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Assessment practice: introduction - Sweden

In a report presented by the Swedish national Agency for School Improvement, on overall research in the area of assessment, the author describes how the purposes for educational assessment have been extended from grading and ranking to also encompassing the support of individuals´ learning as well as serving the development of classroom-practise and formal curriculum. This extension or shift of purpose should be understood in relation to the fact that vast political efforts have made in all Western countries to keep an increasing proportion of the young generation in the educational system for a long time and to involve citizens in life-long-learning. Furthermore, the growth of scientific knowledge, the spread of information technology and increased social and cultural tensions in the society has made the process of content selection an increasingly difficult problem for the school. Teaching the students “to learn” has hence to a large extent, at least on a rhetorical level, come to replace learning-goals that relate to specific subject matter. 

The assessment has to focus on the learning process as well as the outcomes of learning and be made part of the educational enterprise. This perspective puts new demands on the modes of assessment procedure. If the assessment is to be regarded as an integrated part of the learning process, it is not only a matter of measurement, but also enhancement of the intended learning. However, Swedish as well as international research has concluded that tests most of the time rather hinder than promote complex and critical learning. 

Studies of assessment, which are based on the socio-cultural theory opposite behaviourism, emphasise the situated and social nature of learning. They show that students´ perception of the task and its context are significant for the way they understand and handle it . 

The most important task of a school is to stimulate every pupil’s learning and development. The pupils’ shall develop their own knowledge in relation to their prerequisites but on the other hand, this knowledge shall also measure as absolute goal levels, as described before. This seems to cause conflicts in the school situation and could be a hinder for inclusion.  

Sweden has been taking some steps towards a developed and integrated system for assessment. But there are still some steps to take. We need to develop better strategies and models on how to assess the pupil’s work in school and how to communicate these results.

Assessment and evaluation are not only observation; they can also be influential. Therefore, important questions to rise are:

  • Why do we assess?
  • For whom do we assess?
  • How do we assess?
  • By whom?
  • Who are involved?
  • What will be assessed?
  • Against what will the result be assessed?
  • How will the assessment be used?

 

Sources: 

  • Korp, Helena (2003). Kunskapsbedömning – hur, vad och varför. Myndigheten för skolutveckling
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