08 Mar 4 tips for evaluating competences
Competences are much harder to assess than knowledge. Especially when it comes to complex skills. Does a presentation, for example, show originality, creativity and critical thinking? Is a writing assignment strong in content, grammatically correct and well structured? That is much harder to measure. From research we distilled the following 4 tips for evaluating competences.
In an attempt to assess complex skills in the best possible way, teachers often use rubrics or criterion lists. With these tools, assignments are divided into sub-competences of which each are analysed, scored, and added up into one final score. Working with such criterion lists can sometimes be useful, for example in making feedback tangible. But it can also be time-consuming, and often gives a false sense of reliability. It’s likely that criteria overlap and that they are open to multiple interpretations. Moreover, you push the bigger picture out of sight by merely zooming in on the smaller parts. The following tips can make evaluating competences just a little bit easier.
Tip 1: Start from your learning objectives
The first function of testing or assessment is not to collect grades, but to find out to what extent certain learning objectives are achieved. Evaluation, therefore, starts with clear learning objectives. Was it your intention to teach the students knowledge? Or were you aiming more at skills and competences? Think about what exactly you want to measure. Choose tests or tasks that match your learning objectives.
Tip 2: Rely on your expertise, not on selection criteria
Suppose you give an essay separate marks on criteria such as spelling, sentence structure, word usage, layout, content and structure, and then add up the marks. You think this would give you a ‘logical’ final score, but it often leaves you with the feeling you are wrong. Recognisable? The quality of a piece of work is indeed not the sum of its parts, but is primarily determined by the interaction between the parts. So look at the end product and trust your expertise to make a judgement.
Tip 3: Compare assignments
First, go through all the assignments or watch all the presentations. Write down a series of pluses and minuses, but do not grade them yet. Finally, put all the assignments in order, from lower to higher quality, and hand out your final scores. Do you have a large number of tasks to grade? Use a comparing tool to help you.
Tip 4: Work together
The ‘four-eyes principle’, where complex tasks are viewed by two assessors, was created to avoid too large individual differences. So ask a departmental or parallel colleague to go through your assignments and make their own ranking. How does he or she rank the same assignments? Are you on the same page? Discuss what you liked and disliked and come to a consensus. Such discussions are often inspiring. Exchanging how you deal with certain topics and what you expect from the students is beneficial for a better coordination between subjects and teachers.