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Coastal and marine studies in Australia: a workshop manual for teachers

Griffith University and the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1997
ISBN 0 868 57872 X

Module 10

Appropriate Assessment for Coastal and Marine Studies

INTRODUCTION

The last two decades have witnessed great changes in how we think about the assessment of learning. This has important implications for coastal and marine studies. Perhaps the most noticeable change is a new focus on the relationship between learning and the monitoring, measurement and reporting of what has been achieved. The goal today is towards integration in which assessment becomes an integral part of students' day-to-day learning experience. This goal is especially important in coastal and marine studies, as in all aspects of environmental education, because of its focus on a wide range of knowledge, skill, attitudinal and action objectives - and these cannot be assessed merely by 'memory recall' testing.

This workshop seeks to help teachers understand this integrated focus for assessing learning and to suggest methods to achieve such integration in their classrooms. The activities seek to help teachers understand their own assessment practices and how they might develop their skills in this area.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives of this workshop are:

WORKSHOP OUTLINE

This workshop is organised in two sections. The first part looks at what assessment tries to do and why. The second section examines how the knowledge, skills, attitude and action and objectives of coastal and marine studies can be assessed.

Theme A: The What and Why of Assessment

  1. Introduction
    This activity provides participants with an outline of the workshop and involves them in an icebreaker activity.
  2. Clarifying Definitions of Assessment
    This activity involves participants working individually and in groups to clarify definitions of what assessment is or might be.
  3. Changing Attitudes to Assessment
    In this activity, participants work in pairs to investigate contrasting views and changing attitudes to assessment.
  4. The Purposes of Assessment for Coastal and Marine Studies
    This activity involves group discussion to help participants realise the value of assessment for learning in coastal and marine studies rather than for certification.
  5. Formative and Summative Assessment
    This activity focuses on assessment practices that can support and encourage effective teaching and learning in coastal and marine studies.

Theme B: The How of Assessment

  1. Different Methods
    This activity introduces several assessment methods and invites participants to analyse their suitability for coastal and marine studies.
  2. Assessment that Meets the Objectives of Coastal and Marine Studies
    Participants work in groups to evaluate how well various assessment methods address the objectives of coastal and marine studies.
  3. Conclusion
    This activity returns to the introductory 'Tea Party' and invites participants to discuss how their responses to the questions in Activity 1 may have changed or been clarified through the workshop.

MATERIALS REQUIRED

Overhead Transparency Masters
 
OHT 1 Overview of the Workshop
OHT 2 Definitions of Assessment
OHT 3 Questions for Changing Views on Assessment
OHT 4 Value of Assessment for Learning in Coastal and Marine Studies

 

Resources
Resource 1 Tea Party Questions
Resource 2 Some Teachers' Views on Assessment
Resource 3 Changing Views on Assessment
Resource 4 What is Assessment For?
Resource 5 Two Assessment Situations
Resource 6 How to Assess
Resource 7 Possible Methods of Assessment in Coastal and Marine Studies
Resource 8 Assessment Methods for Coastal and Marine Studies - Merits and Pitfalls
Resource 9 Meeting the Objectives of Coastal and Marine Studies


 

Readings

 
Reading 1 What are Assessment and Evaluation?
Reading 2 Should Environmental Educators be Concerned with Matters of Assessment?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Department of Education Queensland (1993) P-12 Environmental Education Curriculum Guide, Department of Education, Brisbane.

Eckstein, M. and Noah, H. (1992) Examinations: Comparative and International Studies, Pergammon, Oxford.

Gayford, C. and Macintosh, H. (1986) Profiling: A Users Manual, Stanley Thornes, Cheltenham, U.K.

Hunt, G., Murdoch, K. and Walker, K., (1996) Assessment and Evaluation: Profiling Achievement in SOSE, in R. Gilbert (ed) Studying Society and Environment: A Handbook for Teachers, Macmillan, Melbourne, Ch. 20.

Lloyd-Jones R. and Bray, E. (1986) Assessment: From Principles to Action, Macmillian, London.

Rowntree, D. (1977) Assessing Students: How Shall We Know Them? Harper Row, London.

Satterly, D. (1989) Assessment in Schools, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

Sumner, R. (1991) The Role of Assessment in Schools, NFER-Nelson, London.

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board (VCAB) (1990) Geography Study Design, VCAB, Melbourne.

