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Information on Accreditation
and Assessing Learning

2.1 Methods of Assessment
2.2 Portfolios: Every Learner Should Have One!
2.3 Formative and Summative Assessment
2.4 Evidence for Assessment
2.5 Evidence of Learning
2.6 Evidence of Achievement
2.7 Portfolio building: Helping Learners to create their Portfolio
2.8 Portfolio Organisation
2.9 Positive Assessment

Section 2: Information on Accreditation and Assessing Learning.

The majority of the courses organised by the WEA are accredited by the Open College Network (OCN), and as a consequence, these notes have the most relevance to those kinds of courses. However, the WEA does from time to time offer courses from other awarding bodies like City and Guilds or OCR, and these courses will have their own terminology and methodologies. If you are in any doubt as to the awarding body for your course please contact your Development Officer as soon as you can. Furthermore, if you are unsure as to any of the steps you need to take during the life of the course, please contact us.

2.1 Methods of Assessment

It is important that you consider the following points before you begin to teach any accredited course for the WEA.

1) The Submission Document for your course (the document that was originally sent to the Open College Network (OCN) setting out what we want learners to do) outlines units of assessment not of delivery.

2) The content of the programme may be outlined in the Submission Document, but it is not a teaching guide.

3) It tells you what to assess (Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria), not how to teach.

4) You can choose when and how to assess, adapting your methods as far as possible to meet the needs of any group, individuals within a group and to their real-life activities.

5) The way learners are assessed should be relevant and reflect and reflect the type of learning and the type of learner.

6) This flexibility is the real strength of Open College Network provision. You can vary the ways and means of assessment and some examples are included on the tutor support page.

7) The teaching strategy can allow opportunities for assessment that arise out of the learning in an organic and diverse way.

Assessment methods should be:

  • Relevant to the learner group
  • if necessary, negotiated with the group so that they reflect the type of learning and the type of learner
  • sufficient and valid, meaning that they are of sufficient rigour to examine the learning that has occurred and valid in that they would stand up to scrutiny as a proper means to assess work.

Some methods of assessment are included below, using an imaginary course in
“Sandwich Making”.


Learning Outcome - ‘The learner will know how to make a sandwich’
Assessment criteria at level 1 ‘can make an edible sandwich’

1. Give out loaves and knives, with several fillings, and encouraging your learners to ‘discover’ how to make a sandwich, giving plenty of time to practice and discuss with each other.
2. Demonstrating at the front of the class one conventional approach with clear guidelines, followed by each learner practising.
3. Discussing types of bread for several weeks, then looking at fillings and how they are produced, following by giving each learner an instruction sheet to follow.
4. Showing a video of sandwiches around the world, asking the group to research different cultural approaches to sandwiches and then produce notes on how to make the one of their choice.

You can use any one of these teaching methods, though you might think there is only one you personally would use. However, it is important to vary your methodology to keep the learners’ interest. All would eventually allow the learner to achieve the Learning Outcome at the stated level. You would then fill in the evidence checklist for each individual learner, stating the evidence of how they achieved the outcome and constructive comments of encouragement. This learning outcome would be signed off by you as tutor; initialed and dated. An evidence checklist is attached as an appendix to this pack.

  • You could then assess by asking members of the group to taste each others’ and record their thoughts (peer assessment)
  • You could ask everyone to assess their own efforts on a best of three basis (self assessment)
  • You could produce a list of criteria to define your own understanding of ‘edible’ and assess each one yourself against these criteria (tutor assessment)
  • A learner could bring a witness statement from someone who had taken their effort out of the classroom.

The way you assess will arise out of the choice you make of teaching strategy and the type of learner. It will allow for repetition and variety and be seen by the learners as fair and relevant.

2.2 Portfolios: Every Learner Should Have One!

Each learner will have file, usually referred to as a portfolio

This can take many forms and does not necessarily have to be a ring binder, or very large. Some learners prefer a document wallet while others may use an artist’s portfolio with sketch/note book.

This holds ALL evidence the learner has gathered which shows how they achieved the learning outcomes of a unit and that may take many different forms.

A person can include evidence from outside the programme e.g. from a voluntary position or a previous experience which shows their ability or what they have learned, or perhaps sketches or paintings which have been produced prior to starting the course.

The portfolio does have to contain evidence of learning which has been assessed using the criteria in the Submission Document and is, therefore, evidence of achievement. This work will be referenced on the evidence checklists and will be placed at the front of each learners’ portfolio.

The work needs to be placed in order and referenced to the evidence checklists.

Most of the Creative Curriculum courses are practically based and therefore may include samples of work, photographs of finished pieces, etc.

Portfolios do not have to include reams of written work.

The portfolio will represent learner’s achievements at the end of the programme.

The portfolio offers learners a far more appropriate way of proving skills and learning to themselves and others than formal traditional methods like exams.

