Redesigning Assessment Practices in Higher Education

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Redesigning Assessment for Holistic Learning: A quick guide for higher education, Edited by Fauza Ab Ghaffar and Farrah Dina Yusop, Published by University of Malaya and Ministry of Education Malaysia, 2018, ISBN (eBook): 978-967-12151-5-9

Assessment is an integral part of any teaching-learning process or instructional methods. It is the engine which drives students’ effective learning. In higher education, assessment plays a vital role as it determines whether or not the objectives of higher education are being met. Assessment affects decisions about grades, placement, advancement, instructional needs, curriculum, and, in some cases, funding. Assessment instigates the teachers/instructors to ask these tough but crucial questions: 1. Are they teaching what they think they are teaching? 2. Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning? 3. If not, what are the teachers/instructors doing about it? 4. Is there a way to teach the subject better, thereby promoting better learning? Well-designed assessment can encourage active learning especially when the assessment delivery is innovative and engaging. Peer & self-assessment, for instance, can foster a number of skills, such as reflection, critical thinking and self-awareness – as well as giving students insight into the assessment process. Hence, one of the common purposes of assessment should be making sure not only that students learn what is important, but that their learning is of appropriate scope, depth, and rigor.

University Students today are different in so many ways – they have diverse socio-economic backgrounds and their dreams & aspirations are also varied from individual to individual. However, they will soon graduate and most of them are likely to enter the working world. Hence, it is very important for the educational planners and practitioners to understand the current employers' expectation towards graduates and latest assessment methods being used to measure potential employees' strengths and weaknesses. The emphasis on producing more creatively, critically, and innovatively thinking graduates would be better realized, not just for the sake of all stakeholders, but also for potential employers who are demanding quality graduates. Innovative alternative assessment methods, thus, are required for evaluating students’ learning outcomes. The book “Redesigning Assessment for Holistic Learning: A quick guide for higher education” provides an overview of five categories of assessments namely peer and self-assessment, group-based assessment, performance-based assessment, portfolio and technology-based assessment. It also documents academic works, in the form of short case studies, in researching and practicing alternative assessments in their unique contexts to provide readers with ease of access and better understanding on application of alternative and innovative assessment.

The publication is the compilation of alternative assessment works of academics, researchers and practitioners in higher education from around the world who participated and presented their research papers in the ‘Redesigning Assessment for Holistic Learning (RAHoLE) Conference 2017’, organized by Academic Enhancement and Leadership Development Centre (ADeC), University of Malaya, in collaboration with Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education. The book begins with an introductory chapter which explores the concept of alternative assessment. Alternative assessment, also called authentic or comprehensive assessment, differs from the traditional standardized testing requirements as it engages students to perform some tasks that usually mimic real-life situations. By applying alternative assessments, thus, teachers are able to observe students’ individual strengths and skills, and use the information to better design their teaching-learning approaches. Chapter-2 discusses about peer and self-assessment which is a highly student-centered approach to assessment. Peer assessment, as explored in this book, refers to formative assessment practices in which students provide feedback on other students’ work, often with ideas and strategies for improvement. This type of assessment engages students in activities such as: highlighting positive aspects of their peers’ learning; noting areas for improvement in their peers’ work; and giving constructive comments on how their peers’ may improve their work. Self-assessment, on the other hand, is a form of formative assessment that engages students’ own ability to reflect on the learning process, judge their progress and take action on feedback from peers and instructors. It encourages students to assess their own learning, monitor their own progress, and seek peer and instructor feedback.

The third chapter of the book explores group-based assessment which is useful when considering the need to assess team work or collaborative skill among group members. Through this method, students are able to develop both communication and interpersonal skills needed for preparing themselves for work life. The collaborative skill required here includes the level of involvement, communication, leadership, quality of contribution among peers, negotiation skill, and ability to influence others. Chapter-4 focuses on the performance-based assessment which is a form of evaluation technique that moves away from the traditional paper-and-pencil assessment and allows students to apply their knowledge in a real-world context. This method is based on clearly defined tasks that the students need to perform in a context that imitates the real workplace. The task must be able to elicit the students’ knowledge, skills, attributes or attitudes. The next chapter of the book examines the portfolio-based assessment which is a collection of purposeful, cumulative and progressive learner’s work: digital or non-digital, over a period of time through flexible learning (formal, informal and non-formal learning) by reflecting and ensuring that learning has taken place.

Chapter-6 explores technology-based assessment which is an adaptation of online and technology-based testing that is engaging, interactive, and better reflections of their daily life. In brief, this type of assessment is to incorporate electronic systems and software in formal education to assess and evaluate the progress of students. This method provides opportunity for the young people to take on new participatory and collaborative roles in learning online and outside the classroom. However, there are several challenges in implementing technology-based assessments (i.e. internet access, competency of the educator, cost management and device compatibility) which call for proper initiatives to overcome. Designing assessment to facilitate holistic learning among students requires critical thinking, creativity and effort on the part of instructors. In this regard, the five different types of assessment methods along with the 37 short case studies featured in this well-documented publication are truly precious and invaluable source of information that will enable other academics, scholars, researchers and practitioners to reflect on, and hopefully inspire the process of redesigning assessment practices for improved and holistic learning.

The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: smrayhanulislam@hotmail.com

  • A quick guide for higher education
  • Redesigning Assessment for Holistic Learning:
  • Redesigning Assessment Practices in Higher Education

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