EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS AND THE CONCEPT OF ALIGNMENT

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CHAPTER 3 A NEW APPROACH TO ASSESSMENT

INTRODUCTION

Assessment is an important component in the teaching and learning process because it provides teachers with information that is significant for decision making in the classroom. According to Rahim, Venville and Chapman (2009:1) teachers from time to time make decisions about learners’ learning and development as well as the suitability and effectiveness of classroom teaching. The information gathered from assessment provides the teachers with an insight into the meanings constructed or assigned by learners of ideas or concepts that have been taught in the classroom. In this regard, the teacher is given a chance to gauge whether the idea or concept taught has been conveyed successfully to learners. As such, the link between teaching, learning and assessment can be clearly seen. Assessment is also of vital importance to learners in that the learners look at assessment results as a way of informing them about their progress and also to identify the learning areas that need to be improved. Rahim, et al (2009:1) assert that learners who receive regular feedback through assessment are better motivated to learn because they are actively involved in their own learning. Thus, feedback from assessment directs improvement of learner learning and contributes towards the motivation of learners.
This chapter takes a closer look at the concept of assessment. It starts by defining assessment before going on to explain the link between teaching, learning and assessment and the role that assessment standards play in aligning teaching, learning and assessment. Thereafter, the purpose and benefits of assessment; the teachers’ conceptions of assessment; and principles of high quality assessment practices, such as reliability, fairness, validity, discrimination, meaningfulness and contribution to learning as well as the principles of classroom assessment are discussed.

DEFINING ASSESSMENT

Based on the Latin origin of the word “assidere” which means to “sit with”, Lombard (2010:34) reasons that metaphorically speaking, the teacher is supposed to “sit with” the learner when assessing. According to him this implies that assessment is done with and for the learner and not to the learner (Lombard 2010:34).
The Department of Education’s assessment policy (Department of Education, 1998:3) defines assessment as a process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information about a learner’s achievement, as measured against nationally agreed outcomes and assessment standards for a particular phase in learning. Seen in this context, assessment can be viewed as significant in the teaching-learning process, because the teacher has to measure whether the learner has achieved what is required.
According to Sieborger and Macintosh (2004:5) assessment involves tasks, exercises, tests and examinations, set and marked for learners by teachers. They maintain that when one assesses something, one actually measures it since what is measured is that which has been learnt; that which can be remembered; that which is understood and can be applied in different environments or contexts from what has been learned. Although they assert that assessment is similar to evaluation, they accept that assessment is not however the same as evaluation. In capturing this, Sieborger and Macintosh (2004:5) state that assessment measures the extent of learning in learners while evaluation is a process whereby the effects and effectiveness of teaching can be determined. In this regard, assessment not only involves the set and marked tasks, exercises, tests and examinations but it also encompasses different ways of obtaining information and providing feedback about an individual learner’s progress (Sieborger & Macintosh, 2004:5). Therefore, assessment within an educational perspective not only measures the learner’s achievement but it also helps a learner learn and achieve more.
This brings us to the notion that assessment has many facets and many definitions in educational literature. Most of the definitions of assessment refer to the collection of information about student performance and the monitoring of students’ performance before, during or after teaching. Chase (1999:4) refers to the role of assessment as the “broad area” of monitoring students’ performances. Green and Johnson (2010:388) define assessment very succinctly as: “The variety of methods used to determine what students know and are able to do before, during and after instruction.” Verhoeven and Devos (2005:258) regard assessment as a collection and interpretation of data about the teaching-learning process in order to measure the progress of the learners or to form a basis for making decisions about the progress of the teaching-learning process. Here, assessment is seen as a process that focuses on the knowledge of the learners, on their understanding of the curriculum, their skills and on their attitudes. Badders (2007:1), on the other hand, refers to assessment as a sample taken from a larger domain of content and process skills that allows one to infer the learners’ understanding of a part of a larger domain being explored; and that this sample may entail behaviours, products, knowledge and performances. Badders (2007:1) holds the view that assessment is a continuous and an ongoing process that involves examining and observing learners’ behaviours, listening to their ideas, and developing questions that promote conceptual understanding.
Dreyer (2008:5) includes “measuring or estimating the value of something” as part of his explanation of what assessment entails, but then goes on to quote from the Delaware website, because he regards their definition as a comprehensive and descriptive one:
Assessment is the process of gathering and discussing information from multiple and diverse sources in order to develop a deep understanding of what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge as a result of their educational experiences; the process culminates when assessment results are used to improve subsequent learning.
This implies that assessment is an ongoing process in which faculty (in the present study, teachers):

