CBT Learning Culture: The Role of Assessment for Maintaining Quality Assurance

Prof Poh Sui Hoi, Andrew (PhD) Director, HELP Centre for Teaching and Learning (HCTL) Wisma HELP, Jalan Dungun, 50490 Kuala Lumpur Tel: 603 20992958 (DID) Fax: 603 27112331 Email: pohsh@help.edu.my Website: www@help.edu.my Introduction Assessment is an integral part of the Teaching and Learning (T & L) process. Hence when people talk about Teaching and Learning, they actually mean Teaching, Assessment and Learning (TAL). Effective Teaching must result in Learning and to ascertain that Learning has taken place, some form of assessment need to be done either informally or formally to indicate the extent learned, not learned and how learning can be further enhanced. Assessment then is not an afterthought or an appendage that can be disposed of. It is one of the vital organs to ensure that Teaching and Learning have been effective. The effectiveness of Teaching nowadays is measured not by the amount of knowledge one can pour into ‘dummies’ heads, but it is measured by the extent to which learning has taken place. In other words, effective teaching is teaching people how to learn; empowering the learner to take control of his/her own learning {Hativa (2000). Teaching is not just delivering content; teaching is a professional activity where learning can be maximized. Measuring the learning involves assessment of one form or the other which indicates the amount learned, not learned, and how learning can be enhanced. Hence Quality Assurance in T & L can be maintained when Assessment has been carried out appropriately and adequately to ascertain that learning is maximized. Assessment actually originates from the Latin word ‘ad sedere’ – meaning sitting down beside. Well, when you sit beside someone, usually you would want to communicate something to that someone. Hence assessment actually is a helping function, certainly not a threat! Assessment is innocent of all the ‘bad connotations’ associated with it. This is mainly due to the fact that assessment involves value-judgments but like all good instruments they can be subjected to misuse and abuse. Before anybody wishes to criticize assessments, they should first and foremost understand the purpose for which that assessment is designed to accomplish. For example for selection purposes where some are selected and others rejected, the assessment’s purpose is to ‘discriminate’ – to separate the sheep from the goat, so to speak. The accuracy of the assessment must of necessity in this case, to tell the user who should rightfully be selected. In the case of assessment to become a pilot, for example: the assessment must be so selective and the criteria so stringent that there is no tolerance for error, this requires nothing less than 100% certainty to qualify! We can understand why, because life and death is at stake here; hence there should not be any allowance or tolerance for anything less than 100%. Assessment of achievements in certain subject areas, etc. do not involve life and death; but here we want to ensure that the results are valid indicators of what we are assessing and we must do this as
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the curriculum and programmes and policy. a person’s result is not compared to others in the group. reproduced from Nitko (2004): Assessment results are used to make decisions about policy eg. it is the process of obtaining information that is used for making decisions about students. Selection involves making a decision to accept some and reject some. deciding on a Bilingual policy.accurately as possible which is the reliability issue to ensure Quality Assurance. For selection purposes. Some useful Definitions 2 . This assessment instrument is designed such that it could perform this function in the most valid and reliable manner. Decisions about programmes and curriculum make use of results of assessments before implementing the Gifted Education programme. for example. Here discrimination is not a ‘dirty word’ but for the decision to be made. Here. This is useful in final examinations. This is useful for coursework assessment. 2004). This is succinctly depicted by the diagram below. Decisions about students in terms of selection. namely validity and reliability of the results (Nitko. Hence. fair and accurate. the likelihood of success is enhanced by collecting and evaluating results on students’ mastery of the first language achievements. here the results of the assessment are not to discriminate people nor rank on a relative basis. the results indicate the extent of mastery of the material learned. for example. satisfying the purpose for which it was designed to do. for example. Instead. However. but to ascertain mastery of material learned. for example. there are occasions when the assessment is used not to rank people but to ascertain whether or not mastery of certain material learned has been reached or not reached. meaning comparing with others in the group. to be fair and unbiased.. Hence people and lay users should understand the purpose before criticizing and drawing any conclusions. hence the interpretation of the results is norm-referenced. in continuous assessment of the subject. for any instrument we design to measure achievement in the subject area. classifying and certification are enhanced by assessment results. placement. The importance of assessment need not be further emphasized. for certification purposes then the purpose is to discriminate and the assessment must satisfy this function adequately and accurately. it is criterion-referenced. we must satisfy these two stringent quality assurance indicators of quality. it needs to function this way.

