learning landscapes in southern africa


An analysis of the impact of an authentic assessment strategy on student performance in a technology-mediated constructivist classroom: a study revisited

Andrew Scholtz, Information and Communication Technology, Turfloop Campus, University of Limpopo
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Paper (10 pages)

Assessment performs a number of important and well documented roles in learning environments where it is used as both a formative and a summative tool. However, one of the most contentious roles that assessment plays is its role in high stakes accountability testing. Over the years a degree of standardisation of summative assessment has occurred that appears to satisfy society's need for certainty about the validity and reliability of summative assessment practices, particularly in the case of high stakes accountability testing. Promotion of competent learners at schools and tertiary institutions depends on the outcome of this assessment, as does the process of warranting learning, while employers rely on these outcomes when deciding on whom to employ. This form of assessment practice has strong roots in the behaviourist paradigm and relies on "scientific measurement of ability and achievement" for its "authority". So strong is the hold of the behaviourist approach on summative assessment practices that it is "presumed to hold the high ground" even in constructivist classrooms.

In this paper a study undertaken in 2002 that considered the implementation of a computer-mediated, constructivist learning environment is revisited in light of tensions concerning validity and reliability between the behaviourist-informed measurement community and the authentic assessment practices of the socio-constructivist community. The results of student performance in the assessment that took place in the original study are reassessed and discussed in terms of the behaviourist versus constructivist debate with respect to assessment. Apart from the obvious wider implications, this debate has particular relevance with respect to institutional online learning implementation via staff development programmes.

This paper attempts to raise issues regarding assessment in constructivist learning environments that appear not to get the attention they deserve, probably because these issues go to the heart of our high stakes accountability testing system. However, if we are to advance the cause of the pedagogy best suited to supporting technology-mediated learning environments -- one in which assessment is central to learning -- then a great deal more energy needs to go into consideration of these issues.