2.3 Formative and Summative Assessment

Learners achieve throughout a course; as we know, many make sudden strides in achievement near the end of a course. You will give on-going feedback to individuals on their progress informally and by written comment. This is formative assessment. The role of summative assessment, which looks at the ‘end achievement’ of an individual, is important. Units of assessment should be used to determine a learner’s whole capacity in the curriculum area. A learner must achieve all the learning outcomes in a unit at the stated level - you must facilitate this providing opportunities for assessment.

This may mean you arrange an assessment task for certain learning outcomes in the last sessions, or giving extra time to advise a learner who could achieve at a higher level on a multi-level course if they were given the opportunity and a relevant assessment task.

Summative assessment in the form of a tutor observation sheet, summarising the achievement in a holistic way, can be useful to the learner and Moderator.

2.4 Evidence for Assessment

  • Submission documents outline the indicative evidence for each learning outcome on a course.
  • This may suggest a range of either/or; it may sometimes be prescriptive e.g. 1000 word essay. OCN promotes the recognition of diversity in learning and the adaptation of assessment methods to the needs of the learner.
  • Evidence can be tailored to individuals or groups and should always be flexible, varied and appropriate.
  • A teaching team working within a programme may develop a common approach to types of evidence that could still allow an individual learner to provide alternatives.
  • For instance, a learner with physical or learning difficulties may provide visual and oral evidence: ‘photos, video, tapes, etc. rather than the notes and reports produced by the rest of the group.

2.5 Evidence of Learning


Evidence of learning may be:
1. Concrete, e.g. a clay pot, a watercolour painting, or other items appropriate to your course of learning
2. Intangible, the growth of personal confidence
3. A handout given by a tutor and filed is not evidence of achievement - it is evidence of a learning activity
4. A gapped handout with the learner’s own thoughts, responses, questions, etc could be used as evidence of learning.


2.6 Evidence of Achievement

Question: When does evidence of learning become evidence of achievement?

Answer: Evidence of learning becomes acceptable evidence of achievement when it has been assessed against a specific outcome or outcomes, using the stated assessment criteria.

See also ‘Guidelines to Practitioners and Volunteers using the OCN’, available from them on 02890 320511

For a learner to be awarded an OCN certificate, there must be a transparent process of recording evidence of achievement which identifies the learning outcome/s and the level. This comes in the form of an evidence checklist and includes a space for feedback to the learner in the comments field.


2.7 Portfolio building:
Helping Learners to create their Portfolio

Purpose of a Portfolio:

1. For the learner to collect and use material related to the course including private research, exercises, notes, samples. etc - this is evidence of learning.

2. To present evidence of achievement for moderation including evidence checklists - this evidence of achievement.

These two purposes are distinct, although the final file may, and often does, serve both. For moderation, however, it is only the second that is important. However, the Moderator may wish to see the material from the first, especially if it shows the development of skills.

It is useful to include an informal learning outcome on Portfolio Building, as this embeds a suitable approach and prevents the ‘let’s do your portfolios in the last week’ approach.

2.8 Portfolio Organisation

Minimum standards:


  • Assessed work that is linked to Learning Outcomes and Level and gives feedback to learner.

NB. A checklist of evidence is not sufficient in itself because it doesnot allow the Moderator to look at the assessment process.

  • A portfolio may included all or some of the following types of record:
  • A photo of a clay pot, or other appropriate evidence, with tutor’s comments and level
  • A set of notes with tutor comments referenced to L.O.
  • An assignment with a cover sheet describing the task
  • A self-assessment sheet with tutor signature
  • A peer assessment sheet with tutor signature
  • A tutor observation sheet recording participation in several group exercises wth comments
  • An assignment sheet clearly recording comments and level which is linked to a video of an event
  • A tape attached or in a pocket with an assessment sheet cross-referenced
    WEA evidence checklist, if appropriate

There may be evidence of learning that supports the overall assessment of achievement, like:

  • extra work
  • records such as learning diaries which show personal development
  • research notes which show independent learning and/or study skills

This kind of evidence of the process of learning is useful for making assessment decisions that are not straightforward, for example, to decide if a learner on a multi-level course who was achieving at Level 2 has in fact reached Level 3 by the end of the course and has sufficient evidence of the outcomes in the level 3 units. The Moderator is relying upon your professional judgement but may also be asked to make a decision in a borderline or complicated case. Supporting evidence would have an important role in such cases. You may advise individuals to keep such work in the portfolio.
NB. All Learning Outcomes must be assessed, but one task may assess several Learning Outcomes at once

2.9 Positive Assessment

  • Encourages learner involvement and ownership
  • Concentrates on relevant tasks
  • Recognises learners’ existing skills
  • provided ongoing feedback
  • Builds in self-assessment
  • Uses criteria which are shared with the learner and are equitably applied
  • Is appropriate for adult learners
  • Is consistent and rigorously standardised

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