etc. evaluation and assessment interchangeably. to assist decision-makers in choosing among several decision alternatives such that the decision arrived at would be more credible. Essentially. TEST: A task. one can make use of Tests. EVALUATION: The systematic process of collecting. his/her strengths. using questionnaires. Essentially a technique for obtaining information in some organized form. abilities and skills. measurement is the quantification of data. an instrument. Assessment begins with the analysis of the criterion and the environment in which one lives. And his/her achievement can be described in a numerical scale like a number score 10. is a standard procedure for observing. Essentially a procedure for assigning numbers (scores) to a specific characteristic of a person -. weaknesses. ASSESSMENT: The overall process of collection and evaluation of data involving inputs to. C. developed in a systematic way to collect data on certain characteristics that an individual is capable of displaying. can be described in a categorical scale like ‘excellent. a test is the instrument or a systematic procedure for collecting data on one or more characteristics of a person in either a categorical scale or numerical scale. for example. Assessment is that all inclusive term used. but there are shades of differences among them. D. transactions within and outputs from an education system. For example Math is a specific subject and a person’s Math performance or characteristic that he is capable of displaying can be shown by his/her score in a test that is systematically developed to elicit information on his/her performance in Math achievement. is the process of gathering all the related data from different sources to enable the evaluator to make an informed decision at the end of the evaluation. for example. analyzing and interpreting data to determine the worth of a programme. When the performance of the person in any characteristic is expressed as a number (quantification). etc. MEASUREMENT: The process of obtaining a numerical description of the degree to which a person possesses a particular characteristic. describing one or more characteristics of a person. Essentially. In an evaluation study. learns and works. needs. characteristics. with the aid of a numerical/categorical system. it is a measurement of the degree of achieve of the individual in that particular characteristic and this number can be compared to other numbers that students received from this systematically designed test to measure the degree of achievement in the characteristic called Math. Evaluation should end up making valued judgments. to gather all the data required to make better judgments of the results from the study. his/her achievement in this characteristic.an estimate of how much of something an individual possesses or is able to display. Evaluation then. very good or good’ or A. The important points to note here is that the test is an instrument or tool. B. Nowadays we have the conventional assessment of tests and examinations of the paper and pencil type or alternative 3 .Very often people use tests. Sometimes. or other instruments like interviewing. In other words assessment is the all-encompassing word. 54 or 95. This will be followed by some recommendations. exams. process or product. whether or not a certain programme is to be continued or modified in some way or that the programme has to be terminated.

In the case of alternative assessments. Assessments. as well as their position relative to others. Bloom’s taxonomy is used as the thinking skills framework to help in assessing all the cognitive skills but one needs other thinking skills framework also in assessing skills other than the cognitive ones. They are used to complement and supplement conventional assessments. Alternative Assessments or sometimes referred to as ‘Authentic Assessments’ refers to other ways of assessing abilities using various means: For example. projects. reflecting real life situations. alternative assessments can never produce results as valid and reliable as the conventional ones. The constructivists’ views on Education and the advent of multiple intelligences.assessments which can take the form of a given assignment to be completed in a period of time. but the stringent quality criteria of assessments in terms of validity and reliability of results need to be satisfied first. Marzano’s 4 . exams. Conventional Assessment and Alternative Assessment Conventional Assessment refers to the paper-and-pencil Tests and Exams that all of us are familiar with. One must understand that all forms of assessments are authentic. must be systematically constructed so as to arrive at results that are more valid and reliable. to enable individuals to describe themselves. The rationale for using alternative assessments then. the conventional as well as the alternative assessments. not anybody else (Integrity). one uses to gather information about performance of students in tests. assignments. However. not measured by the conventional assessments which concentrated on cognitive abilities mainly. justify the use of alternative assessments to supplement and complement results obtained by conventional procedures. Equity and Fairness. Assignments. both are important. These mainly measure cognitive abilities in the subject area. Facilities and resources provided to accomplish the assignments or tasks also need to be fairly and equally given (Equity). quizzes. three other criteria of quality also need to be taken care of. project work given individually or in groups. also to be completed in a period of time. and supply-type essay questions. assignments given as a form of evaluation of a person’s work and projects given on specific topics where certain tasks are set for students to accomplish. etc. only depends upon the purpose for which the type of assessment is designed to measure: whether for selection or for mastery. This can also be a project given. for example. This could be selection-type objectives tests. the more one can describe the performance of the students more holistically. we must use these appropriately to get the results that we can interpret properly and accurately. Again. essentially are ways and means. Hence more assessments need to be used rather than less.. so that students can be assessed more holistically. to ensure Quality. Then the questions set should not involve any form of biases (Fairness). the instruments whether for conventional or alternative assessments. These are: Integrity. Hence. is that there are indeed certain skills. either individually or in groups. Hence the more information one gathers. so as to get a more holistic picture of all the abilities that one wants the students to demonstrate as evidence of his/her accomplishments. needs to ascertain that the work is done by the assessee or person doing the work.

