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MOVING AHEAD WITH ASSESSMENT: FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE Keynote address presented by S.P. GOVENDER at the WCED WINELANDS EMDC Assessment Conference 11 May 2007 INTRODUCTION CONFERENCE CONTEXT: EDUCATION TRANSFORMATION & CURRICULUM REVISION Assessment: Commands attention: issue of controversy. Core business: Teaching and learning Real core business: Teaching, learning and the assessment of learners. CRUCIAL QUESTION: Where am I in the Assessment journey? Assessment: Measurement of the extent of learning by individuals. TRUE PURPOSE OF ASSESSMENT is “… not simply to measure what learners have achieved, but to help learners to learn and achieve more. Assessment which does not motivate learners to learn and tell them what they need to do in order to improve does not fulfill its educational purpose.” (Sieborger, 1998) PAST ASSESSMENT PRACTICES Basis for Basis for Further Lifelong Theoretical? Qualification? Learning? YOUR MATRIC Enrich Internationally CERTIFICATE & Comparable? Empower? Benefit Society & Build Economy? self-confidence? CRUCIAL QUESTION “Did my schooling afford me maximum opportunity to explore my potential & develop myself in relation to others & the world?” PHILOSOPHY BEHIND ASSESSMENT IN SA SCHOOLS Consider NATED 550: Judgements made? Determine a university entrance or simply get a certificate? Demands of commerce, industry and higher education institutions? How much was based on assessment standards? PHILOSOPHY BEHIND ASSESSMENT IN SA SCHOOLS Was it not an event rather than a process? Was it not a surprise rather than being transparent and continuous? Was it intended to threaten teachers and trap learners, rather than being developmental and fair? To what extent was there selfish ownership of marks with 100% being virtually unattainable for the majority? CRUCIAL QUESTION: Has my assessment practice been developmental or judgemental? RECENT THINKING AND TRENDS Teaching, learning and assessment have become an integrated process; New focus on what the learner can do in a contextualized situation; Approach to assessment: qualitative, developmental, remedial, intellectual growth, transparent, continuous; DEFINING ASSESSMENT The National Protocol for Recording and Reporting (Grades R-12) defines assessment: “Assessment is a process of collecting, analysing and interpreting information to assist teachers, parents and other stakeholders in making decisions about the progress of learners; Classroom assessment should be both informal and formal; The forms of assessment used should be appropriate to the age and the developmental level of the learners in the phase; The design of these tasks should therefore ensure that a variety of skills are assessed.” PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF ASSESSMENT POLICIES AND THEORIES satisfy the needs of not only the writers of policy, but the main client and focus of attention - the learners CONSIDER THESE SCENARIOS: Teachers award 60% as an assessment in an examination. Does this indicate 40% of work not mastered? So imagine the pilot or the heart surgeon. NEW QUALIFICATION New qualification promises: High knowledge, skills & values; Practical know-how, and Well balanced citizens able to compete in the global village. CRUCIAL QUESTION: Is assessment an end in itself or a means to an end? HOW DO WE VIEW LEARNERS? Are they perceived to be empty vessels? Are they individuals with an extensive range of experiences, ideas and knowledge? Learners really do need their teachers: Teachers have extensive subject knowledge! Some teachers abdicate their role of teacher in the classroom and act as a “facilitator”. The new thinking is to balance what should be taught and what should be discovered. EXPECTATIONS OF LEARNERS In the past this balance was weighted towards teacher dominance. Balance seems to have swung towards self discovery by learners, indicating an irrational expectancy of what learners can do. Administration and Management of learner’s portfolios: Assessments recorded by teachers of learners’ projects - assessment of parents work determined by their economic status? Crucial question: Do we as individual teachers or as institutions have a policy that addresses such realities that compromise the integrity of assessment? OUTCOMES-BASED ASSESSMENT Idea that the new curriculum discards memorization and learners should not rote learn. Paradigm shift in assessment is that memorization should not be overstressed at the expense of understanding and application of knowledge. Current assessment policy must reflect the philosophy of Outcomes-based Education: Clear focus on what the learners “know” and “can do”. Knowledge acquisition in itself is unimportant. The true value of knowledge rests on the extent to which learners can apply and demonstrate! Constantly changing world offers new ways of learning! CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT ACTIVITIES Assessment does not need to remain at a dreary, boring, dull level, but can be made exciting and challenging. E-Learning and multi-media not being utilised adequately in well resourced schools in our country. Silent orderly classroom vs dynamic, moving, constantly changing, visually stimulating learning environment. New ethos can help dismantle the negativity associated with both formal and informal assessment tasks. CRUCIAL QUESTION: Did innovation in our teaching, learning and assessment begin with the introduction of OBE in our country? TEACHER CHALLENGES Protocol on Assessment