What is contextualised assessment? An Essential Guide for Vocational Educators

What is contextualised assessment? An Essential Guide for Vocational Educators

What is contextualised assessment?

A contextualised assessment is a type of assessment where the literacy or numeracy content is relevant to your learners because it relates to the context that you teach.

For example, the context might be:

  • A trade such as painting, horticulture or hairdressing.
  • Another vocational area such as employment skills like CV writing or interviewing.
  • A workplace context such as communicating with a supervisor
  • An ESOL context like going to the doctor.

This kind of assessment is usually relevant and appropriate for your learners because you’re assessing the key aspects of literacy and numeracy that are already right there in your programme or work.

The opposite of a contextualised assessment is a generic or non-contextualised assessment.

How could you create a contextualised assessment if you were a painting tutor?

Here’s an example of how you might go about developing a contextualised literacy assessment for a painting context. But when you’re thinking about it, see if you can put it into your own teaching context.

  1. Narrow the focus: As a painting tutor you have to teach people painting and decorating, but you need to start with what the parts of a paintbrush are. To manage this you want to narrow your focus to talking about paintbrushes and industry jargon. So you have an idea that some of your learners know some of the terms but not all of them. You also know that some terminology is technical and the words could be new to these learners. But you need to confirm your suspicions.
  2. Decide on a small set of things that your learners should know or do: Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to the parts of a paintbrush you list key vocabulary. This might include words like these: tip, belly, heel, crimp, bristles, ferrule, handle, size, synthetic.
  3. Design a short test that you can use as a pre-assessment and post-assessment. There are lots of ways to do this. And we’ll show you some examples in the next module. But for now, let’s say that your assessment requires learners match the paint brush terminology with the corresponding part on a picture of a paintbrush.
  4. Try it out with a colleague. If you can, it’s always a good idea to put any new test through its paces with a co-worker or someone who can give you some feedback. It’s an easy way of finding the bugs before you give it to your learners.
  5. Test-Teach-Test: Now you can use your new mini-assessment as a pre-assessment to get some diagnostic information about who actually knows which words. You can adjust your teaching plan to only focus on learning new and unfamiliar words that the group needs. Then when you’re ready to wrap things up you can readminister your test. This time it’s summative to the short unit of learning on paintbrushes, but it’s also formative to the larger programme that you’re teaching.

Contextualised assessments for literacy and numeracy are what we’re most interested in for this qualification and training.

The reason we like them is that in most cases contextualised assessments lend themselves to our embedded approach. They’re also easy to manage for smaller chunks of learning like in the scenario above.

We’ve got some examples coming up in the next module that you can adapt, modify or just use for inspiration when it comes to designing your own contextualised literacy and numeracy assessments.

Wanna learn to teach better?

Check out these eBooks I wrote just for you to help you improve:

30 Powerful Ideas to Supercharge Vocational Education

Unlocking Learning Success: 12 Concepts from Te Ao Māori You Should Embrace for a Learner-Centered Approach

Literacy and Numeracy: It’s Not Rocket Science

Reading Between The Lines: The Secret Step-By-Step Guide

Three Simple Approaches You Need for Learner Centred Teaching

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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