Wilson, J. (1992) Assessment and Evaluation, in M. Wooley and K. Pigdon (eds) The Big Picture: Integrating Children's Learning, Eleanor Curtain, Melbourne.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) (1994) Planning and Evaluation of Environmental Education, WWF, London.

ACTIVITIES

1. Introduction

A. Icebreaker

The first activity, 'Assessment Tea Party', seeks to promote initial discussion about the major issues which will arise during the workshop. It also helps to provide a framework for evaluation at the end of the workshop in which participants will be invited to review what they have learnt.

Theme A- The What and Why of Assessment


2. Clarifying Definitions of Assessment

The aim of this activity is to encourage participants to refine their ideas about assessing learning in coastal and marine studies. Definitions are not important in themselves, but may help participants to broaden their concepts of assessment.


3. Changing Attitudes To Assessment

Note to facilitators: Reading 2 provides an overview of the topic as a whole and can be provided to participants at this point if you wish.


4. The Purposes of Assessment for Coastal and Marine Studies

The purpose of this activity is to help participants realise the value of assessment for learning in coastal and marine studies as opposed to its often traditional focus as a tool for certification.


5. Formative and Summative Assessment

The aim of this activity is to focus attention on assessment which supports and encourages learning as opposed to assessment which only provides a final check on what has been learned. This is important in coastal and marine studies because of the focus on the transformative effects we seek in students' levels of awareness, their attitudes and their actions and potential.

Theme B: The How of Assessment


6. Different Methods of Assessment

This activity presents a sample of the wide range of assessment tasks that are available and provides participants with an opportunity to consider which ones are suitable for particular aspects of learning.


7. Assessment that Meets the Objectives of Coastal and Marine Studies

In this activity participants work in small groups to identify how the various methods they have discussed in the previous activity meet the objectives of coastal and marine studies.


8. Conclusion

The workshop concludes with a second tea party (Activity 1). This helps participants to review what they have learnt in the workshop.


OHT 1

Overview of the Workshop

  1. What are we trying to do in assessing learning in coastal and marine studies and why?
    • the need to assess learning in coastal and marine studies
    • the purpose of assessing learning in coastal and marine studies
    • forms that the assessment in coastal and marine studies can take.

  2. How can we assess knowledge, skill and attitude development?
    • evaluating the suitability of assessment tasks for coastal and marine studies
    • assessing skills, values and knowledge in coastal and marine studies.

OHT 2

Definitions of Assessment


OHT 3

Questions for Changing Views on Assessment

  1. What are the views of John Holt (written in 1969)?
  2. What do you think is the reasoning behind his views?
  3. In what ways do his views have relevance for coastal and marine studies today?
  4. What are the views of Murphy and Torrance and how do they differ from those of Holt?
  5. What is the reasoning behind Murphy and Torrance's views?
  6. What has happened in education systems in recent years which may have led to this change? Think about the impact of changing socio-economic fortunes on education. What implications does/will this have on your education system and, consequently, for coastal and marine studies?


OHT 4

Value of Assessment for Learning in Coastal and Marine Studies

Resource 1

Tea Party Questions

  1. My definition of assessment is



  2. I think teachers assess because



  3. I am concerned about assessment because



  4. The most important objective of assessment to me is



  5. Some of the best examples of assessment I have seen in practice are



  6. Some types of assessment that would be particularly useful in a coastal and marine studies context would be




Resource 2

Some Teacher's Views On Assessment

Questions

  1. Do any of these statements match your views?
  2. Which have relevance to coastal and marine studies? Why?

Teachers' Views


Resource 3

Changing Views on Assessment

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

Let me not mince words. Almost all educators feel that testing is a necessary part of education. I wholly disagree - I do not think that testing is necessary, or useful, or even excusable. At best, testing does more harm than good; at worst it hinders, distorts, and corrupts the learning process. Testers say that testing techniques are being continually improved and can eventually be perfected. Maybe so - but no imaginable improvement in testing would overcome my objections to it. Our chief concern should not be to improve testing, but to find ways to eliminate it. [W]e teachers say that we test children to find out what they have learned, so that we can better know how to help them learn more. This is about ninety-five percent untrue. There are two main reasons why we test children: the first is to threaten them into doing what we want done, and the second is to give us a basis for handing out rewards and penalties on which the educational system - like all coercive systems - must operate.

Holt (1969) pp. 51-52.


