Basics of Assessment


What should be the purpose of assessment? By Choki Wangchuk Assessment is the engine that moves us forward. Assessment should be designed to help learners, which includes students and teachers to move forward. Assessment should help us figure out what our next plan of action needs to be and what level of input is needed from us to progressively take our learning to greater heights and actualize our potential. For most, assessment refers to testing learners on what they do not know. It is important that we change this design and assess learners on what they do know.

How has assessment tools/techniques changed over time?

What is the future of assessment?

Before we talk about the tools/techniques of assessment, we need to discuss the purpose of assessment because the design is embedded in the purpose. Whenever we think about assessment, we need to start from the premise of ‘why’ (purpose). Why do we need assessment? The ‘how’ (design) part will then emerge from the ‘why’. Earlier, the end product of learning and assessment was deemed to be content. Now, with content and information becoming readily available, contents are simply tools to achieve the end result, which are skills, processes and watermarks. That is why the design of assessment needs to empower learners to assess themselves, in addition to offering a platform for external evaluators to gauge learners. Instead of assessing learners on what they don’t know, the design should provide an avenue for learners to continually better themselves. Contextualization is also very important in assessment. That is why the use of the internet during examinations may be permissible in some situations and not in others. But at the same time, we need to realize that tools on the net are very powerful and can be used to design assessment of great quality that is intended to bring out the best in learners. The concept of ‘plagiarism’ can have far-reaching lessons and play a huge part in learners taking ownership and understanding their strengths and shortcomings.

What should learning be about?

Like assessment, when we think about learning, we need to focus on the ‘why’ (purpose). Why are we learning? Learning is the process of actualizing one’s potential (goal) through acquisition of watermarks, processes and skills. But we need to realize that a huge part of this process is dependent on learners being responsible for themselves. Effective learning cannot take place if we fail to empower the learners to take ownership of their own learning and of their own paths. That is why the concept of learners preparing their own individual roadmaps is so powerful. There is another important aspect of learning. We should realize that one of the bitter facts of life is that it is not always fair. A spark example of how life is unjust is the random and unfair distribution of illnesses – no matter how rich, intelligent or kind a person is he is not immune to contracting a life-threatening illness. Also, from the Buddhist perspective, we understand that suffering is a part of life and no person is immune to it. What learning should do is prepare us to face these times when things do not go right; learning should equip us to deal with storms in our lives and remain resilient in the harshest of situations. Another significant aspect of learning (and assessment) is changing our mindset. We need to always operate from the premise that students are putting their best foot forward. For example, assume that they are telling the truth if they have not done anything for us to think otherwise. When we operate from this mindset, we are able to give ownership to students for their own growth. The design of learning and assessment should not be based on a few number of learners who fail to take ownership or put their best foot forward; it should not be a mechanism to reprimand learners by emphasizing what they do not know. Instead, the design should continually empower learners to move towards the best versions of themselves.

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