Learning and Assessment

Learning is the process of creating understanding.

Learning happens when the individual learner "makes sense" of an experience. The experience can be something seen, heard (sensed, in general) and the processed by that learner's cognition. Early psychology described learning from one's environment in terms of conditioning (Pavlov's dog, etc...). We now consider learning as having a cognitive component.

Learning occurs in many forms, in many settings, with the help of many different kinds of resources. We all have preferences, but we can all learn any way (some better than others). Learning is a characteristic of being a human (part of the human condition).

Assessment is also creating understanding.

Assessment is the process of evaluating, estimating, or making sense of a quality of a learner (academic or educational assessment). In a sense, assessment is a form of learning because the one performing the assessment is learning about the learner. Usually the assessor is doing the learning, but sometimes the learner him/herself becomes involved in the assessment process, and thus learns what he/she has learned. It sounds complicated.

Summative assessment is designed to report on learning to date, and is no concerned with future learning. Summative assessment is used to create progress reports.

Formative assessment is designed to inform future learning. It may look exactly the same as summative assessment, or not. It may or not be performed by the assessor and/or the learner. For example, at KVA when a student meets with a content expert, a formative assessment (in different forms, to different degrees) is performed so that the content expert can best support the learner's learning needs as he/she moves forward with learning.. We call this, "getting to know the learner."

One valuable difference between summative and formative assessment at KVA is that we believe, to truly support a learner, we have to understand two things:

  • what the learner knows (foundational knowledge in a content area , upon which new learning can be attached and built), and
  • how the learner learns (learning competence and learning techniques and strategies, which will help us choose learning resources and activities for the learner.)

Ultimately, learning and assessment are separate functions within an educational institution. KVA content experts can assess your learning and tell you what portion of the outcomes of a course for which you show mastery. KVA content experts can also support your learning by better understanding what you know and how you learn. These are what KVA content experts do.

As the student, your responsibility is to create understanding.