Education is the process of impacting formal or informal knowledge, skills, beliefs or values to people through various means. In education, knowledge, skills and beliefs are imparted to people in different levels, namely pre-school, primary learning, secondary learning, and tertiary or higher learning. Other levels include vocational training that focuses on specific trades and special education programs designed for people with disabilities. Each of these learning levels has a specific syllabus that advances as a learner moves up the scale.
The major pre-requisite of moving from one level to another is through learning assessment. Assessment is a process through which empirical data is collected and used to understand the level of students mastery of the learning process (Banta). This paper seeks to explore education assessment at the university level, which falls under tertiary or higher learning. The level of assessment equally advances a learner to move up the scale. This paper will review various aspects of assessment in detail. First and foremost it will define assessment while giving a brief historic review, explain the role of assessment, the role of assessment in education and discuss assessment and grading in detail. The second part of the thesis focuses on types of assessment, assessment systems, assessment tools and the characteristics of effective assessment systems. The importance of assessment in educational progress makes it a highly significant aspect of the education system.
Education at the university level
The university level is a very significant part of the current day university. Although nurturing takes place from pre-school, at the university students are more mature and well- advanced. At the university level, students narrow down studying to a personal field-based option. Universities handle nurturing 90% of the key professions in an industrialized state. Therefore, this means that all college and university institutions should aim at giving quality education to mirror quality results in the workplace. Reforms in the provision of quality education at the University are traced to the late 20th-century period. In the United States, the body responsible for promoting reform is the Education Commission (Wilbrink).
In 1995, the Education Commission released a report on how to increase the quality of undergraduate education (Wilbrink). In the report, the commission used twelve attributes to describe what quality means at the undergraduate level. According to the report, an educational institution should create a structural culture and curriculum that values:
a) High expectations in the society:
High society expectation is about the prestige associated with attending a university and the expected outcome by society members in the professional realm.
b) Diversity in talents and learning methods:
Nurturing talent plays an important part in education. As no one talent resembles the other, an institution should provide room and facilities to promote the growth of various talents among the students.
c) Importance of placing emphasis on the early years of study:
The early years are significant because they lay the foundation of the university education experience. Most of the course work starts off light but builds to more complex studies in the final years. With a weak foundation, students are likely to struggle with grasping the complex studies.
d) Consistency in learning:
For learning to be consistent, there has to be a balance between the dissemination of instruction and duration of dissemination. Most institutions stick to using a syllabus to ensure consistency. The syllabus provides the guidelines that educational facilitators stick to and dictates the coursework that needs to be taught.
e) Production of valid experiences:
Getting knowledge itself is not enough. The students need to be able to apply the knowledge in real life situations. A good institution allows students to gain experience by incorporating it into the learning process. Examples of ways that students gain experience is through assessment, field study, visits to professionally related fields and attending professional-based workshops.
f) Continuity of acquiring skills:
Acquisition of skills should be a continuous process. Students at the university level should gain skills throughout the entire duration of being at the university. Other than getting an educational skill, students should also be able to acquire interpersonal skills at the University.
g) Integration of education with knowledge application:
Studying should integrate the process of gaining experience to the process of acquiring knowledge. Gaining experience is encouraged throughout the entire process as opposed to waiting to gain experience at the end of the study period. Integration of application to learning makes education relevant.
h) Learning as an active process:
By making learning student- centered, education becomes an active process. Students participation is the most significant part of making learning an active process. They can grasp concepts better and make their inferences regarding course work.
i) Assessment and feedback as being key processes in the learning journey:
Assessment is a powerful learning enhancing method. It is necessary for getting feedback on learning and teaching. The feedback received from the assessment process is used in important in making improvements to the education process, thereby enhancing the quality of education provision.
For smooth running of an organization, there should be a collaboration between the staff and the governing body. The two bodies should work towards promoting quality education expectations. The governing body should ensure the staff is well compensated, motivated and provide for essential services like conduction of assessment.
k) Importance of creating out-of-class contact with faculty:
A healthy in and out of class relationship should be cultivated between students and lecturers. By teachers being approachable, students can freely express their ideas or queries. Good relationships promote a good learning environment.
