Is learning an end product or process: Looking from the lens of an assessment

  • 23 Mar 2017 Dr. Ritu Dhangwal and Amit Bahl  (Product Development, MindChampion Learning Systems Limited, NIIT Nguru)

Assessment occupies a central place in the life of any student. It is becoming increasingly common for assessment to consist only of tests rather than including the process of learning which contributes to test results. The reasons for administering different types of assessment are varied. But the major obstacle to managing ongoing assessment is the need to accommodate masses of data with fewer resources. Assessment should guide learning. However in current scenario assessment refrains from the task of enunciating the link between its norms of outcome and those of the students, therefore overrules learning to become an end product, rather than a process.  This view that assessment drives learning has been advocated by many researchers in the field of learning and assessment over a longer period of time. Assessment itself should be a powerful means both for supporting learning and promoting student motivation. Therefore, improving the learning process implies improving the assessment system to be inclusive of the learning process. Whilst there is strong emphasis on summative assessment (to prove learning has occurred), Many investigations have shown that there are strong indicators for including a wide range of learning processes, feedbacks and formative assessments, which improve learning. In 1967, Michael Scriven in his work “Methodology of Evaluation” first used the terms formative and summative in the context of curriculum evaluation. The terms formative and summative refer to the purpose of assessment rather than the methods used. But now formative is accepted in practice as assessment of learning. Assessment for learning is explicitly anticipated to provide feedback on performance to improve and accelerate learning. Thus the collective data may be regarded as formative when it provides feedback on performance, however summative when the mark or grade contributes to the final outcome.  Both formative and summative assessment enables the educator to assess the process of learning as well as the end product of that process and offer feedback to students for their self-assessment and reflection. The teacher’s assessment can be reported as a statistical analysis of the responses to task construction. Where student’s self-assessment and teacher’s observation and feedback as a performance report. The washback effect from these reports alerts educators to students who are experiencing difficulty and further provides opportunities for students to improve their understanding.  As a consequence the intention is to bring in a positive washback effect which can influence pedagogy and classroom praxis. In this way connections are identified between situational contexts, the student’s experiences, knowledge and an understanding of the real world. Hence, it can be implied that assessment processes that reflect an understanding of learning and which both students and teachers find convincing and significant have been found to influence students' approaches and attitudes to assessment. Changing assessment practices is not only changing how we view learning and assessment. But also - and even more - about changing how we view the manufactured article, the end product of that process of learning, that represents versions of student’s experiences. In other words, rather than dealing with assessments of learning (summative or formative assessment), we need as educators to create conditions which enable an interrelatedness between learning and assessment, where the emphasis is on learning to learn.  When students have situational contexts for reflection and for the application of such higher level cognitive abilities such as problem solving, analysis, synthesis and application.They approach assessment tasks according to their perceptions of the task demands and of the value given to their learning experiences.    Thus, students are confronted by new ways of thinking that introduce them to the principles of meaningful task construction, their version of reality and a reflection process, which enables them to apply these principles to their own learning and to experiences from their own lives. Assessment therefore has the capacity to improve the whole of student’s learning. Assessment for accountability is increasing from multiple stakeholders (students, parents, systems, institutions) who share a common goal of improving outcomes for all students; that are designed to assure institutional conformity to specified norms move toward learning-based models which emphasize what students know and can actually do i.e., student learning outcomes. Hence there is a need to provide students with better opportunities to achieve their own learning goals in accord with agreed national learning goals rather than accepting that assessment measurement tests alone are adequate.

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