now the Protocol on Recording and Reporting Reduce the amount of work Acknowledgement - teachers stretched to the limit - demands of teachers Capture and sustain the attention of learners Enforcing discipline Diverse assessment strategies such as activities in pairs and groups, projects, oral and visual presentations, etc. TEACHER CHALLENGES Assessment Standards in the Subject Guideline documents intimidate teachers Theoretical paradigm of testing or examining every component of the subject Focus on Assessment Standards: Describe the level at which learners should demonstrate achievement of a Learning Outcome. CRUCIAL QUESTION: Is there sufficient focus on the role of Assessment Standards in directing teaching, learning & assessment? ATTITUDES TO ASSESSMENT Excuses to undermine the new assessment approach Practical side of maintaining a portfolio of work Some teachers plead ignorance of this requirement Dual set of books: Old mark book is kept side-by-side with the new record sheets Record sheets may be kept manually or electronically & form the basis of the progression/promotion schedules and the report cards sent to parents. ATTITUDES TO ASSESSMENT Practical application of assessment? Teachers overwhelmed? Challenged to construct creative ways to teach content and assess? ADVICE TO PRINCIPALS CRUCIAL QUESTION: Is assessment being adequately supervised & monitored at schools? Teacher portfolios are to be produced on request for moderation and accountability purposes. Subject Heads and Management to supervise and monitor teacher portfolios at regular intervals. ASSESSMENT FEEDBACK Acknowledge that in the public service sector, level of accountability has been increased Inadequate feedback to learners or parents and no remedial action to close gaps and address learners’. Collectively, we must take full responsibility for learner attainment. CHANGING TERMINOLOGY What is in a name? Portfolio instead of file Facilitator instead of teacher Programme of assessment versus exam time-tables Learner portfolios instead of workbooks Administrative procedures need to be followed and evidence collected for credible assessment of learners. GRAPPLING WITH NEW TERMINOLOGY Progression & promotion debate Comfortable with promotion, where there is a fixed set of criteria that must be met (Grades 9-12) Progression is far more nebulous and we struggle to understand how this judgment should be made. Some prefer clear distinctions between the terms “progression and promotion” Definition of promotion: “the progression of a learner from one grade to the next when that learner meets the minimum requirements for the achievement of outcomes in the particular grade.” CRUCIAL QUESTION: Terminology used in the theoretical documents understood and related to the known before practical application can take place? PIVOTAL ROLE OF SCHOOL ASSESSMENT COMMITTEES CRUCIAL QUESTION: Have schools established effective mechanisms for the management and administration of assessment policies and procedures? Developing school assessment policy. Recommending condonations of learners Requesting concessions for learners who experience barrier Formulation of an assessment plan per grade so that tasks/projects/tests are spread reasonably for maximum learner output Establishing internal control systems for moderation: projects / tests / examinations, etc. SHARING THE EASTERN CAPE EXPERIENCE SCHOOL SUPPORT VISITS: Provincial curriculum guideline documents have been developed and standardised not only to monitor and evaluate schools but to offer targeted intervention and support. TRAINING OF SCHOOL PRINCIPALS: Instructional leaders need clear understanding of the practical application of policies No school assessment policy can be in contradiction to departmental policies School policies governed by national and provincial education policies. CLUSTER MODERATION OF CASS: Transcend mere standardization of CASS and involves training in the practical implementation of assessment theories. SHARING THE EASTERN CAPE EXPERIENCE COMMON TESTS: Compulsory common tests / exams ensure that the curriculum is adequately covered In 2006, the Province set its own Common Exams for Grade 11. CLUSTER SUBJECT COMMITTEES: Provincial Guideline document on establishing Phase / LA / Subject Committees Practical ideas are discussed and implemented in terms of new policies. Insufficient curriculum advisors IN-SERVICE TRAINING OF TEACHERS: Provincial document on Role Functions & Responsibilities of Curriculum Advisors: Teacher Development focus Trained in areas that have been identified as gaps. CONCLUSION Assessment of learner performance speaks directly to the efficiency of curriculum implementation and the effectiveness of teaching-learning activities. Assessment plays a pivotal role in establishing uniformity, promoting standardization, ensuring quality controls, fostering quality assurance, improving the quality of teaching and learning, enhancing learner attainment. Proactively address assessment challenges: e.g. learners’ needs, teachers’ interests, introduction of NCS Section B CTA’s, NCS National compulsory Grade 11 in 2007, the new NCS National Senior Certificate in 2008! “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit!” (Aristotle) All said and done, teachers remain the custodians of society and mentors of our children. With this comes the power to shape minds and the potential to alter society. So, use your classrooms and carve your name on human hearts … you shall remain immortal.
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