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Standards-based Assessments in Adult Education

Find-audi-car-parts-nzI am currently completing a computing course – self-paced but very tightly prescribed in terms of what you can do, when and where (a contradiction in terms already perhaps?). This is a common pattern for standards based learning in cases such as this national certificate. In this approach, there is often only one way of doing things and things must be done in one particular way, in the exact order given, in just one specific geographical location, and concerning one specific scenario (whether or not the scenario and approaches are currently or ever likely to be part of my experience).

Yet, as an experienced adult educator and learner and a believer in a feminist, qualitative approach of multiple ways of knowing, I find myself rebelling and becoming very frustrated in such a learning environment (sometimes very vocally, to my shame). I recognise that I am now on the receiving end of the trainer-trainee dynamic I wrote of some months ago, with some differences. In that case, the concern was people and nationally consistent equable/democratic systems; the training was based on face-to-face learning experiences, and the assessments were practically and small-group based. There were rigid processes to be learned but a qualitative approach to assessment. This was a comfortable fit for me, even if the course was very prescribed. In the case of this course, business administrative processes are the focus, I deal mostly with a machine (a computer) rather than a person, and the assessments are formal, individually produced and rigidly marked on a quantitative basis.

In general, my own workplaces operate in a different manner and the processes and requirements do not correspond to the methods and processes in the course. Yet, if I wish to receive a ‘pass’ mark for the certificate, I am forced to conform. There is no room for creative problem solving or individual variation, or for using workbooks and assessments as a means of creating something that could be of use in my real world. I still espouse the need to act professionally in business or in my writing, and to be clear and consistent in my dealings with clients. Having said that, I also view the people with whom I deal as individual humans whose professional needs and requirements may not fit into the mould of ‘one size fits all’. An accountant may argue with me about this, but I believe there is room for both, something that this course with its very small team of overworked tutors is not able to deliver.

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