Resource 4

What is Assessment for?

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

  1. To find out what students know about the coastal and marine studies, what they understand, and what they can do.
  2. To find out what students do not know, do not understand and cannot do.
  3. To provide a basis for feedback to learners to help them in their coastal and marine studies.
  4. To motivate learners to learn about the environment and for the environment.
  5. To motivate environmental educators.
  6. To support teaching and learning in coastal and marine studies.
  7. To monitor and control standards on coastal and marine studies through certification.
  8. To act as a measure for the accountability of coastal and marine studies educators.
  9. To raise educational standards in environmental awareness, understanding and action.
  10. To improve environmental curricula.
  11. To see whether learning objectives in coastal and marine studies are being met.
  12. To rank order students by level of environmental learning.
  13. To diagnose environmental learning problems and needs.
  14. To diagnose teaching problems as a basis for evaluating the needs of schools.
  15. To screen students who may not be environmentally aware or active.
  16. To select people for future careers or learning paths in coastal and marine studies (eg. to stream children).
  17. To provide parents and others outside the school with information about the environmental learning of children.
  18. To predict likely future environmental attitudes and actions of students (and teachers and schools!).


Resource 5

Two Assessment Situations

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.


Sketch A

Yim-lin comes into her class of eleven year olds. She asks whether they have all brought their lunch and with what they have wrapped their sandwiches. Most of the children have used cling-film. "Why did they use it?" Yim-lin asks. She continues, "What will they do with the cling-film when they have finished eating?" The morning develops with a lesson on plastics, how they are made, their impact on material and energy resources and the problems they pose as waste. The children become interested in investigating the way in which plastic waste enters the sea and the effects this has on marine mammals. The children conclude the day by completing a set of worksheet questions based on a library search.


Sketch B

At the end of Year 6, Yim-lin's 11 year-olds would be moving to secondary school. There was a question of which school students would go to and what particular problems students might carry with them. Yim-lin gave the class a set of graded questions to test the children's level of knowledge. She also asked the children to complete a self-reporting questionnaire to assess pupil's attitudes and environmental/community awareness; she used this information to generate a descriptive profile for each child.


Questions

  1. List differences in the foci of assessment in the two sketches.
  2. Use the descriptive terms given in Resource 6 to analyse the form of assessment which is taking place in each. What are the main differences of purpose?


Resource 6

How to Assess

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

There is often a tension in environmental education between summative and formative, formal and informal, and terminal and continuous assessment as they may emphasise different aspects of learning and seek to perform different educational functions.

Formative assessment emphasises the on-going collection of information about children's learning in coastal and marine studies which is used to make decisions about how to enhance the learning capability of students. Its main purpose is to assist learning. It is largely a matter between the learner and the teacher and is described as 'low stakes' assessment. It is often informal and usually non-judgemental. It is concerned with what students can do and helping them with what they cannot do in relation to expected criteria. Consequently, it is often either implicitly or explicitly criterion-referenced in terms of environmental knowledge, enquiry skills or values.

Summative assessment occurs at the end of a study and often reflects the final product of learning. It is generally judgemental and is often described as 'high stakes' assessment as it may be a critical determinant of access to future learning paths or jobs. It is often concerned with ranking people and is consequently norm-referenced in terms of relative environmental understanding of students.

Informal assessment occurs as an inevitable, integral part of day-to-day classroom activities, eg. teacher questioning, classroom observation, home and class-work. It is often uncontrolled and seeks to be unobtrusive. It is responsive to the needs of students. Spin-offs for learning are generally at the forefront of the teacher's mind.

Formal assessment has no direct teaching function. Its sole function is to provide knowledge about environmental education achievements for someone else. It usually takes the form of tests and occurs at defined times within conventional examination settings. It is contrived and there are generally predetermined answers. The significance of data collected is usually for summative purposes.

Terminal assessment occurs only once at the end of the coastal and marine studies programme or at the end of a stage in the programme. It is consequently periodic and final. It is often associated with formal examinations in environmental education.

Continuous assessment is intermittent, regular and cumulative. It is often, though not inevitably, associated with course-work assessment in environmental education.


