Learners can be encouraged to monitor their own progress and assess their learning in less formal ways. Prompting them to consider their understanding of a topic can raise their awareness of their own learning, and may help them identify if they need to return to previous content.
Why informal assessment?
Informal assessment is what happens throughout a course, often in unspoken ways. It's reflection, rehearsal, questioning and articulating what we've just read, watched, or heard. And in doing so we enrich and embed what we've learned. By the time we are then tested on what we know in formal assessments, we not only remember the facts, but we have surrounded them with understanding and context.
Self-assessment / informal assessment should:
- Explain explicitly what Learners are being asked to do, with clear instructions; confirm that they are not required to submit anything and clarify why they will benefit from doing it.
- Contain explicit step titles - to help Learners orient themselves and set their expectations i.e. ‘Give it a go’ ‘Measure your progress’ ‘Self-assessment’, ‘Progress so far’ or ‘What have you learnt?’.
- Include criteria for Learners to benchmark themselves against.
- Include parameters of what they are and are not allowed to do so that they have a clear goal to reach.
- Clearly indicate which steps of the course are being covered.
- Be related to a Learning Outcome - i.e. an identified behaviour or skill that is relevant and timely for them to practice.
The common step types for informal assessment would be an article step, or discussion step. However, exercise steps, external tools or poll steps may also be appropriate.
- Private reflection upon a series of questions, sandwiched between other discussion steps where they share their reflections.
- Encouraging Learners to explain their understanding of a topic, aloud to another person, or in the comments area, and reflect on this experience. Return to the content to determine how confident they felt in their understanding.
- Instructions to write a checklist of 5-10 facts they’ve learned about a topic; one or two things they’d like to know more about or something that they’re having trouble understanding.
- Providing a piece of text whereby Learners are asked to identify errors or analyse, with further information provided on the next step.
- Instructions to practice or demonstrate a skill in their own time, a number of times until they reach a specific goal.
- Presenting scenarios for Learners to consider, which synthesise prior learning and allow Learners to apply theory.
- A poll step rating their own understanding of a specific topic, this could feature at the beginning and at the end of a week and learners can compare their ratings and reflect on their progress.
- Encouragement to observe a relevant scenario in their own lives and consider aspects of their learning, with follow-up questions in a future week.
A healthcare course has the following Learning Outcome, an example is provided below of how Learners could assess their own progress in reaching it.
By the end of this course, you will be able to...
Explain the principles of holistic care
Take a few moments to consider what you have learned about holistic care. How would you currently explain the principles of holistic care to a friend?
Reading about a concept is one thing, but being able to share that knowledge with someone else is a great way to assess your own learning and understanding.
Give it a go!
Try explaining to a friend or family member what the term means and how it applies to health and well-being. If you do not have anyone to share this with you can try writing out your explanation or saying it aloud to yourself, if you feel comfortable.
Some of you may begin by writing out what you would hope to say, and that is fine, some of you may return to step X to remind yourself of what you have been learning. Some of you may go for it straight away! We all learn differently. If you start out using your notes that is OK too.
The aim is that eventually, without using any notes, you are able to explain the principles of holistic care in your own authentic voice, with relevant examples and feel confident in the accuracy of your explanation.
Take the time to reflect on how well you think you can do this, and how well it goes in practice.
Share your explanation and experience
Share in the comments below how you found the experience and what you said.
Find one other comment to reply to stating whether or not they agree/disagree with that explanation and why. Did you feel confident in your explanation? Were you able to provide an example? Did the person you explained it to feel happy with your explanation?
I am not there with you to assess how accurately or well you explained the concept - this is all about you assessing your own learning and determining if you need to go back and re-learn any content or improve in any skills. If you found it challenging when saying your explanation aloud, don't give up - return to step X, and try again.
If you wish to take this further see the related links below for a weblink to X where you can find out even more about holistic care.
How do you think this informal assessment example could be improved upon? Would you add a poll or a rubric for how they assess themselves? These considerations will hopefully help you as you consider developing informal assessment into your courses.