Assessment and monitoring tools to facilitate validation process of the obtained within ‘M-Easy’ training course skills and competences

The present Module seeks to develop adult educators’ competence on assessment and validation of informal and non-formal learning as well as present the approach chosen for the M-Easy training course. Thus, it encompasses a general overview of the assessment and validation procedures of informal and non-formal learning, elaborates how the pre-assessment and final assessment of learners’ mathematical skills are organized within the ‘M-Easy’ training course and presents possible ways and instruments for monitoring the progress of the learning. Finally, it puts forward proposed actions and methods for educators to motivate their learners to validate their obtained or already existing skills and competences.

The module wishes to:

  • Develop adult educators competence on assessment and validation of informal and non-formal learning
  • Improve adult educators’ understanding of M-Easy training course’s approach
  • Inform adult educators about the actions and methods they can employ to encourage learners to validate their skills and competencies

By the end of this module, readers will:

  • Understand the importance of assessing and validating non-formal education
  • Become aware of existing monitoring and evaluation tools
  • Learn about the distinct phases of validation of learning outcomes
  • Discover approaches and methods of assessment
  • Conceptualize M-Easy’s monitoring and evaluation process
  • Familiarise themselves with M-Easy’s Self-Assessment Tool.
  • Be guided on how to monitor, assess and collect learners’ achievements in order to facilitate the validation of the skills obtained

It has been a common premise among many European countries that steps and actions should be taken to assess and validate the learning that takes place outside formal training institutions. This is a process that will recognize the wide range of skills and competences people develop throughout their lives via various activities and actions such as informal and non-formal education, work and leisure. Validating such skills is an essential step towards attributing the appropriate learning value of such activities, provide greater visibility for such actions and encourage individuals to get involved in trainings and learning activities outside the formal education structures. Most importantly, it confirms learning and creates an added value for future learning and work.

The European Guidelines for Validating Non-Formal and Informal Learning (2015) identify four distinct phases for the validation of the learning and skills an individual has acquired through non-formal and informal learning.

These are:

  • Identification

The Validation process commences with the identification of the knowledge, skills and competencies acquired. It allows the learner to acknowledge prior achievements and incorporates the knowledge and skills acquired in a wide array of contexts: home, during work or through voluntary activities by participating in different kinds of non-formal training courses or as a result of life style activities. The attainment of an increased awareness of own capabilities by the learners is a valuable outcome of the process.

  • Documentation

This involves the development of a knowledge portfolio that tends to include a CV and a career history accompanied by documents and/or work samples to attest their learning achievements. Validation needs to be open to various evidence types, ranging from written documents to work samples and demonstrations of practice

  • Assessment

This can imply evaluation of written and documentary evidence or an evaluation of other forms of evidence. As validation involves identifying individual learning experiences, the assessment tools and methods need to be designed in a manner that captures and assesses the learning specifics of each individual along with the context in which this learning took place. Moreover, the individual specificity of learning outcomes concerned may require more than one tool, for example, a combination of written tests and practical challenges. Thus, tools often contain practical demonstrations, simulations or gathering of evidence from past practices.

  • Certification

The final phase of validation is linked to the certification. It is related to the final valuing of the learning outcomes identified, documented and assessed. This can take different forms, but it is in many cases the award of a formal qualification (or part-qualification). In enterprises or economic sectors, certification may also involve issuing a license allowing the individual to carry out specific tasks. Either the case, certification requires a summative assessment officially confirming the achievement of learning outcomes against a pre-specified standard.

It is essential for Educators put in place structured processes of assessment so that they are in a position to identify, gather, evaluate, measure and document the proficiency and skills of their students. Such mechanisms will also allow them to evaluate any potential difficulties their learners may be facing and/or the improvement they are be exhibiting. Assessment, is also a tool for educators to evaluate their teaching methods and the effectiveness of the course/lesson they are delivering. It can also serve as a mean to encourage and promote an understanding of the goals and criteria of the course/lesson, motivate students to study and help them improve.

