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Summative and formative assessment

Formative assessments aim to provide systematic feedback on the learning accomplished, potentially leading towards a final outcome of some sort; the aim is not to give formal recognition of learning outcomes.

Summative assessment aims at formal validation of learning outcomes. Certificates and diplomas provided by formal education and training authorities are the result of summative assessments linked to educational standards.

With the shift in education systems towards building qualifications from (more or less) independent learning units, formative assessment, that is, the development of a feedback culture and standards, has gained in significance. This has, however, not been fully recognised in all areas of Vocational Education and Training.

The specifications given in the assessor guidelines for the VCQ Assessment in the motor industry of the UK can therefore be seen as good practice:

Assessors should comment and give feedback each time they observe a learner or meet with a learner to review evidence. Therefore each time an observation or review of evidence takes place the assessor should enter the date and the evidence number, and make appropriate comments and feedback such as

  1. A description of the various activities being carried out by the learner for each unit.
  2. How the learner has met the learning outcomes for each unit.
  3. Questions that you have asked, particularly to cover evidence requirements, not demonstrated through performance.
  4. Questions you have asked to ascertain essential knowledge.
  5. Issues arising from assessment.
  6. Identification of good or poor performance.
  7. Any action required to further develop the learner‘s knowledge and skills.
  8. Constructive feedback to the learner."

Source: excerpt from Peer Review Report UK, project TrainCom

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