Assessment matters for more reasons than most people recognize. Most see it as a means of producing a mark for a piece of work or for a learner. In fact, it has a great deal to do with enhancing learning itself. In addition, assessment matters in the context of this book because it is particularly an issue of concern in this area of reflective and experiential learning. Indeed, it has been suggested that until the assessment issues of reflective and experiential learning are solved, these cannot be easily used as forms of learning in higher education. However, the main message of this chapter is that there is no more to assessing these less usual forms of learning than to assessing any other common task, such as the writing of an essay or an examination script. This is not because there is necessarily similarity between assessment methods such as essays and journals (O'Rourke, 1998). The similarity is at the level of the application to both of a set of principles of assessment. This chapter, therefore, is an account of the basic principles of assessment as they can be applied to reflective and experiential learning.
The chapter deals with both reflective and experiential learning in tandem. However, we must recognize that the most obvious way of assessing experiential learning is to ask the learner to demonstrate the ability that the learning has concerned. We can ask a teacher to demonstrate the management of a difficult class, or a nurse to demonstrate her ability to give an injection. Much of the experiential learning in higher education and professional development involves reflective learning through reflective writing, which is the element that is assessed. In these cases there are overlaps in the assessment method. However, even for the assessment of practical activity, the same principles apply.
In this chapter, we consider first the general principles of assessment and then focus attention on specific issues that arise in the process of assessing