Friday, April 17, 2015

Entry 54 IDT1415 - Assessment Types and Criteria. Am I doing it right?

While reading Biggs (2003), Moon (2002) and Knight (2001) I wondered about  three things and thought I'd share them with you here. First, how free are we in our contexts in regards to assessment methods? Second, how do you assess your students in general e.g. do you apply an established method or do you have your own systems which complement the established procedure set by your institution? Third, how viable is a shift from summative-reliant assessment to a more balanced, or even better formative-reliant approach?

In my own experience, I have come to realise that my Learning Outcomes (LOs) to date are a mix between Assessment Criteria (AC) and LOs as I tend to use a mix between tentative and definite language as well as a mix between low and high level verbs with a stronger tendency towards the latter. This realisation means I will try and tidy them up from now on so that they are consistently in line with LOs or AC definitions in relation to the specific context e.g. LOs for input sessions and AC when measuring achievement. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Biggs' (2003) 4 steps for Constructive alignment are to a great extent already present in my current practice as a teacher trainer as follows:

1. Define ILOs - Intended Learning Outcomes (They're an integral part of my design procedure of input sessions and are presented and briefly discussed with candidates at the beginning of each session.)

2. Choose/design activities which will lead to ILOs (The materials for the input sessions are designed by trying to adhere to the premises of Loop Input (Woodward 2003), which is a concept I was struck by when I first came across it in 2000 and since then informs my approach.)

3. Assessing students' ILOs to see how closely they match what was intended (With specific reference to University of Cambridge Teaching Awards e.g. CELTA, DELTA and YL Extension to CELTA courses, this is more easily done as LOs and Assessment Criteria are already drawn up. Thanks to the fact that assessment on these courses is continuous and integrated it is then a matter of matching examples of achievement of these LOs to the criteria via reflection on aspects of the course such as Teaching Practice, self reflection on TP and peer assessment (Knight 2001), written assignments and performance overall in a triangulation ongoing exercise throughout the course. On these courses there is an emphasis on 'thinking about learning, teaching and assessment' (Knight 2001:8) via the input sessions and also the formative assessment which takes place through discussions of theory (input sessions) and practice (Teaching Practice - TP) which include peer and self-assessment. Peers observe one another in TP, candidates complete a written self reflection immediately after TP, and in TP feedback the tutor moderates candidates' experiences, self reflections and peer assessment contributions.)

4. Arriving at a final grade (Grade assessment criteria (Moon 2002:95) is then applied e.g. candidates can be allocated a grade (Fail, Pass, Pass B, Pass A) according to their continuous and integrated assessment performance while matching their Teaching Practice, Written Assessment and Overall Personal Performance against the criteria included in the CELTA Syllabus and from 2014 specific band descriptors which support the allocation of any given grade).

I believe that the above then give tutors a fair degree of freedom as how the criteria are applied in that there are clearly set criteria and that they are further developed by examples for each criterion as can be seen in the CELTA5 candidate booklet available on the internet - please note the link leads to the 2007 version so it's not updated, however, the criteria and criterion examples are still valid.  


Biggs, J., 2003. Aligning teaching for constructing learning. , pp.1–4.

Knight, P., 2001. A Briefing on Key Concepts – Formative and summative, criterion & norm-referenced assessment. , pp.1–32.

Moon, J., 2002. Writing and using assessment criteria. The Module and Programme Development Handbook: A Practical Guide to Linking Levels, Outcomes and Assessment Criteria, pp.79–106.

Woodward, T., 2003. Loop input. ELT Journal, 57(July), pp.301–304. Available at:

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