[Assessment 1266] Re: Formative Assessment in Adult Literacy Education:A Special Topics Discussion

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Laura Chenven LChenven at 1199funds.org
Wed Feb 20 17:17:37 EST 2008

Formative assessment - probably the most important type of assessment
that can be done in the classroom - it looks at the individual as well
as the group, uses the talents and skills of the teacher (potentially
the best and most underutilized assessment tool we have) and allows for
continuous adjustment of the teaching and learning process to meet the
needs of students. Lately I've been engaged in evaluation of adult
education programs (mostly college based) that look at the formative
process in order to give programs the tools to change and modify what
they do to improve outcomes. Often if we wait for the summative
assessment of the individual or t he summative evaluation of a project
or program, we miss the why. We don't learn the reason for the outcomes
or get the insight we need to make change. Thanks for the chance to hear
more about this important topic.

Laura Chenven
Healthcare Career Advancement Program
National Coordinator


From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov]
On Behalf Of David J. Rosen
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 11:00 AM
To: The Assessment Discussion List; The Adult Literacy Professional
Development Discussion List; The Family Literacy Discussion List; The
Adult English Language Learners Discussion List; The Workplace Literacy
Discussion List; The Health and Literacy Discussion List; Women and
Literacy Discussion List The Poverty Race; The Learning Disabilities
Discussion List; The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
Subject: [Assessment 1265] Formative Assessment in Adult Literacy
Education:A Special Topics Discussion


Beginning on Monday, February 25th, the Special Topics list will hold a
discussion on formative assessment, a set of classroom practices that
substantial research in England has shown to positively affect
elementary and secondary level student learning outcomes. Not a term
widely known in the U.S., formative assessment refers to what teachers
and learners do in the classroom to assess learning progress. An
assessment is _formative_ when information gathered in the assessment
process is used to modify teaching and learning activities. It's an
assessment _for_ learning, not just _of_ learning.

A just-published study sponsored by the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD), Teaching, Learning and Assessment
for Adults: Improving Foundation Skills < http://tinyurl.com/2dksn5 >
looks at formative assessment practices in adult foundation skills
(basic skills) classes in several countries among which were the U.S.
and England. We will have as our guests the researchers who did the
studies in these two countries. OECD researchers who studied adult
formative assessment practices in other countries may also participate
in the discussion.

In my opinion, not an unbiased one as I was an OECD researcher in this
study of practices in Flanders Belgium, the study could have an
important impact on adult literacy education practices in North America,
and formative assessment could -- as has been shown in K-12 and higher
education studies -- make an important difference for students'

I hope you will join my esteemed guests for this discussion.

To subscribe to the discussion, go to
http://www.nifl.gov/mailman/listinfo/specialtopics .
You can unsubscribe after the discussion by going to the same web page
or, if you prefer, you can stay subscribed for the next discussion,
Transition from Corrections to Community Education.

Formative Assessment Guest Experts

Janet Looney
Janet Looney is the project leader of the Centre for Educational
Research and Innovation program known as What Works in Innovation in
Education. Since 2002 its focus has been on formative assessment.
Between 2002 and 2004, the What Works program explored formative
assessment in lower secondary classrooms in eight international systems.
[See Formative Assessment: Improving Learning in Secondary Classrooms
(2005)]. OECD has just published the second study addressing formative
assessment for adult basic skill learners, whose web page was provided
Earlier in her career Janet taught ESOL in Japan for over two years, and
at the YMCA in Seattle Washington.

John Benseman
John Benseman has been involved in adult education and literacy for over
30 years working as a practitioner and program administrator, but mainly
as a researcher and evaluator. He started his working life as a primary
(elementary) school teacher, but "became disillusioned with the task of
constantly trying to motivate reluctant learners and became much more
interested in working with adults who were much more motivated". After a
year of studying adult education in Sweden, he worked in continuing
medical education, followed by seven years of running a community-based
adult education organization and a similar period of self-employment as
a researcher. After 12 years of teaching adult education at the
University of Auckland, he moved last year to the Department of Labour
to run a national workplace literacy project. The aim of this project is
to identify best practice in workplace literacy by evaluating 15 diverse
programs throughout New Zealand. They are about halfway through and
should complete it late next year. To date they have interviewed about
250 learners and are just starting to get their first post-program data.
They expect to have data on about 500-600 learners when it is finished.
John's PhD was an analysis of New Zealand as a learning society. In
addition to a "zillion" reports, he has edited a book on New Zealand
adult education and two weeks ago, another one (with Alison Sutton) on
New Zealand adult literacy. He "mainly works from home in a study that
looks out on to beautiful native bush, including a stream and lots of
native birds". He says "It's summer here, so life includes jaunts to the
beach, enjoying family life, frustrated attempts to lower a very average
golf handicap and riding a motorbike to beat the Auckland traffic. My
current project also includes a lot of travel round the country to
interview people - a duty that I am even paid to do..."

With John Comings, John Benseman did the formative assessment research
in the U.S., sponsored in part by the National Institute for Literacy

John Comings
Dr. John Comings was director of the National Center for the Study of
Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL) during its 11 years of funding from
the US Department of Education. He is currently Senior Research
Associate and lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a
consultant on adult education in the U.S. and other countries. His
research focuses on the impact of adult literacy programs and ways to
support persistence of adult learners.

John Vorhaus
Dr John Vorhaus is Associate Director, Research, at the National
Research and Development Centre in Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC) at
the Institute of Education. He is also Director of the Centre for
Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning.

John has directed numerous projects on adult literacy, language and
numeracy, many of these focused on teaching and learning practices, and
also on disadvantaged groups such as offenders, ethnic minority groups
and people who are not in education, training or employment.

On-going research is taken up with persons with profound and multiple
learning difficulties and disabilities; their political status, the
question of whether and how they are shown respect, and an examination
of the teaching and learning practices best fitted to their needs and

John has taught philosophy at the Universities of Bristol and London,
and also in prison, adult and further education, and he continues to
publish in the areas of political philosophy, philosophy of law and
philosophy of education.

David J. Rosen
Special Topics Discussion Moderator
djrosen at comcast.net

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