we need to ascertain that the best ones are selected so that this decision will ascertain that success is more likely and it would also help any country in the development of human capital. to a certain extent is compromised. the standard error of measurement is there. Critical and Creative Thinking and Decision-Making (also known as the BIG 5 in Thinking skills. One must also realize that inherent in the type of assessment one brings to the equation. Marzano’s dimensions of learning covers information processing. used for these purposes.Dimensions of Learning taxonomy is the other thinking skills framework. it will be enough to judge Quality for Higher Education. Krathwohl’s (1964) Taxonomy of the affective domain and Simpson’s (1972) Taxonomy of the psychomotor domain.. etc. The wrong choices of people selected when in fact they should be rejected involve costs to the individual as well as to the Government of the country. assessment results are used for instructional purposes where they show. Quality. There are about 50+ plus taxonomies of educational objectives or thinking skills frameworks in the world today. Hence we need to ascertain that this error remain minimal and controllable. eg. complex thinking skills. it encompasses: Deep understanding. unable to upgrade the standard of performance of those selected. Besides cognitive abilities covered by Bloom’s taxonomy. If we can use these appropriately and know how to interpret the results appropriately and adequately. depicting the important and desirable skills and values we want our students to demonstrate from schools to university. communication skills both oral and written. the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Marzano’s Dimensions of Learning are sufficient to give meaningful interpretation of all the results necessary up to the University level. Problem Solving. 5 . For purposes of interpretation of results more holistically. predominantly. personal preferences).. in terms of accuracy. appropriately and adequately. There is no necessity to further split these into Affective and Psycho-motor measures because all these are covered by the above two taxonomies. to ascertain that learning has taken place and to what extent and how students could be helped to enhance their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. Bigg’s Solo Taxonomy. etc. The reliability coefficient of the results shows this. performance measures as well as habits of the mind. Why Assess? When we ask the question WHY ASSESS? We are referring to the purpose for which the assessment is designed to measure and the following are the main purposes in broad categories: • • • • Instructional Administrative Guidance & Counseling Research Of course. These two thinking skills framework are sufficient to give a more valid and reliable estimate of almost all the desirable knowledge and skills expected of students in Higher Education. For purposes of selection to limited places. And in terms of complex thinkin g skills in Marzano’s taxonomy. Both these thinking skills framework (Bloom’s and Marzano’s) would give a more holistic coverage of the desirable outcomes that we wish our students to be able to demonstrate.

There are plenty of reasons that assessments are designed to accomplish. The best assessments should give a true picture of the person’s standing with respect to himself as well as with 6 . Assessments of all forms: Conventional as well as Alternative ones should be employed to gather sufficient data and information to help students to describe themselves more fully in the most valid and reliable manner. One has to come up with superior techniques to craft alternative assessments to assess those characteristics deem to be useful for development of human capital. indicating those desirable skills and knowledge that we want the students to demonstrate. not two but five stringent criteria of quality. we need to develop better scoring rubrics with proper criteria to assess these characteristics in the best way possible so that the results are valid and reliable. that these may not be the same as conventional measurement procedures where we mark students’ work as right or wrong. Of course. it goes without saying. The more specific purposes are as follows: • • • • • • • • • To grade or rank students To stream students To select for future courses To ascertain material learned To predict success in future work To predict success in employment To provide feedback to improve learning & teaching To motivate students & teachers To evaluate teaching and learning These are some of the more specific purposes that assessments are designed to accomplish and this list is not exhaustive. Here.The above four categories are the broad classifications of the general purposes for any form of assessments. and the problems of misinterpreting the results are also many and these would go a long way to help or not help individuals succeed in life. the conventional assessment procedures continue to do a real good job. because they must now satisfy. The problem of ‘misassessing’ are many. For the first three purposes. One should understand that alternative assessments cannot produce results as valid and reliable as the conventional assessment approaches because of inherent errors of measurement due to the subjective nature of data collection and hence alternative assessments can never replace the conventional types. Another valid point to note is that alternative assessment procedures are even more difficult to craft. so that they are more representative of the individuals’ abilities being assessed. For the rest of the specific purposes in the list. but that will be for another discussion. The justification for their use is that they open up avenues for skills and knowledge not assessed by the cognitive abilities and skills alone. then come up with really great instruments to assess these in the most valid and reliable manner. some alternative assessment procedures are necessary to complement and supplement those ascertained by the conventional approaches to give a more holistic picture of the students overall performance and abilities. These need to be well-thought through and we should be able to ascertain the characteristics to be assessed.

