A dialogical approach to developing professional competence in assessment

Lorenzi, Francesca and Rami, Justin (2012) A dialogical approach to developing professional competence in assessment. In: Towards Transformative Education .A multidisciplinary perspective on research and practice in Bulgaria and Ireland. Sofia University Press.


Improving the students learning experience is closely connected with the promotion an implementation of an assessment strategy whose effectiveness relies on the quality of the formative aspect. Assessment can promote or hinder learning and it is therefore a powerful force to be reckoned within Education. The literature on assessment makes it quite clear that assessment shapes and drives learning in powerful, though not always helpful, ways (Ramsden, 1997).If we assume that assessment should maximise the opportunities for those assessed to learn and develop, the tendency to reduce assessment purely to a classification device should be counteracted. The demonstration of knowledge should reflect deeper forms of learning rather that regurgitation and parroting of undigested information. Furthermore traditional forms of assessment such as essays and end of term examinations, -which are still predominantly used in higher education in Ireland as the sole assessment methods- while they may be valid and reliable methods for collecting evidence of acquisition of theoretical knowledge, they rarely afford students the opportunity to apply knowledge to key professional scenarios. Recent studies (Hyatt, 2005; Juwah & al., 2004; Bryan & Clegg; 2006; (Swinthenby, Brown, Glover, Mills, Stevens & Hughes, 2005; Nicol, 2010; Torrance & Prior 2001) have advocated the encouragement of dialogue around learning and assessment as a means to enhance the formative aspect of assessment. Pedagogical dialogue and formative assessment share common principles such as the emphasis on the process (MacDonald, 1991); the need for negotiation of meaning and shared understanding of assessment criteria (Boud, 1992)(Chanok 2000)(Harrington & Elander 2003; Harrington & al. 2005) (Sambell & McDowell 1998) (Higgins Hatley& Skelton, 2001; (Norton, 2004; Price & Rust, 1999; O’Donovan, Price & Rust 2000; Rust, Price & O’Donovan, 2003) and the development of reciprocal commitment between assessors and assesses (Hyland 1998; Taras, 2001). This chapter describes the introduction of an assessment portfolio for module “Curriculum Assessment” informed by the above principles. The key outcomes from the three implementation and evaluation phases of the portfolio suggest the format adopted promoted a shift of emphasis from assessment product to assessment process, the development of a shared understanding of assessment criteria, the establishment of a mutual relationship between assessors and assesses based on commitment and trust and heightened students and teachers’ self-awareness both in personal (efficacy) and professional (competence) terms. The research also highlights how multiple voices within the reflective evaluation process can contribute significantly to the restructuring and development of the future curriculum and assessment method that closely meets the need of learners.Key words: pedagogical dialogue, shared understanding, constructivist approaches to assessment, formative assessment, formative feedback

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