class tested as visual learners so I use video and slide presentations as assessment methods. I have a plant identification presentation test which started with my Micro-teach to you, a group of Post Graduate students.It increased in size to become an ice-breaker for the initial lesson with my RHS Level 2 Theory students to assess their prior learning and now I keep it with me as an extension exercise for my Level 2 Practical class.The answers are written on laminated sheets so no paper is wasted.It provides for all levels of disability with the higher literacy levels practising the correct spelling of horticultural nomenclature and the lower levels calling out the common names.This form of assessment is ideal for students with poor hearing as they see the image then write the answer.I videoed the Level 2 Practical students in action on their ground preparation assessment day. The wrapt attention I received when I played the clips back inspired me to video their practical work regularly and use the clips as recap exercises in the next lesson.The downside of incorporating ICT into learning is that you need properly equipped classrooms but hopefully that shouldn’t be a problem for much longer.
Geoff Petty is a well known advocate of fun in the classroom as it increases interest and motivation.He says that a short session of game-playing can induce a feeling of goodwill towards the subject.Indeed my own experience of friendly competition in the classroom draws the same conclusion.When games are conducted as group activities the students are able to norm reference their own knowledge against their peers’.By working in groups the different learner levels and needs can be accommodated.Matching-word games are good for those with poor hearing and oral quizzes are suited to those with lower levels of literacy.Working individually, those with higher levels would find crosswords and written quizzes more challenging as extension exercises, and creating their own crosswords and quizzes for each other even more so.Although games that involve the participation of the whole class are stimulating they are best kept as special occasions for they require considerable planning and can be quite time-consuming.Students with social disabilities and autism may find it difficult to join in.As an assessment method, whether they capture enough information to render them formative is debatable and the opportunity for feedback is limited.However they can enliven a dry subject and produce a positive response.
Jarvis points out that in order for assessment of performance in vocational learning to be valid it must concur with up to date practice in the real world. As horticulture is a relatively slow paced industry it is possible for our awarding bodies to keep abreast with current developments from year to year.At Duchy our syllabus works towards City & Guilds accreditation.They set the criteria which the tutors reference in their summative assessment of practical evidence and they supply the checklists for the formal observation of these skills tests. The checklists become the students’ focus, being keen to be signed off, sometimes to the detriment of actually understanding what they are learning.
Whilst being observed, the students are also asked questions.This is a fair method of assessment for horticulture as its students tend to be more practical than academic.The level of knowledge and understanding displayed here can increase their pass to a merit or distinction grade.There are written tests where distinction can again be gained and students with severe reading and writing difficulties are allowed a reader and a scribe.As Armitage et al. point out, the reliability of competence based assessment depends on the integrity of the assessor and the performance of the student on one occasion.It would be more reliable if there could be two assessors and if the student could be marked on more than one occasion but this is not currently done.
As supporting evidence students are invited to produce storyboards and other visual displays.This is where differentiation can come in to force as the students are able to choose their preferred method of expression.Many students of horticulture are creative individuals and some quite introverted so project work gives them an opportunity to show how much they have learnt in their own way.For example, Reece, who has aspergers, did not manage to finish his digging task as he works extremely meticulously and tidily.Although his trench was exactly the right depth and kept very straight he would not be able to do this work for a living.He does, however excel at Latin horticultural names and producing schedules, plans and charts which his systematic brain handles brilliantly.This he is able to display in his project work.
I would like to employ Records of Achievement as assessment methods because they adapt easily for diversity as Brown and Knight would agree.They concentrate on what a student can do rather than what they can’t by demonstrating evidence of self-set-goal achievement.Portfolios are another methodology described by Brown & Knight which enable students to use a range of non-text media to demonstrate their abilities.Although traditionally employed in disciplines such as fine art I feel they would adapt well to horticulture.Their drawback is they are time consuming and the reliability of their assessment is wholly dependant on the opinion of the assessor.
I promote informal self assessment methods because I agree with Ecclestone that it produces motivation and confidence.The students know the criteria that will gain the final certificate and slavishly following procedures can be dull.I encourage them at the start of the lesson to set a personal target and at the end I ask them to reflect on their achievement.In this way they become aware of their progression and are keener to improve.Some are reluctant to participate , considering this the ‘teacher’s job’. Those with imagination have adopted the practice well.Because they are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses they can differentiate the assessment for themselves.
I’ve referred to Ecclestone again to sum up the theory behind new assessment methods being introduced. The idea is that by involving learners in the diagnosis and assessment of their learning, motivation is stimulated and higher levels of achievement attained.Care must always be taken not to lose sight of intended learning outcomes.RARPA (Recognising and Recording Progress and Achievement) helps teachers to effectively deliver personalised learning and Learner Led gives the students a say in how they would like to be taught.I don’t currently employ RARPA because it is for non-accredited courses but I hope to be able to use it in the near future and I aim to incorporate elements of Learner Led into my teaching.