so that the individual. we are more facilitators than lecturers. In other words. we are teaching people how to learn and this is more challenging than just lecturing and hoping that they are able to regurgitate and reproduce what we gave them. This points out that the curriculum for Teacher-Training must incorporate a large portion to assessment and alternative assessments. to be able to function adequately as a great and effective teacher and assessor. they should be able to help students describe themselves more fully. to ensure that learning is maximize. This is one area that any intending teacher should master adequately. so that they know their strengths and weaknesses and how they can perform better each time and every time. What this means is that. As effective teachers. without which the education system may not be that great or even lamed. if designed and crafted well. they are not ‘dummies’ waiting for knowledge to be thrust into their heads! We are more interested in teaching people first and foremost. including conventional and alternative ones. mainly) and Affective and Psychomotor outcomes (Involving doing or performance. Biggs (2007)}. This is empowering the learner to take control and we will find that teaching will become more interesting and students too will find learning exciting because they are now more aware of what they know and don’t know through assessments and how to make up for improvements always. in teaching people learn. effective teacherlecturers need to prepare more. All these are desirable outcomes that a person going through the Education system should be able to demonstrate (See diagrams below). all pointing to teaching people first and foremost. Teachers should use all resources available: in terms of methodologies like active learning. If this is done well.respect to others. A basic knowledge of assessment and assessment-related matters is an essential element in all teacher-preparation courses/curriculum to produce teachers able to teach effectively with conviction and commitment. after all are designed and properly constructed instruments to gather data about a person’s abilities. the more we are able to help students describe themselves better. plan activities to excite their charges always. be exposed to and trained properly and have sufficient knowledge of this specialized area. Hence. armed with self-knowledge knows exactly what are his/her strengths and weaknesses and how to go about improving himself/herself at all times and in all places. The outcomes can be Cognitive outcomes (Thinking skills. Assessments. These need not 7 . What to assess? This. All forms of assessments are useful. to function effectively as an effective teacher. Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning process and should be treated as such. of course refers to the outcomes – the desirable outcomes that we desire and want all our students to be able to demonstrate after instruction. the more data collected. although a little more difficult than other areas. all teachers should be able to teach better and more effectively also. we are not the fountain of knowledge and as students. blended teaching. not as an appendage or an after effect. We seldom talk down instead we get the students involved in substantive conversations to maximize learning {Poh(1997). because assessment is an integral part of the instructional process. individually or in groups). so that individuals can take control of their own learning for better good. This poses a great challenge to the people at large and all teachers must of necessity.