History of assessment
Understanding assessment can be traced back to the mid-20th century. In the 1950s colleges in the United States were becoming increasingly popular as war veterans sought to enroll to advance their education and get jobs. As the numbers grew, fresh concerns rose on the quality of graduates produced by colleges, leading to the questioning of the value of higher education by politicians and the public in general (Wilbrink). Four reports were issued that highlighted these four needs:
a) Gaining access to quality university education
b) Maintaining a reliable college curriculum
c) Increasing student participation in the education system.
d) Regaining the legacy of getting a college education.
According to the four reports, education was meant to be learner-centered with a form of feedback for learners, faculty and the institution as a whole. The feedback process was suggested as a means to improve the quality of college education. Following this, some states got funds to implement feedback programs in their institutions. The Commission on Institutions of Higher Learning introduced the rule of assessment in 1989. All institutions were required to carry out outcomes assessment. As the number of college recruits and the demand for higher learning grew, universities sought ways to improve further the quality of learning and reduce operational costs. Assessment in education became an internal force driving the need for improvement, accountability and provision of quality output in the workforce.
Also to this, an educational goal- classification system based on domains was created by educational experts (Wilbrink).The domains developed include cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain. Cognitive domain focused on intellectual capacity and capability, affective domain focused on emotions and behavior while psychomotor domain focused on physical skills.
The main purpose of these domains was to classify educational goals that would aid institutions in coming up with relevant assessment programs to cover each domain. The learning outcomes and expectations of each domain differ therefore creating an assessment program for each domain is necessary.
Classification of educational goals
The classification of education goals was discussed and implemented as early as the mid-20th century (Wilbrink). The different categories of educational goals classification currently form the foundation upon which assessment methods and systems are formulated.
a) Cognitive domain
The taxonomy of educational objectives in cognitive domain falls under six levels as demonstrated in the figure below. The levels become more complex as a learner advances up the table. Cognitive domain plays an important role in assessment at the university level because it deals with the entire education structure. Each of the levels in the cognitive domain can be used as an assessment measure to determine the success of the learning process of a student. For example, to understand the learning process, a student has to be imparted with knowledge, understand this knowledge then apply the knowledge. In case of unsuccessful application, using assessment, the facilitator can determine the root of the problem. Did the student gain enough knowledge? Was the information given too complex? Did the student understand the knowledge gained? Does the student have knowledge and understanding of the subject but wrongfully applied the concept?
Figure illustrating Blooms Taxonomy of Cognitive Domain (source: internet)
a) Affective domain
The affective domain focuses on emotions and behavior of individuals in the attainment of education goals. This structure is believed to determine the overall learning attitude and development of personal beliefs. The affective domain is relevant in studying assessment because attitude plays a key factor in determining the success of the learning process. For example, a student who has a negative attitude towards a subject is likely to not understand the subject, hence influencing overall school performance.
Figure illustrating Krathwohls affective domain taxonomy. (Source: internet)
The psychomotor domain is categorized according to the co-ordination of involuntary reflexes or responses and the different learning capabilities. Basic reflex movements lie at the lowest level while complex factors like skill and formal communication lie at the top. The psychomotor education classification goal is more effective in a curriculum that involves learning of skills or physical activity like sports involved. Psychomotor domain classification is relevant in education assessment in determining physical factors that may affect the learning or expression of different skills. For example, different students have different abilities, skills and reflexes. For effective learning, assessment has to be done on an individual level. Solutions are therefore created based on the individual differences and skills.
Figure illustrating Harrows taxonomy of psychomotor domain (source: internet)
Components of assessment
a) The formulation of statements of projected education outcomes: these are statements used to describe the purpose of education, about what students need to know, understand and the application of their knowledge after graduation.
b) Developing assessment measures: this is the process of selecting assessment measures to determine the impact of learning. Assessment measures can either be direct or indirect. Direct assessments refer to...
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