Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

A Model for Assessment: Integrating External Monitoring with Classroom-Based Practice

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

A Model for Assessment: Integrating External Monitoring with Classroom-Based Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

The aim of assessment has altered over the centuries from being an instrument only of discrimination and selection to being the means of supporting the potential development of all learners (Gipps, 1994; Black, 1998). The philosophy underpinning the second aim is that all individuals, personally and collectively, make a contribution to society by expressing their individual qualities, and through this contribution fulfil their own and some of their community's needs.

The standards movement in the late 1980s grew from the frustration of the fragmented schooling system in the United States and the desire to engage learners in diverse educational experiences (Wolk, 2012). This desire precipitated a change in educational focus from the ranking of students to the requirement that each student be educated to their potential. It was hoped through stipulating clear standards, providing the opportunity to learn and then assessing whether these standards had been attained, that the quality of education would be improved.

Many hold the belief that assessment embodies great potential for positive change in schools (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Schafer, 2002; Stiggins, 2002; Wiliam, 2009; Matters, 2009). However, where the policy makers and professional educators do not understand the proper use of assessment, it is possible that the 'assessment instruments and procedures that [have been] created for public accountability are doing more harm than good for certain students - t h e y are causing students to learn less, not more' (Stiggins, 2002:19).

For assessment to live up to its promise, we need to create a productive assessment environment where the emphasis is no longer on accountability in the sense of reward or punishment, but on the central role of assessment to alert the teacher, the learners themselves, the district officials and provincial departments to areas of need. In order to achieve this environment that is conducive to learning, the essential requirement for the assessment programme is to inform instruction.

Here we distinguish, with Schafer (2002), between curriculum and instruction. We note that the curriculum, the set of standards ideally constructed by a committee of experienced and expert teachers does not of itself educate the students. It is through instruction that the learner capacities are developed. The teacher therefore has to interpret the curriculum statements into instructional components through which learners gain proficiency. Schafer (2002) makes the distinction between summative assessment, which is the actualisation of the curriculum (for accountability objectives), and formative assessment which plays a central role in instruction by iterative feedback and informed adjustments. Assessment products and processes of high quality are demanded for both these types of assessment. They each perform specific functions at their respective sites, namely affirmation that the curriculum requirement has been met in the case of summative assessment, and that instruction has been informed and adapted as a result of formative assessment.

For assessment to perform its critical role in education, there is a prior requirement of a model of knowledge development (curriculum for the particular subject domain) and of cognitive development (understanding how learners progress to higher levels of proficiency) (Black, 1998; Long, 2011). This curriculum knowledge has to be made explicit to teachers in the form of curriculum statements of assessment standards. When external assessment instruments and test items, on which their students have been tested, are withheld, teachers need to be sure that their knowledge of the curriculum content domain is adequate or complete when compared with the 'actualised content and performance standards' envisaged by the authorities (Schafer, 2002: 88). A further critical requirement is to articulate classroom assessment products with external assessment instruments primarily for the purpose of informing teachers about the external assessments to which the schools and teachers may be held accountable. …

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