  • Establish clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning
  • Ensure that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve these outcomes;
  • Systematically gather, analyse and interpret evidence to determine how well student learning matches (our) expectations;
  • Reformulate educational outcomes based on the result of their assessment (Dreyer, 2008:6)

THE LINK BETWEEN TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT

In traditional education teaching, learning and assessment were viewed as separate activities during a learning experience. One of the ways in which an outcomes-based approach impacted on education was to change this perception and to ensure that these three activities are integrated to form a powerful, concerted whole to stimulate learning (Lombard 2010:36).
Killen (2000: vii) states that there are four questions which guide decisions about planning, teaching and assessment:

  • What do we want learners to learn?
  • Why do we want learners to learn?
  • How can we best help learners to learn things?
  • How will we know when learners have learnt?

Killen’s (2000) four questions not only give guidance in respect of planning, teaching and assessment, but also explain the close link between teaching, learning and assessment. The first two questions refer to the learner, what s/he is supposed to learn and confirmation on the part of the teacher regarding the value of what the learner learns. The third question refers to delivery, instruction and how the teacher will facilitate the learners’ learning. The fourth and last question relates to assessment and how teachers will determine whether the learners have learnt what they have been taught (Blumberg 2009:93). This close link between teaching, learning and assessment is also alluded to by Siebörger and Macintosh (2002:7) when they state that the teacher helps learners to learn (by teaching them) and that assessment is one of the ways to help learners to learn.
According to Harris, Irving and Peterson (2008:2) assessment is a key process in the teaching and learning cycle because it allows stakeholders to evaluate learning and use the gathered information to improve teaching and learning. The New South Wales Department of Education and Training (2007:1), on the other hand, sees assessment as a process of identifying, gathering and interpreting information about learners’ learning. This is also supported by Brown (2004:304) when he states that assessment is an act of interpreting information about learner performance, collected through any means or practices. This demonstrates that the central purpose of assessment is to provide information on learner achievement and progress in order to set the direction for ongoing teaching and learning.
The close link between teaching, learning and assessment is clearly explained by the Carnegie Mellon University (2010): “What we want students to learn and be able to do, should guide the choice and design of the assessment.”
From the above discussion it can be concluded that assessment is an integral part of the teaching-learning process, that it is not an add-on and that it should be taken into consideration right from the planning stage of the process of a teaching-learning intervention.

WHAT ARE THE PURPOSE AND BENEFITS OF ASSESSMENT?

It is vitally important for teachers to use assessment, not only to determine whether the learners have learnt what they were supposed to learn, but also to inform and direct teaching. If a teacher utilises different assessment tools, he or she will be able to determine the teaching strategies that are effective and those that need to be refined or modified. In this context, assessment can be utilised for improvement of classroom practice, for curriculum planning and for reflecting on one’s own teaching practice (Badders, 2007:2). One of the key functions of assessment is that it is used to provide more information to learners, parents and other stakeholders. It is highly likely that teachers can defend their teaching and the amount of their learners’ learning (Brown, 2004:304), but this can only occur or happen through some demonstrable evidence gathered from observing their learners’ behaviour and performances on the assessment exercises that follow their lesson presentations. This information is a vehicle through which learners are empowered to be self-reflective and to monitor and evaluate their own progress as they develop the capacity of being self-directed learners. Badders (2007:2) states that apart from informing teaching and developing in learners the ability to direct their own learning, assessment data can also be utilised to measure learner achievement, examine the opportunity for learners to learn, and to provide the basis for evaluation of a programme. According to Brown (2004:304) the major purposes of assessment include, but are not limited to: improvement of teaching and learning; making learners responsible or accountable for their own learning; and accountability of schools and teachers. Kellough and Kellough (1999:418-419) write that there are seven most important purposes of assessment, namely to:

  • Assist learners’ learning;
  • Identify learners’ strengths and weaknesses;
  • Assess the effectiveness of a particular instructional strategy;
  • Assess and improve the effectiveness of curriculum programmes;
  • Assess and improve teaching effectiveness;
  • Provide data that assist in decision making;
  • Communicate with and involve parents.

