A comparison of policies and practices in assessment in a Further Education Institution
A new Outcomes-based Education (OBE) system, as well as a new Further Education and Training (FET) framework, has been proposed by the government to address past inequalities and provide a skilled labour force. The introduction of OBE has necessitated a paradigm shift in both educational and assessment practices. The FET policies, led by the introduction of the Green Paper for FET in 1998, aimed to inform the FET institutions on the implementation of outcomes-based assessment. However, the implementation of these policies has posed many obstacles and challenges. Lecturers are unsure about the implementation strategies, and their attempts to cope with these uncertainties are seldom effective. Consequently, lecturers struggle to bring their assessment practices in line with the policies. This was the research problem of the study. The aim of the study was to determine discrepancies between the policies and the practices. The FET policies and related literature were consulted to determine how assessment practices should change. Subsequently, a questionnaire and focus group discussions were used to determine the current assessment practices of lecturers at the Klerksdorp campus of Vuselela College. Thereafter, the requirements of the policies and the current assessment practices of the lecturers were compared to determine the extent to which the lecturers had adopted the new assessment practices. Various discrepancies were found. The first discrepancy existed between the implementation strategies of the new FET curriculum and the actual implementation process at the college. No learnerships had been implemented in the N-courses and the implementation process had been delayed several times. A second discrepancy existed between the requirements for lecturers to be registered as assessors and the registration process. Lecturers completed the training courses but struggled to register as assessors. A bottleneck existed with the registration process because of the number of lecturers that had to be registered. In addition, the training did not provide the lecturers with sufficient knowledge to implement outcomes-based assessment while the training was presented on the wrong National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level. Another discrepancy existed with regard to the implementation of the learnerships and the implementation of outcomes-based assessment. Lecturers were only expected to implement outcomes-based assessment in courses where learnerships had been implemented. This meant that lecturers who lectured on N-courses were still required to use more traditional assessment methods. While some lecturers preferred paper-based assessment methods, other lecturers felt that the restrictions imposed by the DoE were depriving them of the opportunity to use more alternative methods. Problems such as an increase in the workload, administration and paperwork and learner numbers were also experienced. Regarding these discrepancies, it was firstly recommended that the DoE be realistic about implementation dates and be transparent about delays and problems. Lecturers could assist the DoE in the implementation process by writing unit standards. Secondly, it was recommended that the DoE should have an efficient structure in place to deal with the vast number of lecturers that would have to register as assessors. This can be done by employing extra human resources. Better training is necessary to support and empower lecturers to implement outcomes-based assessment. Thirdly, lecturers could be encouraged to implement the new assessment practices by giving them recognition for good work, providing them with assistance and appointing lecturers who act solely as assessors. These discrepancies are more related and the recommendations more useful to this particular college than the assistance that is provided by the DoE by making the college aware of the obstacles and challenges that the new assessment practices pose.