In any learning activity, it is important to conduct formative assessments that provide feedback on student learning. In this manner, facilitators can gauge if outcomes set at the beginning of the course are likely to be met. The assessment also serves to guide enhancements in the course and motivate learners to do better in the event that learning is found to be sub-optimal (Leung, Mok & Wong, 2008). A positive outcome is the optimization of time and resources spent in learning. The choice of method becomes more complex when adult students are not homogeneous in terms of language fluency, learning styles, culture, experience in health care, and work environment. Thus, each method must be carefully considered in light of learner attributes and course content (Gulikers et al., 2008).
The background knowledge probe is one method that informs the facilitator about what students know about the course. The probe is in the form of questions that students answer. The advantage is that when used at the beginning of the course, it shapes facilitator expectations and establishes a focus on what learners do not know or understand (DeYoung, 2009).However, it can be embarrassing to students who may regard as confrontational or disrespectful the act of having them admitamong peers a lack of knowledge, which may be a culturally determined attitude. As such, questions must be framedpositively by asking what they would like to know instead of what they do not know. Although the facilitator gives feedback to the group, individual answers must remain anonymous.
Another technique is the muddiest point that also involves asking students questions but pertain to points that remain confusing and need further clarification (DeYoung, 2009). This method is best used in a classroom setting because the facilitator is assured that students are on the same page in contrast to an asynchronous environment wherein students cover the learning materials at their own pace. Compared to the background knowledge probe, muddiest point is used at the end of the learning session.However, the facilitator must determine whether muddiest points are primarily because of difficulties in understanding the language or context wherein the learning materials are presented or because of complexity of the content. The former may require suggesting the use of available resources to help with language difficulties. The latter calls for a revision in learning strategies to include techniques that best suit the particular content(Billings & Halstead, 2009).
While the questions and points in the two methods mentioned above are determined by the facilitator and learners, standardized tests are validated assessment tools proven to be reliable across samples of students in many settings (Billings & Halstead, 2009). While this is an advantage in itself, it is effective among students who are fluent in the language used and also fully understand the context of the questions.
A major issue with standardized assessment tools ariseswhen learner diversity was not considered significantly in the development of such tools. Culture based on ethnicity and previous experiences shapes how learners think and approach the problems they encounter, as does the culture of the organizations they are part of (Demmert, 2005). A standardized test given in the classroom or online must capture the diversity of the learners for it to be valid and reliable.
All the above methods do not take up too much time as compared to other assessment methods such as simulated exercises, case studies, personal reflection, and group work. However, the latter four are useful in assessing for deep learning or the students’ ability to critically analyze and synthesize the information and skills learned (Leung, Mok & Wong, 2008). This facilitates the enhancement or development of new competencies in creating, implementing, and adhering to HIPAA-related systems and processes in their organizations.Deep learning also permits adult learners to identify and think out possible solutions to real problems concerning health information privacy and confidentiality in the workplace(Gulikers et al., 2008).As long as time permits, simulations, case studies, and reflection must be used as major assessment methods.
On the other hand, group collaboration provides opportunities for the sharing of experiences. It can also integrate peer assessments at the end as a way of assessing learning(Billings & Halstead, 2009). Unlike all the other methods, this is the only tool that relies highly on social interaction including effective communication, partnership, and conflict management. As such, potential problems may arise if the group is unable to address conflict by themselves and this becomes an impediment to learning. Clear rules and expectations must be establishedbefore commencing the activity to clarify expectations(DeYoung, 2009).
In comparing and contrasting these techniques, facilitators must be learner-centered and choose not what they prefer the most but those that fit the student profiles to optimize learning.Another factor to consider is the appropriateness of the assessment method in relation to learning environment, which is online or classroom-based.Potential issues with language and culture must be identified early for these to factor into the decision-making process pertaining to learner assessment.Last, high-order learning should be the focus of assessment when facilitating learning for adults to ensure learners’ direct application of the knowledge and skills gained to particular job roles.
Billings, D. M., & Halstead, J. A. (2009). Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.
Demmert, W.G. (2005). The influences of culture on learning and assessment among Native American students. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20(1), 16-23. Retrieved from http://blogs.ubc.ca/dryan/files/2008/10/fulltext.pdf
DeYoung, S. (2009). Teaching strategies for nurse educators. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Gulikers, J.T.M., Kester, L., Kirschner, P.A., & Bastiaens, T.J. (2008). The effect of practical experience on perceptions of assessment authenticity, study, approach, and learning outcomes. Learning and Instruction, 18(2), 172-186. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2007.02.012.
Leung, S.F., Mok, E., & Wong, D. (2008). The impact of assessment methods on the learning of nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 28(6), 711-719. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2007.11.004.