By 'assessment' we mean the process of establishing what has been learned, or more narrowly, the extent to which learners have learned what they were supposed to. A difficulty with the narrow view, which should be apparent at once from the discussions of the foregoing chapters, is that, in relation to complex sustainable development issues, it may be difficult to pre-specify with any precision and/or confidence what learners should learn. We shall return to this. First, however, it is necessary to distinguish 'assessment' from 'evaluation'.
In essence, if assessment has a learner-learning focus, evaluation has a course or programme focus and is concerned with the measurement of effectiveness or quality. This means that assessment outcomes should be expected to feature as part of evaluation reports. One indicator of the quality of any intervention intended to result in learning is how well the pupils, students or trainees did. However, it is clearly possible that, for example, a course in which every student obtains an A++ grade has been pitched too low. Similarly, if every student on a programme fails one might want to ask questions of the tutors before necessarily blaming the students themselves. Assessment is concerned with the learning that has taken place; evaluation is concerned with that too, and also with, for example, course design and delivery, instructional materials used, timetabling, record-keeping, quality and availability of facilities and a host of other factors, contextual and other.
We have distinguished environmental learning, which takes place within the frameworks provided by institutions, practices and literacies, from environmental meta-learning, which crosses such boundaries. In Western countries, as a general rule, meta-learning becomes less common and the influence of institutions, practices and literacies through subject disciplines more pronounced, as the learner advances through formal education, further and higher education and lifelong learning in the adult world.
Before exploring the implications of this statement we should say that it is very much only a general rule and is most applicable to developed countries. There are plenty of examples of poorer countries in which primary education, where it exists at