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Lucubrate Magazine, December 28th, 2022

Development of assessment forms in vocational education helps educators to plan the education, teach and evaluate their students. Assessment is also essential for helping students to develop the personally and the professionally skills. Assessing students’ progress, success and competency in vocational education are essential for educators and employers.

Standardized examination or skills demonstrations at the workplace

Examples of assessments include course content, assignments and projects, examinations and the practical job assessment. The methods used to assess students in vocational education have changed over time. This paper discusses the types of assessment used to evaluate students in vocational education and their advantages and disadvantages.

The way assessment has evolved over the years is closely linked to changes in the way qualifications and curricula are described and structured. We can link an essential driver of changing or further developing the assessment approach to the key technical characteristics of quality assessment, particularly validity and reliability. Reliability and validity cannot easily be achieved simultaneously to the same degree. Sometimes, we have to use a compromise or a combination of different assessment forms to satisfy both principles, We can use standardized external written examinations with high reliability. This kind of standardized examination can meet the requirements of accountability and strengthen the value and image of VET.

Other assessment forms include skills demonstrations at the workplace or other assignments close to the workplace. In many countries, we can observe phases in which, in terms of assessment and the associated change processes over the years, sometimes one principle is pursued more intensely, sometimes another. It is also necessary to point out that these developments often take time to occur in a straightforward step-by-step approach or a linear process. In some cases, it is a matter of striving for an improved approach that is repeatedly modified; simultaneously, there might be opposing trends (1). 

The traditional method of assessing students in vocational education was through direct teacher observation- usually in the classroom or on the job. After the assessed teacher students, he would assign subjects to groups, so everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed. In addition, teachers often conducted written tests when introducing new subjects to their classes. Over time, educators discovered that these traditional methods were ineffective and replaced them with more effective assessment methods.

Group of students sitting at desk with laptop and books and writing exam at university (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Assessment Forms for Vocational Education as Written Examination

The written examination is a method used widely today. This written examination can be a multiple-choice question with one answer that tests knowledge from general education courses. Because all students receive the same type of examination, it is a fair way to evaluate students’ progress and success in completing training programs. For example, vocational education uses state assessment tests to determine the standard of the students to become certified in certain subjects. These tests are often computerized and include questions on general education subjects as well as the curriculum of individual schools. The student can do this assessment at various times and locations, even from the students’ homes

Assessing practical work is an Assessment Form for Vocational Education

Another popular form of assessment form for vocational education is practical work or projects. Assessment of practical work involves performing tasks that help gauge an individual’s skills and abilities- like how well a student can build furniture from wood, metal or plastic pieces. It differs from a written test because it allows students extra time to complete the task and improve their skills naturally. Examinations based on practical work are generally less frequent than written examinations because they are time-consuming. 

Assessing practical work is an integral part of vocational education. This assessment helps instructors determine what skills a student has learned and helps students evaluate their understanding of concepts. In addition, it helps vocational education programs obtain information about the jobs they prepare students for.

Assessment methods depend on the type of vocational education program – certificate programs usually assess student competence by providing feedback to them. Assessing student competence involves assessing their performance in the workplace through practical tasks such as cooking or handyman tasks. For example, students may need to repair a broken microwave or build a part of a house. A supervisor may also accompany students in the workplace to observe tasks and provide feedback on their performance. The instructor and supervisor can grade the student’s performance. Both are aware of any issues, which is important for the student’s skills.

The purpose of assessment for practical work is to let students know how well they understood the concepts learned in the classroom. Assessment for practical work should be direct and meaningful. Assessment for practical work is constructive when creating a syllabus and choosing appropriate topics for a course. It is also helpful when preparing assignments and examinations for lessons.

Assessment Forms for Vocational Education by Assing Trainees 

Another way educational institutions assess their students is by assigning them jobs after they graduate from training programs like after-care or internship programs. It involves working under an experienced employee so trainees can learn before finding a job. 

Employers generally pay trainees higher wages than minimum wage when they do internships, making them attractive jobs for trainees. After-care programs help trainees gain experience working in real-life situations to improve their employment prospects dramatically.

Is summative assessment forms for vocational education a way forward?

Although every assessment method has advantages and disadvantages, selecting the suitable form can significantly increase trainees’ success in acquiring skills and employment. Choosing student assessments based on direct observation, practical work, or written examinations are good choices for effective evaluation methods. However, teachers should always be willing to modify their lessons based on their student’s class performance.

Summative assessment does not necessarily refer to an overall end-point assessment; it can also refer to the assessment of separate units or modules. During recent years there has been an increase in modularisation. Some countries have introduced more flexible approaches, allowing learners to accumulate smaller parts of qualifications assessed separately. Some countries focus more on end-point assessments that cover the whole qualification. The use of smaller parts of qualifications, particularly the implementation of learning outcomes-based approaches, often goes hand in hand with expanding opportunities to take learning outcomes acquired outside the formal VET system into account (1). 

May the flexible approaches of assessment forms allowing learners in vocational education to accumulate smaller parts of qualifications assessed separately be the future for VET? 


(1) Cedefop (2022). The future of vocational education and training in Europe: volume 3: the influence of assessments on vocational learning. Luxembourg: Publications Office. Cedefop research paper, No 90. http://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2801/067378

Lucubrate Magazine December 2022

The photo on the top of the article: Adobe Stock

Young adult woman stay at home with her exam as a form for assessment for vocational education (Photo: Adobe Stock).

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Karl Skaar
Mr. Karl Skaar

He is a highly successful professional with a high degree of entrepreneurial flair.

- Responsible editor and publisher of the Lucubrate Magazine, Global
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- Chairman of the Board of Directors of Norsk Kompetansebygging AS, Norway
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