The first assessment that a student faces upon joining the course is an initial assessment in the form of an interview, during this interview the student’s A level results will be checked to ensure they meet the minimum requirements of the course. This is also the ideal opportunity to ascertain why the potential student has applied for the course and what they are hoping to achieve, along with any specific additional support needs. When teaching a level 3 course it is also essential for students to have a Maths or English qualification, if one of these qualifications has not been obtained they will not be able to join the course and a lower level course will be required. The initial assessment that is used to interview students is far from perfect, there will be aspects of the student’s ability that are missed, possibly resulting in a place on the course not being offered.
The next form of assessment for students is a diagnostic assessment in which their current level of skill, knowledge, ability and understanding are assessed. This provides a base line for each learner that will demonstrate their strengths and weakness within the subject, highlighting gaps in their understanding and allowing teaching to be targeted to specific required areas. This assessment may not provide sufficiently accurate results to base teaching upon, for example, I recently had a group that had studied introduction to Java programming two years prior. After an in-depth discussion with all the students they appeared as if they had retained the information well, meaning several of the early lessons could be skipped in favour of more complex material. After a practical diagnostic assessment, it became clear that the students had retained the theory but not the practical application.
During teaching I am continuously checking learning in the form of formative assessment, the two primary methods I use are observations and discussions. Using observations as an informal performance monitoring method of tasks is excellent for gauging how much information students have retained. Observations clearly show how well students are able to complete practical tasks. There are negatives to observations, many students will become nervous when I am observing their work and may not perform at their highest level. Another formative assessment method is discussions, which allow students to talk about a specific subject with varying degrees of freedom. A discussion requires careful management to ensure the conversation remains on topic and all students are involved, this can be a major issue when using discussion as an assessment method as shy students will do their best to remain silent. Discussions suit learners with aural learning preference and can also be used to support learners with visual impairment
At the end of each semester there is a formal summative assessment that goes towards the students’ final grade. This summative assessment is in the form of an exam, it is a formal activity that must be completed within a set time period, the activity is normally written but oral examinations are also common. This summative assessment will motivate many students who perform well in exam conditions, however, many learners will be anxious and may perform worse than if the conditions had been less formal. There are many negatives to exams, such as some students will only learn enough to pass the exam, limiting their potential. Many exams only test a students’ memory, with those students who can recite information quickly and easily performing best.
When I am exam invigilator I provide additional time for students with dyslexia, the exam papers are also available in different colours and coloured overlays are available for students if required. The same exam paper is also available in a larger font to assist students with visual impairment and a digital copy is provided in order to be used with computer screen readers for students with severe visual impairment.