Assessment or learning?

Before I get side-tracked down any more avenues related to assessment, I feel I should say a bit more about my choice of title for this blog. My first idea for a title was (e)assessment (f)or learning (with the bracketed ‘e’ indicating that whilst most of my work is in e-assessment, I am interested in more general issues in assessment) but that looked too messy, hence the current title, e-assessment (f)or learning.

The phrase  ‘Assessment for learning’ is not new – it was used by the Assessment Reform Group in the  late 1990s, to contrast with ‘Assessment of learning’. It was felt that the meaning of the adjectives ‘formative’ and ‘summative’ were becoming confused. There has been much discussion of the fact that summative assessment is also frequently formative, in the sense that it makes an impression on learners, and can affect learning (for good or ill).

Harding and Craven descibed assessment  and learning as a three-legged race – one can’t move forward without the other. Recently, people have started to talk about ‘assessment as learning’. But, at the plenary session at the end of the excellent CAA 2010 Conference, a few weeks ago, Dick Bacon suggested that perhaps ‘assessment’ isn’t the right word for what formative-only assessment has become. He has a point.

So these are the sorts of things that I’m beginning to think about: is useful, formative ‘assessment for learning’ really assessment at all?; can assessment and learning ever really happen at the same time?; so is it assessment or learning?

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