"All over the world, teachers use pen and paper tests as the primary means of assessing students – but it's not enough," says Päivi Atjonen, Professor of Education at the University of Eastern Finland.
"Using only one method enables only one kind of learning to become visible and recognised, so it's important to use a variety of assessment tools," she says. "We do need summative evaluations like exams that look back on what has been learned, but we also need formative assessments that support students as they move forward."
Professor Atjonen's research into assessment and evaluation is at the core of the course she designed and delivered this year for a cohort of Thai teachers. It was a diverse group, with teachers from the fields of agriculture, engineering, psychology, art, design, architecture, media studies and more. More than 10 held PhDs.
The course is delivered as part of the ongoing partnership between Finland University and Rajamangala University of Technology Thanyaburi (RMUTT). Hundreds of RMUTT teachers have now graduated from pedagogical education courses in Finland.
Learning to self-assess
A three-day workshop in Bangkok was followed by some 70 hours of pair work in the online Moodle learning environment, and in the teachers' everyday work at RMUTT.
The participants are now working in pairs on small-scale assessment experiments that fit with their workplace. The course concludes later this year with feedback from Professor Atjonen and peer reviews among the teachers themselves.
"The core idea was to avoid putting too much emphasis on summative assessment, and to focus on tools and techniques for formative assessment, or self-assessment and peer assessment," says Professor Atjonen.
"The idea comes from the constructivist understanding of learning, whereby you have to learn to be able to look at your own work. Students need to have this self-assessment criteria taught to them so that they can use it after entering into working life."
Results in the classroom
With the study group being so diverse, Atjonen taught different pedagogical methods from several fields of science. Lessons looked at using practise portfolios, workshops, learning diaries, oral examinations and other ways of transferring the idea of student- and learning-centred assessment.
Some of the Thai teachers have immediately started making changes to their learning assessment criteria, decreasing the weight of exams from 30% to 10%, for example, and making workshops account for a third of overall assessment. They also want to test how learning diaries, portfolios and simulations may work among their undergraduate students.
"I try to practise what I preach, so having encouraged the teachers to find some new assessment methods, what they implement is in their hands now," says Professor Atjonen. "I look forward to seeing the results later this year."
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