Purpose of Assessment and General Characteristics of Effective Assessment

Purpose of Assessment

An effective assessment provides critical information to both the instructor and the learner. Both instructor and learner need to know how well the learner is progressing. A good assessment provides practical and specific feedback to learners. This includes direction and guidance indicating how they may raise their level of performance. Most importantly, a well-designed and effective assessment provides an opportunity for self-evaluation that enhances the learner's aeronautical decision-making and judgment skills.

A well-designed assessment highlights the areas in which a learner’s performance is incorrect or inadequate, it helps the instructor see where more emphasis is needed. If, for example, several learners falter when they reach the same step in a weight-and-balance problem, the instructor should recognize the need for a more detailed explanation, another demonstration of the step, or special emphasis in the assessment of subsequent performance.

General Characteristics of Effective Assessment

In order to provide direction and raise the learner’s level of performance, assessment needs to be factual, and it should align with the completion standards of the lesson. An effective assessment displays the characteristics shown in Figure.

Aviation instructor
Effective assessments share a number of characteristics


The personal opinions, likes, dislikes, or biases of the instructor might affect an assessment. A conflict of personalities can alter an opinion. Sympathy or over-identification with a learner, to such a degree that it influences objectivity, is known as “halo error.” To what extent does effective assessment need to focus on objectivity and actual learner performance? If an assessment is to be effective, it needs to be honest; and it must be based on the facts of the performance as they were, not as they could have been.


The instructor should evaluate the entire performance of a learner in the context in which it is accomplished. Sometimes a good learner turns in a poor performance, and a poor learner turns in a good one. A friendly learner may suddenly become hostile, or a hostile learner may suddenly become friendly and cooperative. The instructor fits the tone, technique, and content of the assessment to the occasion, as well as to the learner. An assessment should be designed and executed so that the instructor can allow for variables. The ongoing challenge for the instructor is deciding what to say, what to omit, what to stress, and what to minimize at the proper moment.


Consider that learners do not like negative feedback. What makes an honest assessment acceptable to the learner? A certificate or credential alone rarely suffices. Learners need to have confidence in the instructor’s qualifications, teaching ability, sincerity, competence, and authority. Usually, instructors have the opportunity to establish themselves with learners before the formal assessment arises. If not, however, the instructor’s manner, attitude, and familiarity with the subject at hand serves this purpose. Assessments presented fairly, with authority, conviction, sincerity, and from a position of recognizable competence tend to work well.


A comprehensive assessment is not necessarily a long one, nor need it treat every aspect of the performance in detail. While it includes strengths as well as weaknesses, the degree of coverage of each should fit the situation. The instructor might report what most needs improvement, or only what the learner can reasonably be expected to improve. The instructor decides whether the greater benefit comes from a discussion of a few major points or a number of minor points.


An assessment is pointless unless the learner benefits from it. Praise can capitalize on things that are done well and inspire the learner to improve in areas of lesser accomplishment. When identifying a mistake or weakness, the instructor needs to give positive guidance for correction. Praise for its own sake or negative comments that do not point toward improvement or a higher level of performance should be omitted from an assessment altogether.


An assessment must be organized. Almost any pattern is acceptable, as long as it is logical and makes sense to the learner. An effective organizational pattern might be the sequence of the performance itself. Sometimes an assessment can begin at the point at which a demonstration failed, and work backward through the steps that led to the failure. A success can be analyzed in similar fashion. Alternatively, a glaring deficiency can serve as the core of an assessment. Breaking the whole into parts, or building the parts into a whole, is another possible organizational approach.


An effective assessment reflects the instructor’s thoughtfulness toward the learner’s need for self-esteem, recognition, and approval. The instructor refrains from minimizing the inherent dignity and importance of the individual. Ridicule, anger, or fun at the expense of the learner has no place in assessment. While being straightforward and honest, the instructor should always respect the learner’s personal feelings. For example, the instructor should try to deliver criticism in private.


The instructor’s comments and recommendations should be specific. Learners cannot act on recommendations unless they know specifically what the recommendations are. A statement such as, “Your second weld wasn’t as good as your first,” has little constructive value. Instead, the instructor should say why it was not as good and offer suggestions on how to improve the weld. If the instructor has a clear, well-founded, and supportable idea in mind, it should be expressed with firmness and authority, and in terms that cannot be misunderstood. At the conclusion of an assessment, learners should have no doubt about what they did well and what they did poorly and, most importantly, specifically how they can improve.

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