South African Journal of Higher Education

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A developmental focus to student access at the University of Port Elizabeth: process and preliminary insights in placement assessment

E Koch, C Foxcroft, A Watson


As opposed to admissions or selection testing which mainly serves a gate-keeping function, placement assessment is developmentally focused and fulfils an enabling function. Some of the advantages of placement assessment are that learner strengths and weaknesses can be identified, learners' programmes can be individualised, and it can assist in the recognition of prior learning where formal entry requirements are not met. This article will explore some of the factors in the context of higher education in South Africa, which impacted on and lead to a shift from selection to placement testing at the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE). The on-going process of developing and implementing the placement assessment programme at UPE will be reflected upon to provide guidelines for the implementation of a similar programme at other institutions. The innovative nature of the assessment battery will be discussed - the battery content is linked to entry-level competencies and most of the tests are computerised and adaptive in nature. Some of the data that have emerged regarding generic learner needs in UPE's diverse student intake will be presented as well as some of the ways in which programme developers and student support services are trying to address the identified needs.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.15(2) 2001: 126-131
AJOL African Journals Online