As a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to assessment would be ineffective, teachers and educators use a wide array of methods to assess and evaluate the progress of learning. The assessment methods that most commonly used are the following:

  • Test

The test is the most common and traditional tool for assessment used in formal, non-formal and informal education. Its main objective is to measure learner’s level of knowledge on certain training material or theme. The most classic types are single choice and multiple choice tests which require from the student to choose from a number of predetermine “items”, which are alternative answers. Its main advantages are that it is objective; takes little time to be completed and checked; has high reliability, validity and manageability. Nevertheless, when using this tool, the trainer should bear in mind that students may be trying to guess the correct answer. Moreover, tests cannot test oral or written skills.

  • Essay

An Essay is a traditional form of assessment that requires students to compose a piece of writing to address a question or a topic set by the teacher, usually within a set word-limit. It is extremely flexible and easy to set but its downside is that it is very subjective and time consuming. Overall, essays provide a mean to assess all levels of learning objectives and encourage an original and creative thinking amongst learners. However, this method of assessment cannot be used to evaluate a group progress, but instead should be performed only individually.

  • Debates and discussions

Debates and discussions are formal contests of argumentation between two teams or individuals. They involve learners researching and analysing controversial topics through a series of oral presentations of standpoints and arguments by two opposite teams (sometimes, it may include interaction with the audience). Teachers also play an important role in running debates. They may have to be the hosts of the debate, and ensure the debate is run at an appropriate pace. They also need to assess the performance of the students during the debate, and provide feedback to enhance their learning afterwards.

The debate is good method to help learners improve their critical thinking and creativity. It has to be applied in groups and could serve to assess both their skills and knowledge. It is important to note through that for it to be effectively utilized the trainer should have in-depth knowledge of the tool and can expertly use it to gather all the information needed to evaluate learners’ achievements.

  • Interviews

Interviewing involves the interaction in which an interviewer who collects information from learners with the help of questions and listens for answers. This form of interaction can generate a lot of information in regards to the learner, allowing the educator to better plan the concepts, procedures and the overall approach he/she will use for his/her course.

  • Case analysis/study

Case study is a learning practice that moves the emphasis from lecture-based activities towards more student-based activities. In general, teaching materials for case studies may vary: a short journal or news article; a scenario of problem solving and decision making; an open-ended question, a picture or even a diagram. This approach seeks to help students identify, examine and demonstrate theoretical concepts in a real-life issues. Students also develop various generic skills, such as decision making, problem solving and collaboration skills. Case studies also act as a bridge between theory and practice.

  • Observation

The observation is used for practical subjects and is the most obvious form of assessment: watch someone doing something and evaluating his/her practical skills and competences, demonstrated by performance. It could be used to assess group or individual achievements, but it works best when evaluating the work of individuals. When applying this method a trainer should bear in mind that it essential to is establish clear assessment criteria: reliability is only assured when everyone engaged in the assessment process is perfectly clear about what is being looked for, and what evidence is required to determine competence. Developing observation protocols is not a trivial activity, but a must.

  • Peer assessment

Peer assessment involves students taking responsibility for assessing the work of their peers against preliminary assessment criteria set by the trainer. It is a perfect tool to aid students to develop judgement skills, critiquing abilities and self-awareness. Moreover, ιt offers learners the opportunity to study the successes and mistakes of their peers.  Peer assessment could be used for assessing both individual efforts and contributions to group work and depending on the assessment task and context it can be done openly, by encouraging comparison and discussion, or anonymously. It also offers learners the opportunity to study the successes and mistakes of their peers.

