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The term Learning Oriented Assessment is one of several which have been used in recent years with a similar purpose in mind: to carve out a place for a form of assessment with different priorities and values from those of traditional assessment, with its focus on reliability and validity. Like the classroom-based assessment movement in the US, or the Assessment Reform Group’s promotion of formative assessment or Assessment for Learning in the UK, LOA proposes a form of assessment whose primary purpose is to promote learning.
Cambridge English approaches LOA from an assessment specialist perspective, taking a systemic view where assessment operates on multiple levels and takes many forms. It encompasses both the macro level of framing educational goals and evaluating outcomes, and the micro level of individual learning interactions which take place in the classroom or outside it – that is, both formal and informal assessment. The term LOA is chosen to emphasise that all levels of assessment can and should contribute to both the effectiveness of learning and the reliable evaluation of outcomes.
Our conception of LOA reflects an intention to change the traditional relationship of assessment to learning. The Cambridge model sets out to define a complementary relationship with teaching, based on a functional division between the dimensions of quantitative measurement (the domain of assessment expertise), and qualitative individualisation of approach to each learner (the domain of teaching expertise). LOA thus foresees a central role for teachers in creating an environment productive of learning, wholly complementary to the role of formal assessment.
An important goal and motivation in developing LOA is to shape the approach taken in situations where Cambridge English exams are adopted at institutional or national level within a programme of educational reform. LOA should serve as a theory of action for introducing formal assessment into a context of learning so as to achieve positive impact.
Cambridge English Empower is a new general adult course that combines course content from Cambridge University Press with validated Learning Oriented Assessment from Cambridge English.
The course syllabus is informed by English Profile and the Cambridge English Corpus and is carefully benchmarked to the CEFR ensuring that students encounter the most relevant and useful language at the right point in their learning.
The role of assessment in Cambridge English Empower is unique and its learning-oriented approach means that assessment constantly informs and enhances learning. This means that students make consistent and measurable progress.
Find out more about Cambridge English Empower
You can watch a video explaining the stages of the LOA cycle, a recording of our signature event at IATEFL, or a webinar about how assessment can support learning.
Video: Learning Oriented Assessment: The different stages of the LOA cycle
Event: Cambridge English Signature event at IATEFL 2014
Webinar: How can assessment support learning? A Learning Oriented Approach
Read: Studies in Language Testing (SiLT) Vol. 45 gives further information on the key issues, principles and practices in LOA.
Learning Oriented Assessment (LOA) is a systematic approach to language learning that uses formal and informal assessment to:
help teachers and learners to plan learning more effectively
identify areas for improvement
deliver measurable improvements.
Learning Oriented Assessment provides a clear structure for integrating in-course tests, public examinations and less qualitative observations of learners. It helps plan course objectives and to ensure that lessons and study outside the classroom directly contribute to the achievement of each learner’s personal objectives.
The idea behind Learning Oriented Assessment is familiar to language teachers – monitoring learners’ performance, testing their progress and adapting courses to match their strengths and weaknesses. Teachers are also used to the idea of external assessment, both as a way of measuring progress and as an end in itself.
What is new about the concept of Learning Oriented Assessment is that it integrates these two forms of assessment – often referred to as formative and summative assessment – and provides a structured approach to collecting and using evidence from tests and from the classroom.
Learning Oriented Assessment aims to deliver measurably better results for learners, while reducing teachers’ workload and their need to improvise methods for managing evidence of learners’ progress.
Learning Oriented Assessment also aims to give learners more independence to plan their own learning based on reliable evidence, and to set and achieve their own goals. It helps them to achieve more effective language skills and to approach formal qualifications with greater confidence.
In a learning-oriented approach to assessment, the focus is not only on the diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses, but on the learning and how to progress learning, for the short term (e.g. by task in the lesson), the medium term (e.g. for the week) and the long term (e.g. planning for the achievement of curriculum goals over the term or year).
In Learning Oriented Assessment, learning is identified as a partnership between the teacher and the learner. The learners are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and progression. This means learning objectives need to be clearly signposted so that learners can reflect and assess their own performance, and assess their partners’ performance. LOA means that the class works collaboratively with a clear sense of purpose and direction towards the achievement of learning objectives.
The goal in Learning Oriented Assessment is to encourage teachers to consider the assessment potential of the tasks they include in their lessons. The LOA lesson plan takes the teacher a step beyond selecting and sequencing tasks. From an LOA perspective, the teacher will also be thinking about the pedagogical merit of every task, which will include how they might assess and respond to the learners’ task performance in the lesson relative to identified learning objectives.
Passing tests and exams is widely thought of as being the gateway to opportunity, for example, going up to the next level, changing readers, or winning a place at university. This means that the underlying value of assessment can easily be forgotten, which is that assessment can be used to:
identify learning needs
help make decisions to promote continued learning.