Homogeneity of assessment has become a driving force throughout our educational systems, and continues to be widely applied across the majority of EU member states. Such forms of assessment have come under scrutiny for showing an indifference to the learning needs of individuals.
This drawback has ramifications – not only for learning outcomes but for wellbeing too. Learners, irrespective of age, want to meaningfully contribute to the direction of their learning and have a stake in deciding the forms of assessment that are most conducive to their particular learning needs.
When learners are consulted and meaningfully involved in all or some of the stages of assessment and its elements, the process becomes more clear and transparent. This can mitigate feelings akin to a lack of control, loss of agency and a perceived indifference to individual needs that usually follow from more imposing assessment forms.
It would also appear that ruling out the individual – and applying a uniform assessment model free of consultation or debate – reduces learner motivation and engagement. In the idea of formative assessments we find a potential resistance and escape route from the more uniform mode of summative assessment.
Unlike the latter, formative assessment describes an assessment practice that identifies learners’ needs and then adapts the teaching and learning to these needs. It is therefore, by its very nature, more conducive to wellbeing. Characterised by a plurality of forms including oral, written, presentation, group, project based and portfolios, this form of assessment tends to offer multiple chances as well as avoiding the high-stake nature of more summative assessments – which, in considering wellbeing, has been continuously cited as a main source of stress and anxiety for learners in educational settings.
These early experiences matter. Initial experiences of education, be they positive or negative, greatly influence the likelihood of pursuing education throughout adult life. Adults who have experienced early success in education are considerably more likely to view learning in a positive light – and subsequently continue to avail of learning opportunities throughout adulthood. Conversely, learners who do not experience success in compulsory education are less likely to engage in learning as adults.
Positive learning experiences, it can be said, instils both a desire for more learning and increases an individual’s willingness to view educational environments through a positive lens. Negative early experiences of education have a reverse effect – resulting in a situation whereby education and learning is seen as something to be avoided.
The use of more personalised assessments transcends the pigeon-hole, one-size-fits-all approach ingrained in standardised assessments. They offer the individual the opportunity to inject themselves into the equation and take ownership of their learning. From here, an entire landscape of collaboration, dialogue, and participation can become entrenched in the very notion of assessment – all while widening the parameters to facilitate wellbeing and instilling a positive conception of learning and educational settings that is long-lasting.