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The Role of Assessment in CBE

The Role of Assessment in CBE

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, you will learn about the role of assessment in all learning environments, including specific elements of meaningful assessment that support competency-based education.

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you're having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to go ahead and take a look at the role of assessment within competency-based education. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Benjamin Franklin, which states, "The discovery of what is true and the practice of that which is good are the two most important objects of philosophy."

Now, by the end of our lesson today, you are going to be able to define the role of assessment within Understanding by Design. You'll also be able to identify the competency-based education elements that are supported by that assessment.

So first let's go ahead and take a look at assessment within Understanding by Design. So when we look at assessment within UbD, again, remember, UbD is highly compatible with competency-based education. We're going to see what that looks like. It's often used in CBE approaches.

So Understanding by Design it was developed in 2009 by Wiggins and McTighe. And within Understanding by Design, concepts tend to be presented using what's known as that backward model. So first and foremost, students will develop-- the teacher will develop the statements of the intended learning outcomes. So using the standards that we have, teachers are going to develop those outcomes, the competencies, really emphasizing what the students should be able to demonstrate by the time the unit is done.

The next step, then, is where teachers will develop the assessments to measure a student's progress towards meeting those learning outcomes. So obviously the assessments need to be very closely aligned to the competencies so that the assessment can truly measure how well the student is working toward meeting that goal.

And then, finally-- we're starting at the end, reaching towards the beginning-- the teacher will create the learning experiences or the lesson plan that help lead students to gain mastery on those various assessments. So within that, after that's done, it's important to remember that within assessment, especially in Understanding by Design, assessments are really designed before the learning experiences happen.

This is done in support of the competency-based education approach because then what's happening is we're really placing the emphasis on the student demonstrating competency through the assessments so then we can ensure that the instruction that we are planning is really there to help support that student achievement rather than our own interesting idea for instruction, and, yeah, let's test them on it at the end.

Now, I want to focus in-- as you understand that, I want to focus in on the way in which assessment is used within competency-based education. So there are several elements within CBE that are supported by various elements of assessment.

So first in CBE, assessments tend to be what's called criterion referenced. What this means is that students' performances within certain assessments are then compared against what we have determined to be the standards from the start or the criteria that we believe will show the competency in a particular area. This is done in order to give feedback so that the students can continually improve their performances on these assessments.

Also, within competency-based education, there tends to be unobservable system of those exercises to help support mastery. So what we mean here is that the exercises that take place within a lesson are there to help promote, but then also document that student's mastery of a particular competency. These can be done often through digital or technological tools so that it's a lot easier. And this documentation really helps the teacher know where each student is, but also helps the students keep track of their learning.

Also within competency-based education, there tends to be this continuous assessment and continuous feedback. We're looking at the idea that the teaching that's happening allows for these formative assessments where the student and the teacher can really continue to get that feedback so that we're able to see how they're progressing towards that mastery.

Speaking of that mastery, within competency-based education, skill mastery is seen through records that are carefully maintained for each individual student. So when we look at that, what we're really focusing in on here is the idea that records are there to reflect how well the student has met that competency within a particular area where it's achieved and where it's not achieved so that the students can take advantage of that information and really gear and be in charge of their own learning.

Additionally, within competency-based education, that mastery criteria needs to be very from the start to both the teacher and the student. This helps avoid people being confused about whether or not students have demonstrated that mastery or competence of a particular area. And then, finally, within CBE, students have access to all assessment performance information-- again, focusing in on the idea that students are able to not only take a front seat kind of behind the driver's wheel in terms of their own education, but they're able to then reflect on that information and use it to help set future goals for their learning.

So what I want to do is I want to go ahead and talk you through a sample approach to an assessment that could adhere to those elements of CBE assessment criteria and then explain how each element of this criteria can really show itself within that assessment. So one assessment that's often used is focusing in on students participating in an online discussion. So what we do is we set students up to participate in a Skype-like discussion.

And when we do that, before the assessment is given, students are able to go through a piece of information where they have right in front of them all of the elements that they are going to be assessed on-- so the way in which they are to contribute to the conversation, the way in which they are able to cite sources within the conversation, as well as the expectations for not only how and when they should speak up but also how they should be good listeners.

So again, when we're talking about this assessment, first and foremost, it's criterion referenced. What this means is that it's compared to both speaking and listening standards within English Language Arts. The system of exercises that we have in place before the assessment takes place are there to help ensure that students are practicing each of those elements of that group discussion so that they can see that reflected in their work. And then, as they are working through that, there's constant feedback that they're getting not only from me as the teacher but also from the other students in that discussion so that they're able to improve upon those elements.

Everything is written down, both by me and what I see from the outside of the discussion as well as students in the discussion taking notes so that that can go into those mastery records so that students can see what elements of this they are achieving mastery in. And the criteria is clear because it's all been laid out ahead of time and students have had the opportunity to practice.

Then, once it's done, their assessment is provided back to them so that they can see all of the areas that they succeeded in as well as areas that are lacking or that they need to see improvement in so that they can use that to help better future class discussions.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you are able to define the role of assessment, particularly within Understanding by Design, as well as identify the competency-based education elements that are supported through various assessments.

Now I want you to take just a moment and think back over some of those elements that we discussed of competency-based education that are supported by various uses of assessment within Understanding by Design. What do you think would be the most difficult part of implementing assessments like the ones we've discussed in this lesson into your classroom?

As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you might want to explore the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to really help you deepen your learning and explore ways that you can apply your newly acquired skill set.

Notes on "The Role of Assessment in CBE"

(00:00-00:19) Intro

(00:20-00:35) Objectives

(00:36-02:39) Assessment in UbD

(02:40-07:50) Assessments in CBE

(07:51-08:43) Review & Reflection

Additional Resources

Prior Learning Assessment & Competency-Based Education

This article by Kristen Vogt explore the importance of prior learning and knowledge in the assessment process in CBE.Ā Vogt explores and explains PLA, the prior learning assessment now being given by CBE institutes before beginning instruction.