Resource 7

Possible Methods of Assessment in Coastal and Marine Studies

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

Learning Objective

Assessment Method

Suitability For Formative

Suitability For Summative

Knowledge Completion items ? Y
Multiple choice (MC) ? Y
Short answer questions Y Y
Data analysis and interpretation Structured questions Y Y
Laboratory practicals Y?  
Field work Y Y
Reporting Oral presentation Y ?
Essay Y Y
Report/Assignment Y ?
Individual/Group research project Y ?
Decision making Structured questions Y Y
Decision-making exercises Y Y
Projects Y ?
Role play Y ?
Attitudes and values Oral presentation Y ?
Classroom observation Y ?
Self-evaluation profile Y ?
Teacher produced profile Y Y
Action Observation of student's actions Y ?
Self-evaluation profile Y ?
Y=Yes ?=uncertain/difficult


Resource 8

Assessment Methods for Coastal and Marine Studies - Merits and Pitfalls

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

Method

Examples

Comment

Knowledge Multiple choice (MC), completion, matching, true/false assertion reasoning, short answer questions. Wide curriculum coverage possible; risk of over-emphasis on facts; easy to mark but can be difficult to construct forms which assess higher order learning; can trivialise learning.
Essays Timed essays, resource based essay, extended writing, reports, open-book examinations Easy to construct; difficult to mark reliably; good for higher order thinking skills (e.g. evaluation) and argument; may overemphasise writing; require criteria for useful feedback.
Projects/Enquiries Based on field work or on secondary data. Assess ability to identify, describe, analyse and draw conclusions; emphasises study and information processing skills; risk of copious copying; time consuming to mark; need criteria for effective marking and feedback.
Structured questions Stimulus response, data based. Many of the advantages of projects but more restricted, manageable and easier to mark; can trivialise learning and generate routine responses. Many of the advantages of projects but more restricted, manageable and easier to mark; can trivialise learning and generate routine responses.
Oral assessment Presentations, debates, drama, discussion groups. Can encourage outgoing students to think creatively about the environment but the shy may be overwhelmed; time consuming; perhaps the least permanent and structured form of evidence; difficult to grade without set criteria; useful in formative assessment.
Classroom observation Teacher notes, checklists, comment banks, profiles, interviews. Rich source of evidence of enviro-sensitive behaviour; very time consuming and therefore a problem with large classes; risk of data overload; difficult to grade without set procedures and criteria.
Self- assessment Student checklists, diaries, peer group assessment, negotiated self-reports, can-do statements Can be (but not always) rewarding for students; difficult to set up as an effective tool; needs practice and time to acclimatise to method.


Resource 9

Meeting the Objectives of Coastal and Marine Studies

Knowledge

Awareness

Skills/Problem Solving

Attitudes

Actions

Objective tests                    
Short answer                    
Essay                    
Decision making                    
Checklists                    
Structured Questions (Data responses)                    
Oral                    
Observation                    
Self                    

Reading 1

What are Assessment and Evaluation?

Source: Adapted from Hunt, G., Murdoch, K. and Walker, K., (1996) Assessment and Evaluation: Profiling Achievement in SOSE, in R. Gilbert (ed.) Studying Society and Environment: A Handbook for Teachers, Macmillan, Melbourne, pp.336-348. Hard copies of this book are available from the publishers at this address: Macmillan Company of Australia, 107 Moray St, South Melbourne, Victoria, 3205.


Permission to publish Reading 1 on the World Wide Web was not obtainable. Reading 1 is available in the printed version of the CMS Workshop Manual.


Reading 2

Should Environmental Educators be Concerned with Matters of Assessment?

Source: Stimpson, P. (1995) The Assessment of Learning within Environmental Education, Learning for a Sustainable Environment: Innovations in Teacher Education Through Environmental Education, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Centre of Educational Innovation for Development, Bangkok, draft module.

Assessment in environmental education is concerned with the systematic collecting and recording of evidence of pupil learning. There is one view that, in personal and social education of which environmental education is a part, assessment is inappropriate. Protagonists emphasise the negative effects of assessment. They stress, in particular, the demotivational influence which 'failure' brings and the way assessment encourages a narrowing of the implemented curriculum.

They (examinations) are charged with overloading students with work, raising anxieties in students and their families, depersonalising schooling, discouraging creativity and supporting credentialism and 'the diploma disease'. The examinations are said to hinder school and teacher initiated innovation, restrict teachers' professional autonomy, and act as barriers to the correction of these alleged defects (Eckstein and Noah, 1992, p.149).

