Strengths and Limitations to Assessment Methods
When it comes to the different assessment methods you need to know the strengths and limitations. This is so you can choose the right assessment method to use with your learner. Especially if your learner has additional needs. Like English as a second language. You will need to choose the correct one so each learner has an equal opportunity. Let’s have a quick recap of the different assessment methods and then we can get into their strengths and limitations.
When it comes to assessment methods, you’ll need to use a variety of them to assess your learners. So choosing the right one is important! There are a number of assessment methods to choose from, when working as an NVQ Assessor.
- Witness Testimony
- Work Products
So what are their strengths and limitations? We’re going to go over some of these to show their strengths and weaknesses.
This is observing your learners perform a skill. This could be in the workplace or learning environment. You could be watching them perform their job role or some essential skills in their apprenticeship.
Strengths could be that this enables you to see the skills in action, you can see exactly what they are doing and how they would do it. When they make mistakes, you can see how they rectify them, and what can be done in those circumstances. You can assess several aspects of the session at one time. It can be considered a fair method as the learner is in their environment and would be more comfortable. If the observation is online then it can be pretty easy to set a time up for when the learner is available.
Limitations of observations could be that if it’s not online then the timing could be an issue, so the time suits the learners, but not only you. Communication is essential for this method, as you will have to ask the learner if things are not clear. There isn’t a permanent record unless visually recorded, and if so you have to get their consent and be concerned about the learner’s age.
This could be a good technique for assessing the understanding of the learner, as well as stimulating thinking. The types of questions you use could be a variety of closed, open, leading, providing, hypothetical or multiple choice. It gets the learner to think more about what you’re asking and how much they know.
A possible strength could be that questioning can be a variety, multiple-choice, short answers or a long essay style. Questions can be personalised for each learner or you could make a question bank to use multiple times, so you have them in one place and always know what you’re going to ask. Questioning is a good way of challenging learners and promoting their potential. The questions can also target critical arguments, as well as being able to recognise skills. Sometimes oral questions suit learners more than written ones. For example, if the learner is dyslexic or has a visual impairment they might want to talk through their response.
Disadvantages of questioning could come down to what type of questions you use. Such as using closed questions. These only give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer so it’s hard to demonstrate knowledge when you can’t elaborate upon your initial answer. Sometimes the question writing process can be time-consuming. You may want to think about their written responses, as some could be copied or plagiarised. Some elements of questioning can be hard for learners, such as essay style questions, it may be good for some, but others might dread the thought of completing it this way. It’s important to have a variety and a varied approach.
Projects provide great ways in which you as an assessor can gather a lot of information at once. You could set a report or essay or even a research task your learner continues to do. Any mistakes can highlight any gaps in the candidate’s knowledge and allow you to go over the necessary criteria that they may be missing.
Some strengths could be, that projects give you a sense of if there are any gaps in your learner’s knowledge and let you provide them with extra training if needed. It is also a great way to set the assessment in a professional/vocational environment, while the learner gains experience in their field. The way projects are set out is also beneficial because they have a beginning, middle and end. Providing clear stages for formative feedback and reflection.
With projects, a limitation could be seen as having to recognise learners’ prior learning. As well as continuous monitoring of their occupational competence. You have to keep your learners engaged as well. Sometimes this can be hard in itself.
RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning)
This is when you assess what has previously taken place, to find a good starting point for further assessments. So it’s you as an assessor cross-referencing any work with the criteria you are looking for, to see if the learner has completed it.
This would be ideal for learners who have maybe already completed bits of the programme before. As well as if they have any other certificates or awards. Learners want to avoid repeating any area of the programme they have already covered, as to save time and move on. This will then prevent reassessments. RPL provides a value factor when it comes to the work already achieved, as it won’t be going to waste.
Checking the authenticity and validity as well as checking how current the evidence provided is important. It needs to be up to the standard of your particular area. This can prove to be time-consuming though, both for the learner and assessor.
To get a valid Witness Testimony, you’ll require an occupationally competent professional who works with your candidate, for example, a line manager or placement manager, to write a report about a time they witnessed your candidate carry out a task/skill, and confirm their competence of them.
This requires a lot of trust as an assessment method. The witness could confirm competence or achievements, as long as they are familiar with the learner as well as being familiar with the assessment criteria. It could be good for more practical skills, as you may want to evidence it by video (that has limitations of its own). The video would need to be combined with written/witness authentication and cross-referenced with the criteria that the activity meets.
The limitation of this is time. The assessor must confirm the suitability of the witness and check the authenticity of any statements. Learners could write the statement and the witness might sign it not understanding the content within it. Some supervisors/managers are unaware of the requirements needed by their employees. It could also be a breach of fraud. Learners could sign it themselves under their managers. When managers want their employees passed as soon as possible, so they sign it when the learner isn’t ready or they haven’t witnessed anything, it won’t work.
This is when your candidate is working in a job role which is relevant to their qualification. Such as apprenticeships. It is more than likely that they are producing work that meets some criteria.
The finished product can provide the assessor with evidence of the learner’s understanding of a unit and thus their competence. It can also provide the learner with work to take forward as an example of their skills. But they are also getting industry experience.
The end product can sometimes be difficult to assess. So a portfolio is often necessary to evidence understanding while also showing the process. This can be time-consuming for the learner and the assessor if it isn’t clear what the benchmarks are in terms of hitting criteria.
We hope this has helped you in thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of some assessments. As it’s important to know them inside out! If you have any questions you can email us at email@example.com and we will be happy to help.
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Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.