According to Loubser (1993:190) the purpose of assessment serves four functions, i.e. to monitor learners’ progress with the purpose of adapting teaching practices for the benefit of the learners; to identify shortcomings and gaps in learners’ mastering of skills or content; to determine how well students can perform certain tasks and functions and how successful teaching and learning have been. Lombard (2010:46) refers to the following six purposes of assessment as identified by Gipps and Stobart (1993):

  • Screening: to identify learners who are in need of special help
  • Diagnosis: to identify learners’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Record-keeping: recording and safekeeping of learner achievement to assist with learner transfers
  • Feedback: to provide information about learner progress and teacher success
  • Certification: to provide a learner with a certificate, signifying that a level of competence has been achieved
  • Selection: to assist learners in their decision-making about further studies.

Airasian and Russel’s (2008:5-7) explanation of the purposes of assessment is in line with the above. They also mention placing students, providing feedback, diagnosing student problems and disabilities and summarising and grading academic learning progress as important purposes of assessment. However, they add that assessment is also carried out with the purpose of establishing and maintaining a classroom environment that supports learners’ learning.
Green and Johnson (2010:15) explain that it is important to keep the purpose of any assessment in mind, as the purpose dictates the kind (or type) of assessments that must be undertaken. Lombard (2010:49) refers to the “assessment mode” that will be determined by the assessment purpose.

TYPES OF ASSESSMENT

Lombard (2010:49) explains that if the purpose of assessment is for example to determine the entry level of learners to a new learning experience, the assessment mode or kind of assessment to be used is baseline assessment. Diagnostic assessment will be used when the purpose is to determine the possible barriers experienced by learners while authentic assessment will be used when the purpose is to determine learners’ ability to transfer and apply knowledge, skills and values in situations resembling real-life contexts. Teaching success and learner development will be determined by means of formative assessment, whereas the learning success at the end of a learning experience will be determined by means of summative assessment. Lombard (2010:49) lastly explains that if the purpose is to establish learners’ ability to produce or do (demonstrate) something,
performance assessment will be employed.
The National Curriculum Statement (Department of Education, 2003b:48) distinguishes between different kinds of assessment and methods of assessment

Baseline assessment

Baseline assessment of prior learning is assessment that occurs at the beginning of a grade or a phase to determine what learners already know. Orlich, Harder, Callahan, Trevisan and Brown (2010:323) assert that there are at least three reasons why many effective teachers use a pre-test to assess their learners’ current knowledge: First, such a test will identify learners who do not have enough prior knowledge to begin the new material. The teacher can then provide these learners with prerequisite work. Second, assessing the general level of learners’ prior knowledge helps determine where to begin instruction and what to present. Finally, scores on a valid and reliable pre-test can serve as a baseline from which to measure progress (Orlich, Harder, Callahan, Trevisan, and Brown 2010:323). It can therefore be said that baseline assessment helps teachers in their planning of learning programmes and learning activities.

