The discussions we have had so far in this column concerning assessment issues might have led you to wonder what is the relationship between assessment and research. We indicated that assessment is an interactive, iterative, multifaceted and multidimensional process which gathers and evaluates information on what learners know, understand, and can do, for purposes of making informed decisions. The term assessment can be applied broadly ranging from classroom to external assessment conducted by a dedicated examination body or a research institution.
Research on the other hand is a systematic and orderly collection and analysis of information with an ultimate purpose to make useful decision to solve a problem or generating new knowledge. The process of research includes identifying the purpose, articulating the research problem, reviewing literature, preparing how the research will be conducted, deciding on the proportion of learners who will take part in the research, developing data collection instruments, collecting data, analysing data, interpreting data, and writing the report.
If assessment is conducted as research, it has to follow the research process. Understandably, the starting point in conducting quality assessment is understanding the purpose, and there are many and varied. Likewise, research is done for a purpose, which depends on the situation at hand, such as a practical solution for an immediate problem or evaluating an intervention or to create or advance knowledge in a particular area.
Both educational research and assessment employ the same methods of data collection and the same varied data collection instruments. Whilst in research, a sample is normally used, it is atypical to use a sample when conducting classroom assessment unless it is conducted as an action research. Action research in this context is the research that can only be conducted by the classroom teacher.
Depending on the instrument that was administered, in either research or assessment, it can be scored or coded and data subsequently captured. Scoring or coding should be done accurately to ensure that validity and reliability are not compromised. Subsequently, analysis which involves both qualitative and quantitative methods is carried out.
In qualitative methods, data is analysed non-numerically in the form of words and meaning, whilst quantitative analysis uses numbers and statistical techniques. As we said, in research we normally use a sample instead of the whole population, this therefore allows the results to be generalised to the whole population. That is, it allows us to infer the performance of the population from the sample.
After administering a test to the class, the teacher calculates the average, the range, frequencies, and so on. All these are aimed at helping understand leaners’ performance in assessment. Sometimes the highest scoring learner goes on to be given the prize during the prize-giving ceremony, something that should be highly discouraged in the 21st century learning, as it encourages competition; rote learning; individualism; and selfishness. Assessment as research is a collaborative endeavour and should always be done as a teamwork activity.
One major difference between classroom assessment and research is that the teacher has the liberty to link the test scores to the learners in classroom assessment since improvement is geared towards an individual, while in assessment as research the issues of confidentiality are very imperative and the learners’ identity should never be revealed.
Considering what assessment as research entails, teachers in their daily teaching transaction, conduct a lot of assessment which can easily be transformed into research. Depending on your viewpoint, assessment is a function of research. Recall the discussion we had on national assessment in our previous four articles.
Yes, it’s possible!