The purpose of an initial assessment is to firstly, make sure that a learner can enter the programme of study at a level that is appropriate to them. Secondly, these assessments also allow the learner to be able to plan their individual achievable learning goals. These initial assessments will become the framework of learners ILP’s (individual Learning Plans).
They will also ensure that the learner provider and tutor can identify the gaps in learning sooner rather than later. It should go without saying that providers want the best for learners, it’s just as important that learners should know right from the start that they are entitled to the best for themselves”.
(readingroom ,online) This demonstrates the importance of the initial assessment and its results have on an individual learner’s development. Initial Assessment are what they are, they are just the beginning and become a tailor made plan which then becomes a vital part of the teaching and learning for the learner and provider alike.
“Assessment helps to set clear expectations for standards and achievement. CFBT, 2011,p10 . ) Initial assessment therefore ensures that there can be progression as it also allows learners themselves to see and develop on strengths and weaknesses from the outset. One can also suggest that these initial assessments are a motivational tool too, so that not only can the provider plan for the end goal but also that a learner can readily see that the results from initial assessments are used to determine achievable goals thus seeing that the overall course outcomes are achievable. There are several methods in which initial assessments can be ascertained.
An initial interview gives a basic knowledge and is seen as a good indicator about the suitability of the learner, for example, what they have achieved in the past, what they want to achieve but as these are sometimes done prior to qualification results, this would not always produce a true reflection of a learner’s ability. Therefore a programme of induction following the interview and acceptance would ensure the learner can be fully assessed and ascertain not only the level they are working to but also any help that is required is in place from the beginning.
Skills based testing is a common initial assessment tool. Learners take online or written assessments and the results ascertain their levels they are currently working on, furthermore specific diagnostic test homes in on the gaps in their skills. This method is effective and can give providers and tutors a general scale of ability, however one can argue that the results can also be misleading , for example if a learner has rushed or guessed part the assessment then the results would not be true reflection of the learners ability. BKSB is one of these online skills providers, used by many colleges.
BKSB cover learner’s initial skills testing in literacy, numeracy and ICT, as well as diagnostic. However it can be argued that whilst convenient, for example, instant results and no marking by tutors and also identifies the specific subject knowledge and gaps , it can miss special needs problems such as dyslexia. Another initial assessment undertaken may include looking at a learner preferred learning style – commonly known as VAK , visual,( seeing and reading), auditory ( listening and speaking and kinaesthetic ( Touching and doing) .
These are basically different ways of learning and be achieved through completion of questionnaires. This assessment is vital and is an integral part in the learner and tutors planning. Ensuring that your learners preferred style is embedded in the lesson plan (differentiation) can ensure that the learner’s motivation is continued. There are no right and wrong answers but in some cases there is not always a clear result, many learners may have a mix.
However this could be seen as a positive when teaching a larger group as you can embed all three learning styles ensuring that a larger number will participate therefore keeping learners motivated and achieving goals and also progressing. Arguably you could suggest that the most important part of initial assessment is giving feed back to the learner of the results. This as we have said previously allows the learner to set themselves achievable goals. They have possibly already learnt things about themselves that they didn’t know. For example what their preferred style is.
The advantage of this feedback session is that both learner and tutor have set clear manageable targets and goals. This is turn can be seen as a motivational tool for the learner as they have been part of the process and know what is expected from them. This also instils the motivation for the teacher to make sure that the learner can achieve their goals Regular reviews, target setting and referring to the initial assessments target setting is vital in ensuring a learner remains motivated, Learners will achieve if they can see themselves progressing.
Smart targets therefore are an achievable and motivational tool as it will ensure that targets are met in an expected time frame. According to Reid (2007 pg. 14) motivation should be intrinsic, which means that a learner should be self-motivated. If the initial assessments have been managed effectively then they become the perfect platform for the Reid’s ideas, as the assessments are set up to insure that a learner as contributed to the target setting. Reid also states that ‘a car will not run without fuel, therefore a child won’t learn without motivation. (Reid 2007 pg. 4). Although aimed at younger children the ethos is the same in that even older learners need to be fed relevant facts in order to progress and reach goals.
One could also suggest though that the older the learner is the harder it is to motivate as in some circumstances a lower self-esteem is more evident than in younger children, for example those leaners within foundation learning projects for example. If one uses foundation learning as an example, then motivating them becomes a juggling act as you have to employ strategies that would work over a mixed ability group.
Characteristics of a group also play an important part of motivation. One main point is setting out a clear aim and objective of a day’s lessons. Learners then have an expectation of what is expected from them. Tutors must ensure there is a mix of learning skills. For example, the shyer, less confident learners might not want to join in with the speaking and listening task but then if you link it up with a task the quieter ones can excel at then you can continue to keep motivation going whilst also covering more challenging areas.
This also is ensuring that you are achieving their goals but also their learning style patterns as stated in the leaners initial assessments. Feedback is vital and is especially important when reaching the end of a session or a unit of work and must include the completion of any smart targets reached, and then new ones to be set with the leaner thus detailing progress and keep motivation going.
To ensure learners are kept motivated and achieving their goals, then there are of course many other strategies and theories. However the vital point remains that with the initial assessments and subsequent ILR’s, regular reviews with providers or tutors learners will hopefully continue to motivate themselves by seeing that they have achieved goals set, furthermore with every new set of new goals learners can see the on-going progression and therefore motivation to succeed continues.