Fundació Jaume BofillUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

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We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Debats d’Educació by giving the educational community the opportunity to air its views

Joaquim Prats
Joaquim Prats
Professor at the University of Barcelona.

Professor at the University of Barcelona. Specialising in history teaching, analysis of education systems and the history of universities

The three things I’ve learned

An education system without an assessment system is like a ship without a compass (nowadays a GPS)
1

WHAT DOES ASSESSMENT MEAN AND WHAT SHOULD BE ASSESSED?

Assessment is a tool for achieving quality in all stages of education systems.

Assessment is necessary for:

  1. Knowing and assessing the achievement of established educational targets.
  2. Promoting dynamics for change in the system and its staff.
  3. Certifying and accrediting professionals.
  4. Assessing the impact of programmes.
  5. Contributing rational elements to the educational debate.
  6. Being accountable to society.
  7. Making the system transparent.

To carry out this task, it is essential that public policies are assessed together with the systems and subsystems making up education considering the factors of effectiveness, efficiency, impact, relevance, and sustainability; schools, colleges and other institutions; teaching and support staff; and, finally, students’ results, which is currently the best-known type of assessment, based on which the OECD promoted the PISA report.

2

WHAT SHOULD ASSESSMENT PROMOTE?

Assessment needs to promote processes of reflection and action, getting knowledge circulating directly or indirectly among all affected members to break down the image of a “black box” so deeply rooted in educational institutions, with the traditional rejection of all outside checks. Information duly compiled and transformed into knowledge therefore needs to become an element for reflection, providing proposals for improvement which are more effective when incentives are introduced.
It is advisable to promote and incentivise these behaviours, attitudes and values for all agents as a principal factor for improving motivation, attitudes and processes. Put another way, the role of incentives needs to be to reward positive behaviours, make these behaviours continue and provide the basis of a fair system that always considers the initial conditions.

3

WHEN ARE ASSESSMENT SYSTEMS USEFUL?

Assessment contributes to providing a response to the challenges set by schools, colleges and the system as a whole. However, assessment in itself does not solve existing problems, although it does help in approaching them correctly.

Assessment will be useful in the following circumstances. Firstly, it must be carried out at the right time, using methods and techniques achieving sufficient discrimination of knowledge. Secondly, it is essential to have an exact diagnosis of the context in which the phenomena under study occur and not to make assessments based on parameters and standards that in many cases have little to do with the culture of educational institutions and the traditions of professional groups. Thirdly, when it is possible to combine the results of assessment with other sources of knowledge. Finally, it is fundamental to know what to do with the results.

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