Learning, Curriculum, and Employability in Higher Education

By Peter Knight; Mantz Yorke | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Assessing for employability

The problem of warranting achievements

We have insisted that many of the achievements that employers value resist reliable assessment. Even if we devise and can afford to use tolerably-reliable ways of judging complex achievements, there are still difficulties in warranting achievement - in affirming that someone is fit to practise, first class or competent. One way of explaining this caution about warranting can be based on the claim that 'skills' are better understood as social practices and that their interpretation demands situationally-sensitive judgement. This raises questions about the degree to which it is wise to generalize from situationally-specific judgements - any generalization from just a few judgements would be suspect. But warrants are exactly that, generalizations from some instances of practice to future performances. They are also plainly high-stakes, which means that they must also at least be tolerably reliable. The problem for the assessment of those achievements that make for strong claims to employability is that many of them defy measurement. The more complex the achievement, the harder it is to assess it without over-simplification, on the one hand, and afford sufficient, tolerably-reliable assessments to make generalization reasonably trustworthy, on the other.


The importance of assessment for the promotion of employability

The single, strongest influence on learning is surely the assessment procedures … even the form of an examination question or essay topics set can affect how students study … It is also important to remember that entrenched attitudes which support traditional methods of teaching and assessment are hard to change.

(Entwistle, 1996:111-12)

Assessment, as Entwistle says, affects how students study; for example, encouraging them to take 'deep' approaches to tasks, thereby discouraging them from 'surface' approaches, or vice versa. Assessment identifies what is to be taken seriously and what is not. And the assessment standards, which are often expressed

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