Alternative Assessment: Expanding Classroom Assessment at the School of Technical and Vocational Education

Classroom Assessment is arguably one of the least understood aspects of teaching and learning. It is an approach designed to help educators find out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning it (Angelo and Cross, 1993). This approach is: learner-centred, teacher-directed, mutually beneficial, formative, context-specific, ongoing and firmly rooted in good practice. Through this approach educators will obtain useful feedback on what, how much and how well their students are learning. Educators can then use this information to refocus their teaching to help students make their learning more efficient and more effective. Continuous Assessment, a term applied to ongoing Classroom Assessment using alternatives to testing, has emerged as an important aspect of the educational portfolio (Resnick and Resnick, 1992; Shepard, 1997; Wiggins, 1989).
              The field of Educational Assessment is large and complex (Airasian and Russell, 2007; Gronlund and Waugh, 2009; Kubiszyn and Borich, 2006; McMillian, 2003; Popham, 2003; Stiggins, 2007; Trice, 2000). This paper will therefore only barely skims that surface by presenting ways for educators in higher education to expand their classroom assessment practices. The paper will attempt to answer questions such as:

  1. How well are university students learning?
  2. How effective are faculty teaching?
  3. How can we understand this shift in responsibility for assessment to the classroom teacher, particularly in countries where exams have dominated?
  4. What are some of the strategies for assessing students in higher education and how do we score them?
  5. As faculty, how can we develop professionally in this area?

        The introduction of the paper will explore answers to the question: what’s wrong with traditional assessments? This will be followed with the benefits to expanding classroom assessments in higher education (use of alternative assessment) beyond traditional assessment. Examples and descriptions of different alternative assessment techniques will be explored for use in higher education and finally some suggestions for developing assessments for higher education classroom. Faculty will be encouraged to experiment with new assessment techniques and to develop some on their own.

Michael-Anthony C. Dobson-Lewis