Prioritising progression over proficiency: limitations of teacher-based assessment within technician-level vocational education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Authors

External organisations

  • University of The West of England (UWE)

Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of assessment policy and practice in technician level vocational education. Using the example of an advanced level BTEC National programme in Engineering in one college in the UK, the paper highlights how the origins of current assessment practice lie in genuine concerns since the late 1950s about the appropriateness of examination-based assessment for assessing technician engineering skills, resulting in a shift to teacher-based, criterion-referenced assessment and an emphasis on formative feedback. Data are presented from a case study of assessment practice in an Engineering Department of one college of further and higher education in the UK during the academic years 2006-2008, which investigated salient influences and considerations underpinning lecturers' constructs of assessment. The
study found a departmental ethos of facilitating students to achieve a pass, and the use of assessment methods that would ensure that students got through. However, lecturers were dubious whether their assessment practices developed the proficiency required for students’ progression into HE or employment, and their practices did not appear to have a strong educational or occupational rationale for their approach. We argue that the limitations of teacher-based, criterion-referenced assessment and associated formative assessment practices, of which our study provides an example, contribute to a temptation to simply return to what is deemed more rigorous assessment through
examination, which however may well bring back the problems identified in the past, of inappropriate approaches for assessing technician level skills associated with low success rates.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Early online date6 Apr 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2016

Keywords

  • teacher-based assessment, criterion-based assessment, formative feedback, vocational assessment, technician engineering education, further education, BTEC