Initial assessment is crucial in the lifelong learning sector because every learner comes with a range of differing life skills and experiences and, potentially, a variety of goals and aspirations. Petty (2009, p530) states: “Each learner is unique and has individual needs. If the needs of our learners are discovered and met, the chances of success are greatly increased.” This statement is particularly true when it comes to skills for life courses, where learners’ abilities may differ widely and former educational experiences may not have been wholely positive. As a volunteer tutor of a literacy support group for travellers, I was responsible for my own approach to the initial assessment of my learners and knew, instinctively, it was crucial both for the group and myself that I get it right to ensure the group were comfortable and also to establish quickly why they wished to attend. While I was aware there were certain standardised tests and diagnostic assessments often employed in skills for life initial assessments, I was not keen to introduce these until a relationship had been established. My very first assessment, therefore, revolved entirely round a very informal question and answer session that allowed me to explore the learners’ needs and their goals for attending the support group and also discover their attitudes to learning and their level of study skills. It was important to keep the initial work oral as I quickly discovered through this assessment technique that basic literacy skills were extremely low and that any attempt at a formal, written assessment would not be suitable. In different circumstances, however, I may have used any of a number of different methods to form an initial assessment, including looking at the learners’ application form, course application interview, screening tests and previous qualifications. As Petty (2009, p538) points out, however: “Don’t assume that level 3 students have level 3 key skills.” Previous qualifications...
Bibliography: Petty, Geoff (2009) Teaching Today (4th ed.) Cheltenham, Nelson Thrones Ltd.
Gravells, Anne and Simpson, Susan, (2011) Passing CTLLS Assessment Exeter, Learning Matters.
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