1984) together with his team members developed this taxonomy and arranged thinking skills at six levels: Knowledge. Bloom (1963. The motto should be “if you have what it takes. In the assessment of cognitive outcomes. Comprehention. then come to Teaching” . The Dimensions of Learning is based on the premise that five types of thinking are essential to the learning process: (1) Positive attitudes 8 . not everybody can become an effective Teacher … it is one career that requires an uncommon combination of knowledge and skills to become successful.) In the case of non-cognitive outcomes which are also desirable that students and others need to also have. we use the thinking skills framework called Bloom’s Taxonomy to help us arrange the knowledge and skills to be developed in students according to some hierarchical order like Lower-order thinking skills. we use the thinking skills framework called Marzano’s Dimension of Learning which has five categories. (A more comprehensive coverage on this topic can be found in Miller. Medium-order thinking skills and Higher-order thinking skills. otherwise the damage done could be cumulative. covering the essential knowledge and skills needed for the knowledge-based economy and globalization. Nitko (2004) or any Testing and Measurement book. to the detriment and wastage of human resources. to be more creative and use ones ingenuity to ensure that learning is maximized. Application. Teaching is not just another job. only require the teacher-lecturers to exercise their brain powers a little more. Synthesis and Evaluation. affecting individuals as well as Governments “if the wrong Pegs are plugged into the wrong Holes!” They certainly cannot work effectively.involve any sophisticated equipment or facilities. In summary outcomes can be process outcomes as well as product outcomes. Analysis. Linn & Gronlund (2009). cognitive as well as affective and psychomotor outcomes depicted by the diagrams.

al (1965. However. 1984) arranged the six levels of cognitive abilities in hierarchical order. (3) thinking involved in using knowledge meaningfully and (5) productive habits of the minds. so long as there is justification for its placement. 9 . Some of the performance skills are best measured by preparing better scoring rubrics as it is ridiculous to mark these skills right or wrong.and higher-order thinking skills. Bloom. the line separating these are not distinct but blurred. there is no point arguing which category a certain skill is placed. as shown in the diagrams below: These thinking skills and performance outcomes are now commonplace as we progress to the knowledge-based economy and globalization. (Details of this can be found in ‘assessing student outcomes’ by Marzano.et. 1993). Hence. it is possible to reach a quantitative measure after a good scoring rubric is developed to measure the constructs identified. it is quite clear that there are these two distinct categories of lower. Pickering & McTighe. Althought.and perceptions about learning. Here. (2) Thinking involved in acquiring and integrating knowledge.

they cannot matched results from Conventional approaches in terms of validity and reliability. we need to craft those carefully and develop good scoring rubrics to mark the finished work. 10 . Then use these in situations for maximum effects. understand their uses: their strengths and weaknesses. employing affective and psychomotor outcomes as shown in the diagrams below: It should be realized here that no matter how well one can design and craft alternative assessment approaches. Normally. But assessments of any form also come with errors and we need to minimize the errors as much as possible to improve the validity and reliability of the results.How to assess? This refers to the different methods one can use to assess students in the proper and adequate manner. the two essential and stringent criteria of quality in the assessment results. In the case of Alternative assessments in the form os assignments and project work. we use a combination of approaches in terms of continual and end of module assessments. One must employ all resources available. Over here we shall classify these under Conventional Approaches of the paper and pencil type and Alternative approaches where performance.

Hence. but also produce and be better able to survive the knowledge-based economy and globalization through their thinking abilities that Assessments have indicated. These can be informal ones like questioning in class for quick feedback or develop in more formal ways in written forms like Tests and Exams. to reflect the real life situations also. Quality Control. on the other hand comes into play only at the end of the process where one examines the product to take into consideration of ‘marked differences’ in the scores and adjusting the scores using appropriate statistics to moderate the results. We now realized that these are not sufficient because there are indeed knowledge and skills not assessed by the conventional means only. Effective teachers and teacher-lecturers. to ascertain that learning has taken place and to what extent. etc. The teachers and teacher-lecturers need to prepare more to engage their charges (students) in Active Learning and follow-up with Blended learning to ensure that the students not only are able to regurgitate and reproduce. we need to resort to the use alternative assessment procedures in the form of assignments. to ensure Quality. if used properly. And that is Quality Assurance! In conclusion. They are of course well–versed in their respective content areas but combining content knowledge with Pedagogy and Andragogy.Conclusion Assessment is an integral part of the instructional process and should be treated thus. Assessment is part of T & L and they help use. at the same time tap on the many thinking skills not assessed by those conventional means. so that we could help our students achieve more. the teachers and teacher-lectures are in a better position to maximize learning. If Quality Assurance practices are done properly. project work. not just the content. after all the stringent quality criteria have been satisfied. 11 . one should also distinguish between Quality Assurance and Quality Control in assessment. teach people first and foremost. Quality Assurance in Assessment covers the total process from the initial development of the assessment instruments to the completion of reporting the results. It is not an appendage or after-effects but should be considered together with planning for instruction. there is no need to do any Quality Control procedures.

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