BEFORE: What is non-contextualised assessment?

BEFORE (8).jpg

What is non-contextualised assessment and what’s it for?

A non-contextualised assessment is an assessment that examines generic aspects of literacy or numeracy without reference to any particular context. In other words, the aspects of literacy and numeracy that you are testing do not relate to the particular context in which you are teaching.

For the purposes of this qualification, we are most interested in contextualised literacy and numeracy assessments. However, there are times when it does make good sense to use non-contextualised assessments.

Here are some scenarios where a non-contextualised approach might be appropriate and relevant. In other words, when you might want to choose a non-contextualised assessment over a contextualised one.

1. You’re an ESOL teacher working with refugees

When you are working with very low-level learners in terms of their literacy or ESOL needs it can make sense to develop and use non-contextualised or generic literacy and numeracy assessments.

For example, if you are working with pre-literate learners you may need to develop ways of working out what, if anything, they know at some very basic levels. This might include examining whether they can:

  1. Write the alphabet
  2. Recognise relationships between sounds and letters.
  3. Recognise words from a high-frequency word list.

2. You need to teach some very basic numeracy and maths skills

Similarly, if you are working with numeracy at a very basic level, it often makes more sense to deliberately take the concepts out of a context so you can teach them first, before introducing the context later.

This might work with aspects of numeracy including teaching:

  • Basic facts like simple addition and subtraction facts or times tables.
  • Place value
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Percentages

All of these can be contextualised. But just keep in mind the needs of your learners first. If you think your learners are at or below step 3 on the progressions it may be more effective, particularly for numeracy, to delay the context until you have the basics in place.

3. You don’t know what direction to take

Another scenario could be when you want to check that some generic aspects of literacy and numeracy are in place. This might be because you’re not clear on what direction you need to take with your approach to literacy and numeracy, for example at the beginning of a new programme or for a new staff induction. Or you might need to use a broad-brush approach to assessing literacy and numeracy. More on this next.

Is the TEC Assessment Tool contextualised or non-contextualised?

That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked. The simple answer is no. The TEC tool is not contextualised specifically to your context.

If you are a hairdresser it would be great if you had a tool like the TEC tool that was contextualised to the specifics of your trade covering essential hair and skin related vocabulary or calculations using fractions for working out how much product to use.

Or wouldn’t it be great if it was contextualised specifically to your workplace? Or to whatever programme you teach? Even ESOL, right?

Sorry… it’s just too big of a project. So here’s the compromise. While the TEC Assessment Tool is not contextualised to your teaching and work, it does seek to contextualise assessment questions to a range of contexts that are familiar to most New Zealanders.

So a better answer is that the assessment tool is kind of contextualised. But it’s probably not contextualised exactly how you’d like it to be. Nor will it be.

But it’s still very useful and we’ll talk about it more shortly. The flip side to all this is that you do really need to have your own contextualised assessment tools. But you will probably need to develop them yourself.

The good news is that your own assessment tools and processes don’t need to be as big as the TEC Assessment Tool. In fact, they can be quite short. But this part will be up to you.  

Author: Graeme Smith

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

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