25 mars 2009

What Works in Innovation and education improving Teaching and Learning for adults with basic skill needs through Formative Assessment

"Improving teaching and assessment for adults with basic literacy and numeracy skill needs is crucial to meeting lifelong learning goals for greater equity of opportunity, raising overall levels of productivity, and promoting improvements in individual well-being and social cohesion. ...

The focus on formative approaches to assessment and evaluation is motivated by very positive results found in the compulsory sector. CERI’s recent study on formative assessment in lower secondary schools found that formative assessment, when practiced systematically, promotes greater equity of student
outcomes, and builds “learning to learn” skills (OECD, 2005). In their 1998 review of the Englishlanguage literature, Black and Wiliam described the achievement gains associated with formative assessment as “among the largest ever reported for educational interventions” (Black and Wiliam, 1998). These results suggest that formative approaches merit attention in adult education, as well.

Formative assessment may be particularly appropriate for adults with basic skill needs. Instructors using formative approaches interact with learners to assess their progress and understanding, and to adjust teaching strategies to better meet identified learner needs. Teaching and learning are thus tailored more closely to the needs of diverse learners (diverse in terms of age, life experience, approaches to learning, culture, ethnicity, and so on). Formative assessment also places an explicit focus on identifying and building upon learners’ prior knowledge and skills – whether gained in formal education settings, or informal work or other settings.

The “individualisation” of learning implied by the model also holds significant promise for adults who have not performed well in prior educational experiences, yet bring a variety of life and work experiences to the learning setting. The emphasis on tracking progress toward learning goals (a criterion referenced approach to assessment), rather than comparing their progress with other learners (a norm referenced approach to assessment) may also be particularly appropriate for learners who have developed an aversion to the competitive nature of formal, “summative” tests and examinations of their capabilities. At the same time, the explicit focus on progress toward learning goals and on ensuring that teaching strategies are responsive to individual learning needs helps to maintain a focus on high quality outcomes."