I encourage my students to self assess online and agree with Clarke that this will help them take advantage of the opportunities that ICT will increasingly provide.They can measure their core curriculum in computerised skills tests.Web-based e-portfolios and blogs are increasingly being used as ways of formally recording goals and logging progress.Peer learning is a great way to overcome the barriers associated with ICT skills.
At the moment I do not oversee my students’ ILPs but I do employ this assessment strategy on myself in the form of my IDP.As Avis et al. describe, this ipsative form of assessment notes the learner’s starting point and sets individually identified goals.The students can then reflect on their learning independently of the teacher.
I leave the final word to Earl who coined the phrase ‘teaching as learning’. She believes that assessment should not be a singular entity which has to be adjusted every time it is used to try and accommodate diversity. She promotes a re-invention of assessment whereby personalised, self-referenced assessment programmes are created for each student which evolve as learning progresses.
PGCE Coursework Assignment Core Module 2Enabling Learning and Assessment Presented by Wendy Holland
The selection of valid and reliableassessment strategies is crucial to effective lesson planning.
Formative (Assessment for Learning)“… can help learning if it provides information to be used as feedbackby teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves and eachother, to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they areengaged “ (Black et al. 2003, p.2).Summative (Assessment of Learning)“… most frequently applied at the end of a topic or course, is notusually analysed for feedback, but used as an estimate of knowledgeand skills learned in readiness for further applications.”(Child2007, p.501)Learner Centred (Assessment as Learning)“… will reveal not only what students know and understand, but willalso capture how those new learnings came about… and will be usedto provoke further learning and focused instruction” (Earl & Cousins1995, p.57).
Examples of Formative Assessment Oral Gapped questions hand-outsInformal Written Mini white- Observation boards Visual tests QuizzesComputer Word based games Video Crosswords
Informal Observation and Questioning“Formative assessment activities may … be aspontaneous, small scale or even unconscious partof the teacher’s repertoire” (Avis et al. 2010, p.170)
Gapped hand-outs and mini-whiteboards“… ensure that all learners are given the best possible opportunity tofulfil their aspirations, … nobody should be excluded because ofunderdeveloped language and literacy skills” (Appleyard & Appleyard2009, p.5)
Powerpoint presentation tests and video clip recaps“ICT can encompass a wide variety of activities besides e-learning, using computers or accessing the internet. You mightdeliver … a blended approach of traditional teaching supported withaccess to technology” (Gravells 2011, p.69).
Matching word games, quizzes & crosswords“… games can produce intense involvement, and aquality of concentration no other teaching methodcan match” (Petty 2009, p.247).
Examples of Summative Assessment Examples Written testsPerformance of work Competence evidence evidence Formal Oral exam observation Projects PortfoliosSupporting Supplementary evidence Evidence Records of Schedules achievement
Examples of work and formal observation“Performance must be tested using valid assessmentmethods and endorsed by the best currentpractice.”(Jarvis 2004, p.237)
Written tests and oral questions“Although external awarding bodies may offer guidance and trainingwith respect to assessment, it is the responsibility of tutors … to assessand monitor student progress”(Armitage et al. 2007, p.143)
Technical schedules and projects“In … practical assignments it is necessary to strike a balance between theassessment of the finished product/design/result and the skills andknowledge used in achieving that result.” (Huddleston & Unwin 2007, p.185)
Records of Achievement and portfolios Plants as Design Features Methods of Growing FruitBerberis thunbergii Verbena bonariensis Trained as Arch EspalieredTaxus baccata Quercus rober Wall Trained Under Glass“Unlike many traditional forms of assessment, Records ofAchievement concentrate on what students can do rather thanwhat they cannot do.”(Brown & Knight 1994, p.94)
Examples of Learner Centred Assessment Setting own objectives RARPA Informal self Emerging assessment concepts Refection in and on action Learner Led Blogs & ILP e-portfolios Formal self Online referencing Skills tests IDP
Self assessing by target setting and reflection“Personal autonomy derives from knowledge of one’s strengths andweaknesses, learning habits and potential choices for action andprogression.” (Ecclestone 2005, p.68)
Emerging Concepts: RARPA and Learner Led“… giving people access to the outcomes and criteria … not onlyencourages students to engage more actively with assessment but alsomakes evidence of achievement more flexible and therefore lessdependent on formal structures and syllabi.” (Ecclestone 2002, p.2)
e-portfolios, blogs and skills tests“In order to take advantage of the opportunities that ICT willincreasingly provide and to continue to participate in societyrequires that users are able to enhance their skills and knowledgeand adapt to new situations.” (Clarke 2009, p.14)
Individual Learning/Development Plans“… a process in which students’ own starting points are identified andtargets set against which future progress can be assessed. The studentcan then reflect on their learning goals independently of the teacher”(Avis et al., 2010, p.170).
“Like learning and teaching, assessment is not a singularentity. It is complex and dynamic, and it deserves to be differentiated and understood in all of its intricacy.” (Earl 2003, p.13)