Assessment For Learning and How it May Influence the Future of Learnin
Mar 12, 2010 Classroom Materials 2667 Views
Assessment is one of the most debated topics in education. Opinions differ as to what should be the purpose of such assessments and it is this where most contention arises. Traditionally the emphasis has been on summative assessment, but this is now changing and formative assessment is now viewed by many as far more desirable.
Summative assessment can be defined as "assessment of learning". The purpose here is to determine if a student has reached a certain standard and to confirm what they have learnt. It is done at the end of an activity and will most often involve a test after which marks will be awarded. The grade that has been given allows the student to see where they are ranked in the class. Some summative assessments allow students and teachers see where they stand in relation to national standards.
Summative assessment has received a lot of criticism over the years and is viewed as having many deficiencies. The biggest failing with this system is that it doesn't really tell students what they are doing wrong or how they can improve; this assessment is conducted after the topic has been covered. Another big criticism of summative assessment is that it doesn't actually provide much information about how well a student has mastered a subject as it can only test in a simplistic way. The student is focused on achieving the grades rather than mastering the subject; the teacher is focused on creating and making tests.
Assessment for learning aims to remedy the deficiencies of the summative approach. Here the purpose of any assessment is formative; this means it is an aid to help the student learn. Unlike the formative approach this assessment is done at the same time as the learning is taking place; it can direct the work of the teacher and student. It is focused on the individual and the purpose is to help them master the subject. The emphasis on ranking students is removed and so is the competition for marks.
Assessment for learning means that the teacher is able to adjust their teaching strategies to meet conditions on the ground. They can constantly reflect on what is working and what isn't and change things to fit the dynamics of the classroom. The teacher can first assess before introducing a new subject and then build on what the students already know.
There is now quite a bit of evidence to support the use of formative assessment in the classroom. Research has shown that it is the students who previously performed poorly who seem to be gaining the most benefit; the majority are showing increased mastery of the subjects they are learning. Another exciting outcome of formative assessment is that it seems to improve the individual's metacognition ability; this means that they are better to take a lot of control over their own learning.
Assessment for learning does seem to offer great benefits for the students and this is why it is now being adopted by teachers across the UK. Hopefully this will mean more successful students leaving school with the skills and knowledge that our society needs. It is also hoped that this approach will instill a love of learning that will stay with the student for the rest of their life.