‘Assessment and feedback practices should be designed to enable students to become self-regulated learners, able to monitor and evaluate the quality and impact of their own work and that of others.’ David Nicol (2010)
Assessment is a key component of any learning program and ensures objectives are met. But also assessment drives learning and ensures motivation to learn and achieve.
The purposes of assessment are to:
- · promote learning
- · measure performance, and attainment of the stated learning outcomes;
- · determine progression;
- · provide feedback to students learning gaps
- · provide feedback to teachers learning needs and diagnose ineffective teaching.
Key to effective assessment are the linkages between outcomes, the design of assessment tasks, criteria, marking procedures and feedback - the blueprint and rubrics of education and assessment.
Assessment can be both summative and formative and recent evidence is clear that the use of formative assessment allows for deeper learning to occur and encourages the lifelong learner is the eventual outcome of adult education. Well-designed assessment allows for engagement of students and helps them direct their learning especially for those who are on self-paced and on demand learning platforms.
Assessment should allow for determination of performance, against the intended outcomes of the program. So therefore it requires a link between the learning outcomes and clear guidelines on the expected behaviour that will be assessed.
The assessment process should provide for appropriate and timely feedback. It is through feedback that an individual obtains the learning that is meaningful and ensures that the material that has been thought has been received and the objectives achieved.
The use of clearly stated rubrics is essential for assessment to be effective it is here that the student can obtain clear guidelines of the framework of the assessment and the descriptors of the grading and thereby making assessment transparent, equitable and fair.
Assessment methods should provide for a range of assessment instruments and processes to encourage the development of a range of attributes and skills. These tools must match the type of knowledge that is being assessed from the level of basic reproduction of facts like remembering to that of higher order thinking - the creation of new knowledge according to Bloom’s taxonomy.
Assessment should be reliable and valid. This is the cornerstone of any assessment. Both in terms of its content, construct and acceptance to the students and in terms of the contexts in which it is being used the assessment must be valid. Its reliability must be ensured with the use of appropriate psychometric testing that the true measures of what it is meant to measure correctly in different environments and uses.
Assessment tasks and methods should take into account, where possible, past experience/prior student feedback. This is important for the individualisation of the assessment tool to the learning needs of each and every student.
Assessment design should be responsive to students' context such as multiple curricula, different study environments and different cultural contexts. Assessment methods should provide reasonable accommodation for students with a disability. So online assessment can be in the form of written assignments, interactive activities, quizzes, collaborative assignment, portfolios, online examinations, practicals, simulations, case studies, forums, online discussions, publication of student work and presentation, Journal and reflections.
In the context of online assessment the following are some of the best practices from research in online assessment.
1. Online assessments should be aligned with the curriculum and relevant to the course learning outcomes.
2. Online assessment instructions and question wording should be clear, concise and free from ambiguity.
3. Timely and meaningful feedback should be provided. The extent and nature of this feedback should reflect the purpose of the assessment and the nature of the online assessment method.
4. Marking schemes should be fair, transparent, weighted appropriately and clearly communicated to students.
5. Online assessment tasks should be designed with accessibility in mind. Provision for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate students with special needs should be considered as should appropriate alternatives should potential adjustments prove inadequate.
6. Where appropriate, online assessment tasks should incorporate a range of question types in order to assess the breadth and depth of student knowledge.
7. Online assessments incorporating objective questions should include suitable and relevant distracters to minimise the potential for guessing.
8. Online assessment approaches should be guided by the level at which the student is studying.
9. Careful consideration should be made in relation to the time (stage) at which online assessment tasks are employed during a student’s course of study and also to the realistic time frame in which students could be expected to complete the task.
10. Online assessments should not test a student’s information technology skills or their adeptness at using a specific online assessment tool unless that is the explicit purpose of the assessment.
The advantages of online assessment include learner centeredness, encourage and self-reflection. It includes rubrics for discussion assignments and collaboration and encourages self and peer assessment. It helps to contextualise and align the learning to the learning outcomes and allows for learner input. Online assessments are reusable and efficient though initial design and deployment may be resource intensive. It allows for student input into assessment design and empowers the students in their own assessment. It also allows for timely and personalise feedback if the design ensures detail in the creation of the online feedback. The technologies allow for both self and peer assessment.
The major disadvantages of online assessment are a technical ability needed to design and deploy these assessments. As always, fear and anxiety about the reliability of the technologies will always be there. Whether plagiarism and assistance is obtained while the student is performing the online assessment and practical skill assessment may be difficult to monitor and control.
Boud, D. & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long-term learning. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 31(4), 399-413.
David Nicol 2010, Principles of good on line assessment http://www.reap.ac.uk/reap/reap07/Portals/2/CSL/feast%20of%20case%20studies/ Principles_of_good_online_assessment_design.pdf
Nicol, D., J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education 31(2), 199-216