  • Self-assessment

Self-assessment is a process where learners reflect on their own work and judge how well they have performed in certain area. Developing reflective skills provides learners with the ability to consider their own performance and to identify their strengths, weaknesses as well as areas that require improvement. Self-assessment can provide insight into students’ true comprehension of the learning material and can help identify gaps in students’ knowledge while it can be extremely valuable in helping students develop self-reflection, critique and judgment. Self-assessment could take many forms – questionnaires; tests; diaries; presentations, etc. and is often used along peer assessment.

M-Easy’s assessment process consists of two stages: pre-testing, to assess an initial level of mathematics skills, and a final assessment to define student’s the level of mathematics after having completed the training course.

The Assessment tool will be used to test and evaluate learners’ level of competence in the 27 mathematical skills identified and covered by the project. The list of skills:

No. Mathematical skills showing ability to:
1 Perform addition
2 Perform subtraction
3 Perform multiplication
4 Perform division
5 Calculate percentage
6 Understand different measuring systems (metric, imperial, etc.)
7 Work with different measures (millimetres, centimetres, metres, inches, yards, etc.)
8 Operate with whole numbers
9 Recognise different geometrical shapes: rectangle, square, triangle, circle, pyramid, cuboid, cube, sphere
10 Calculate perimeter of rectangle, square, triangle
11 Calculate perimeter of circle
12 Calculate area of rectangle & square compare numbers (<,>)
13 Calculate area of triangle
14 Calculate area of circle calculate area of various shapes: circle
15 Calculate volume of cuboid & cube
16 Calculate volume of cylinder
17 Calculate volume of sphere
18 Calculate volume of pyramid
19 Operate with fractions
20 Operate with decimal fractions
21 Perform rounding
22 Compare numbers (<,>)
23 Understand analogue clock
24 Understand proportions
25 Calculate square numbers
26 Calculate square roots
27 Extrapolation of data from charts, statistics

The formative test will help teachers and educators to better understand the needs of their learners, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Following the completion of the training course, the summative assessment will allow them evaluate the extent to which their approach has been effective by measuring the impact of the training course in improving learners’ math skills.

This process can be carried out via the Self-Assessment Tool.

Through the Self-Assessment Tool, which is available in the 5 languages of the implementing partners, learners test their knowledge regarding 27 mathematical skills; each tested by 2 multiple choice questions. To complete the assessment test, the learner is allowed to have paper and pen/pencil. However, she/he is NOT allowed to use any special devises like calculator, mobile phone etc.

Note: It is estimated that it will take approximately 50-60 minutes for the learners to complete the Assessment

In each question, the learner is presented with a mathematical problem a selection of choices for the right answer. He/she can carry out any calculation he/she wishes before selecting the answer they consider as the correct one and click Next.

They are then be given immediate feedback informing them whether their choice was the correct one:

After completing the assessment questions, learners will get their score which will help them understand the extent to which they need to invest themselves and improve their mathematical skills.

Moreover, they can check out the more detailed presentation of their score which can help guide them realize what skills they should focus on improving via the use of M-Easy’s Apps.

Finally, they are also advised to keep their score, which is not saved by the system, printing/downloading the result sheet with the colour presentation of the skills (red,yellow, green) for future reference. After they have completed the course, they will be encouraged/asked to re-take the same assessment tool and compare their results with their initial score and thus evaluate their improvement.

A lack of awareness and consequently interest is observed among people about their capability to validate the competencies they have obtained within non-formal and informal learning. It is believed that this phenomenon is due to the absence of efforts to develop and institutionalize the validation process, promote it in a manner that helps the general public to understand the concept of validation and embed a culture of appreciation for lifelong learning culture.

Thus, it is essential that the validation arrangements are presented to learners in a way that is easy to understand and will allow them to choose the form best suited to their particular needs. Learners should be informed about the costs and benefits of validation, and how the process can influence progress in learning and employment. Guidance and counselling is of particular importance for reaching disadvantaged groups and for releasing their inherent potential. Consequently, guidance and counselling is of particular importance for reaching disadvantaged groups and for releasing their inherent potential.