Assessment is an integral part of the teaching cycle as it is what converts the teaching into teaching. Without assessment, it is impossible to know if learning has taken place, and that the students have registered and comprehended the required information, skills and attitudes needed in order to pass their course of study.
Assessment is important for numerous reasons, and can help students by; diagnosing any areas of concern in order to enable relevant support to be arranged, encouraging discussions and questions, predict potential, maintain motivation, measure and validate achievement, as well as ensuring the student is learning at an adequate pace, and is on the right course programme at the right level. Assessment is also used to recognise what the student has learnt, highlighting reoccurring mistakes for further teaching/development, and finally ascertaining areas for development and what is yet to be learnt and achieved (Gravells, 2012 p110).
In teaching we use several types of assessment, including initial/diagnostic, formative and summative assessments. Initial/diagnostic assessment is conducted prior or at the very beginning of the course, and is used to identify the learner’s current level of ability and competency in reading, writing, numeracy, ICT and language skills, as well as generating an idea of personal and social skills. It is also generally during initial assessment that the learner informs the tutor of any physical, mental or learning disabilities, allowing the tutor to make reasonable adjustments or provide appropriate support and advice. ‘Initial assessment is also the point in which the tutor gains information regarding the learner’s aims during and after the course in order to identify help that may be required, including an action plan and scheme of work’ (Reece & Walker, 2008, p363).
Formative assessment is continuous and should take place throughout the entire course of study in order to ensure that learning and development is taking place. It could be formal, in the shape of essays, exams or tests, or informal, in the shape of games, activities and quizzes etc. Formative assessment will enable the tutor to see if the learners are ready for a graded assessment prior to it taking place, and highlight any areas or topics of concern that may need revisiting for full comprehension. Asking questions or creating activities and games for the learners actively gets them involved in the assessment process, it can make the learner more motivated towards the subject, as well as making the process more enjoyable and interesting for the learner.
Summative assessment is the assessment of learning that has taken place, rather than assessment for learning. It generally takes place at the end of a module/programme/course as a measure of what the students have learnt as a result of studying the course. Summative assessment is often graded and therefore can create an element of stress for the learner, which in turn could yield negative or untrue results of the learner’s abilities (Gravells, 2012, p116).
Within the education sector there are two overarching forms of assessment, these are Norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessments. The majority of school and college course end examinations will be marked using norm-referenced assessment, which is marking to ensure a small percentage of students receive distinctions and a small percentage fail, but the majority receive passes and merits. The term ‘norm-referenced assessment’ relates to the normal curve of grade distribution, ‘In terms of marking norm-referenced tests, to ensure the normal curve of distribution, scripts are awarded a “raw” score depending upon the correctness of the student response and they are then “adjusted” to ensure that the range of scores fits the curve of normal distribution. This is usually only done by the larger examination/validating bodies’ (Reece &