|New Perspectives on Assessment - Studies No. 4 (UNESCO, 1995, 50 p.)|
The priority in assessment in the past - whether in the classroom or in large-scale public examinations - has been for forms which compared individuals with each other. In vocational education, however, assessment needs to be thought of not as a comparison between individuals, but as the process of collecting evidence and making judgments on the extent and nature of progress towards the performance requirements set out in a standard, or a learning outcome (Hagar, Athanasou and Gonczi 1994). Despite frequent claims, this has rarely been the case.
Particular problems have been:
· assessment of students on those matters which it is easy to assess, leading to an over-emphasis on memory and lower-level skills
· assessment encouraging students to focus on those topics which are assessed at the expense of those which are not
· students giving precedence to graded assessment tasks over those which are ungraded
· students adopting undesirable approaches to learning influenced by the nature of assessment tasks
· students retaining fundamental misconceptions about key concepts in the subjects they have passed, despite performing well in examinations
· successful students seeking cues from teachers to enable them to identify what is important for formal assessment purposes, and consequently ignoring important but unassessed material.
As a result, existing assessment approaches can have quite the opposite effects to those desired. Fortunately, the issue of the links between competence, learning and assessment has now come to prominence, and it is possible to look afresh at ways in which assessment can fulfil two necessary requirements: that it measures competence, and that it has a beneficial effect on the learning process.