Diagnostic assessment

This method of assessment is used to establish whether learners face barriers to learning and to determine the nature and causes of such barriers. In brief, it determines specific areas of learning difficulty. The purpose is to identify learners’ strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and skills – particularly what learners need to learn in designated subjects (Lombard, 2010:50). When the teacher has established these, the teacher will be able to remediate learners and adjust his or her teaching to meet each individual learner’s needs. Diagnostic assessment in its nature is used in conjunction with specialists – teachers of reading or foreign languages, special educators or counsellors and psychologists – to identify problems or to screen for problems (Orlich, et al 2010:323). That is why in most cases, diagnostic assessment is usually followed by guidance, appropriate support and intervention strategies.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 ALIGNING TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSENT
1.3 TEACHERS’ CONCEPTION OF ASSESSMENT
1.4 THE ROLE OF ASSESSMENT STANDARDS IN THE TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT PROCESS
1.5 RATIONALE OF THE STUDY
1.6 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.7 AIM AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.8 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
1.9 CLARIFICATION OF CONCEPTS
1.10 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
1.11 PROGRAMME OF STUDY
CHAPTER TWO POST-APARTHEID CURRICULUM CHANGES IN SOUTH AFRICA AND THEIR IMPACT ON TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 POST-APARTHEID EDUCATION AND CURRICULUM REFORM
2.3 OUTCOMES-BASED EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
2.4 THE INFLUENCE OF OUTCOMES-BASED EDUCATION ON TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT IN SOUTH  AFRICA
2.5 SETSWANA HOME LANGUAGE OF THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM STATEMENT IN THE FURTHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING PHASE
2.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER THREE OUTCOMES-BASED ASSESSMENT
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 DEFINING ASSESSMENT
3.3 THE LINK BETWEEN TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT
3.4 WHAT ARE THE PURPOSE AND BENEFITS OF ASSESSMENT?
3.5 TYPES OF ASSESSMENT
3.6 METHODS OF ASSESSMENT
3.7 CONTINUOUS ASSESSMENT
3.8 PRINCIPLES OF HIGH-QUALITY ASSESSMENT PRACTICES
3.9 PRINCIPLES OF CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM STATEMENT
3.10 DAILY ASSESSMENT AND PROGRAMME ASSESSMENT
3.11 ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING VERSUS ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING
3.12 THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER IN ENSURING EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENTS
3.13 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FOUR EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS AND THE CONCEPT OF ALIGNMENT
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 THE LAUNCH OF THE MODERN STANDARDS MOVEMENT
4.3 WHAT ARE STANDARDS?
4.4 THE STANDARDS MOVEMENT AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
4.5 THE RATIONALE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF STANDARDS
4.6 PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING STANDARDS
4.7 DIFFERENT KINDS OF STANDARDS
4.8 PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH STANDARDS
4.9 LEARNER UNDERSTANDING OF ASSESSMENT STANDARDS
4.10 ASSESSMENT STANDARDS IN THE NATIONAL CURRICULUM STATEMENT
4.11 THE CONCEPT OF ALIGNMENT
4.12 CONSCIOUS ALIGNMENT
4.13 ALIGNING TEACHING, LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT IN THE CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT POLICY STATEMENTS: THE FUTURE ROLE OF AIMS, GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
4.14 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER FIVE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 THE PURPOSE OF THIS RESEARCH STUDY
5.3 RESEARCH APPROACH
5.4 RESEARCH DESIGN
5.5 SAMPLING PROCEDURE
5.6 DATA COLLECTION INSTRUMENTS
5.7 DATA ANALYSIS
5.8 VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY
5.9 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
5.10 ENTRY INTO THE FIELD
5.11 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER SIX EXPLORATION OF ENGAGEMENTS WITH RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 PROFILE OF THE PARTICIPANTS AND THE SCHOOLS WHERE THEY TEACH
6.3 LESSON OBSERVATIONS
6.4 DISCUSSIONS ON OBSERVATIONS
6.5 INTERVIEWS
6.6 TEACHERS’ UNDERSTANDING OF ASSESSMENT AS IDENTIFIED FROM THE INTERVIEWS
6.7 DOCUMENT ANALYSIS
CHAPTER SEVEN SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
7.1. INTRODUCTION
7.2. SUMMARY OF THE STUDY
7.3. SYNOPSIS OF THE FINDINGS OF THE STUDY
7.4. RECOMMENDATIONS
7.5. POSSIBILITIES FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
7.6. CONCLUDING REMARKS
8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
THE ROLE OF TEACHER UNDERSTANDING IN ALIGNING ASSESSMENT WITH TEACHING AND LEARNING IN SETSWANA HOME LANGUAGE

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