Many of the past assessment practices which environmental educators have to evaluate for use in EE laid themselves open to such criticism. Moreover, the emphasis seemed to concentrate upon what children did not know rather than on what children had gained. However, this is not inevitable. The argument for assessment is that, whenever learning takes place, it is only proper that children, teachers, parents, etc. are provided with evidence about gains. Environmental learning is no different from other areas in this respect. Information is needed for decision making by students, teachers and others.

If we are to improve the quality of teaching and learning in environmental education it is important to assess students' achievements and experiences in this area (World Wide Fund for Nature, 1994, p.35.).

Most teachers would concur with Rowntree (1987) who notes that "The spirit and style of student assessment defines the de facto curriculum." Thus, assessment practices are needed which support the demands put on teachers and students alike. Assessment needs to be seen not just as an end in itself but also as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. (Note: some authors argue that assessment should have virtually no role outside of classroom practices but this is to ignore many of the realities.)

The infusion of EE into mainstream school subjects renders it important that environmental educators do not ignore the challenge of assessment. Traditional tests and examinations, however, are often restricted in nature and thus in the type of conclusions teachers are able to reach about environmental learning. A focus on the more general term 'assessment' emphasises a curriculum spirit (to quote Rowntree) which is broad and which is multi-faceted. It also implies a multi-faceted approach to the collection of evidence of pupil achievement. The need is clear in EE with its focus on knowledge, skills, attitudes and action.

What sort of assessment?

The question of formative or summative assessment in EE is an important one. Traditional discussions of assessment tended to emphasise, albeit by implication, summative assessment. This is assessment which usually occurs at or towards the end of learning in order to describe the standard reached by the learner. It is a final summing up of environmental learning. Often this takes place in order that appropriate decisions about future learning or job suitability can be made. The judgements which are derived from summative assessment are generally, in the first instance, for the benefit of people other than the learner. As a basis for resource allocation, attention is often placed on the consistency with which examiners are able to discriminate between students. Hence the concentration is on finding out what people can not do rather than on what they can. It is perhaps not surprising that summative assessment of this kind is often berated by commentators and, being largely divorced from the classroom practicalities of the environmental curriculum, is seen to offer little support for learning or feedback to the learner.

Formative assessment of environmental learning involves different intentions and refers to the ongoing forms of assessment which are closely linked to the learning process. It is characteristically informal, although when public examination pressure is high, formative assessment may at times ape summative assessment. Nevertheless, when assessment is intended as 'the helpful servant of the environmental curriculum', formative assessment assumes more importance in its own right.

Clearly both summative and formative assessment have a role to play in EE, particularly in a cross-curricular context where environmental learning is infused into traditional subjects. Problems arise when summative public examinations are allowed to dominate. The search for reliability produces a tendency to narrow the assessment focus. We thus come back to Rowntree - the issue is not one of summative or formative assessment but rather of the 'spirit' and perspective in which assessment is seen. Consequently, there is a move towards assessment strategies which seek to be diagnostic and support learning as well as providing terminal grades.

The question which follows is whether, in reality, it is possible to have a framework which has both summative and formative functions. Can the tensions between the drive for reliability in summative assessment and the search for validity in formative assessment adequately be resolved?

In the 1960s and 1970s, there was considerable concern (as voiced by Holt in Workshop Resource Sheet 3) that many of the ills of the education system could be laid at the door of assessment practices. The influences of formal public examinations came in for particular criticism. Most commentators today would agree with many of those critics; however, many would disagree with the inevitability which seems implicit in Holt's comments.

The educational debates of the period lead to a number of liberal reforms which supported a softening of assessment. However, increasing economic uncertainty, particularly in the advanced industrialised countries of the West, led to cries for educational reform once again. Assessment, within a 'Fordist' mechanistic view of education, was seen as a means to establish standards and as a basis for accountability. The assessment problem was seen as one of developing measuring tools and strategies which would avoid the earlier problems. Consequently, the 1980s and 1990s saw considerable effort being put into research and development projects to create assessment approaches which would minimise negative effects and support learning.

References

Eckstein, M. A. and Noah, H. J. (1992) Examinations: Comparative and International Studies, Pergammon, Oxford.

Rowntree, D. (1977) Assessing Students: How Shall We Know Them? Harper Row, London.

World Wide Fund for Nature (UK) (1993) Planning and Evaluation of Environmental Education, WWF, London.