The Purpose of Assessment in Education
Assessment in education has several roles that it plays in ensuring that the performance of students meets the standards that have been laid and are attainable. The educational assessment has purposes that include “auditing of schools, national monitoring, school leaver documentation, awarding of national qualification, appraisals of teachers, curriculum evaluation, and the improvement of teaching and learning in schools” (Bell & Cowie, 1998, p.2). It could also be used for accountability purposes.
Assessment will help in improving teaching and learning in that, a teacher will be able to identify the ability of each student in the class. Depending on the effectiveness of the methods that will be used for the assessment, the assessment will reveal to the teacher which students are understanding the concepts being discussed, as well as those students that are not getting anywhere in the course work. Parents, teachers, and the entire community will often be interested in knowing how their students perform about the required standards and performance in neighboring schools (Bell & Cowie, 1998, p.3). It thus provides summative information regarding the performance of students. Findings of the assessment will enable teachers to make reinforcements were necessary to be able to meet the standards attained by other schools. Similarly, the assessment will enable students to identify their areas of weakness in which they need to put more effort. This will enable students to organize their studies depending on the performance recorded.
The assessment also evaluates students and reports the students’ progress. A series of tests that are issued to students will show whether the students are improving. Quite often, teachers will give tests as a means of assessment. Records from the assessment tests can be kept and used as references at later dates. To check if a particular student is improving or deteriorating, new performance records will be compared with the previous records. Necessary steps will then be taken depending on the findings of the analysis. If the student is found to deteriorate or maintains a performance standard that was recorded previously, then the teacher needs to probe into the matter to identify what could be the cause. The necessary motivating measures then need to be undertaken. Similarly, if the student happens to be improving, the teacher needs to motivate him further.
Employee appraisal is one of the fundamental steps of ensuring that employees enjoy their work. Creating a working environment that provides for acknowledgment of hard work by employees will ensure that everyone struggles to provide the best services possible. More often, the appraisal of employees is often done on merit. In an educational setting, the best way of identifying which teacher is working hard and is worth being promoted to a higher level is through the evaluations deduced from the assessment made. This will usually be done at the national or the sub-national level.
The assessment also helps in improving educational programs. There have been constant changes in the curriculum that are being used at regional or national levels in many countries. Even though the role of the curriculum does not change significantly, the contents in the curriculum to be included always differ depending on other social, economic, and political factors prevailing in the area at that moment. The technological advances that are currently experienced lead to a revision of the curriculum. An appropriate tool that will help in detecting necessary improvements to be made on the curriculum is a thorough assessment. If an assessment reveals that a particular concept has not been understood by eighty percent of the whole class, either then the teacher is not competent in that particular area or the concept should be introduced at a higher level, or it has some pre-requisites that were not handled at earlier stages.
The Range of Assessment Used
These are assessments that are done normally at the beginning of a unit or during the process. They are further divided into planned and unplanned formative assessments. Planned assessments are often carried out at the beginning of a particular unit and are aimed at identifying students’ understanding of the concepts that were encountered in the previous units, which are relevant and required in the current unit to be discussed (Bell & Cowie, 1998, p.10). For instance, before introducing the topic of Co-ordinate Geometry, a high school math teacher needs to test the student’s understanding of Elementary Algebra and the Theory of the Number Line. On the other hand, unplanned formative assessment arises due to feedback from students in a class, which was no expected by the teacher. A teacher could have introduced a topic based on concepts that were themselves not known to the students, thus responses of the students will help the teacher to detect this, after which, he/she can pose the relevant questions that will help students to understand or recall the concepts.
Continuous Assessment Tests
These are assessments done at regular intervals usually at the end of a unit or a group of units. The assessment is aimed at evaluating a student’s understanding of the concepts that have just been covered. The Continuous Assessment can be administered in various methods including group assignment, individual written assignment, or practical activities (individual or group work).
The assessment could be in form of Group assignments and Group discussions in class. Assessment in form of group work will build the student’s spirit in participating in class, now that the class is reduced to a more manageable size. However, it may not be very convenient as some students may be misevaluated just because the majority in their group got the concept right and were able to present their results correctly. A more effective means will then be to test each student on an individual basis. For instance, in mathematics, a good approach would be to allocate a particular problem to individual students so that they solve it before the rest in turns.
Written tests in mathematics are mainly intended to tests students’ accuracy and speed in tackling mathematical problems. They are usually light but voluminous questions from the recently concluded chapters that test students’ ability. Usually, they are not so structured and there are no optional questions. Practical activities may also be used as a method of testing the practical applications of the concepts that have been covered. These are also carried out regularly when the concepts are encountered.
End-Term and End-Year exams
These written and practical tests are administered at the end of the term or academic year to test students’ understanding of the concepts that were covered during the period. The questions are usually exhaustive and structured with the possibility of having optional parts.
At the end of a stage level, there is usually an assessment that tests all the concepts that had been covered at the stage. It will be recognized at this point that not all the concepts may be examined here, but at least the previous concepts will be indirectly tested since they are necessary for the understanding of concepts studied during the final year. These exams are usually administered at the district or state level and will be used as an evaluation as to the progression of the student into the next level
Effectiveness of the Assessment
Assessment is a very important tool in ensuring an effective teaching and learning process. It should be noted that if an assessment is not carried out using the right and appropriate procedures, then the final judgment that may be made from such an assessment may not depict the true state of facts. Different students indeed have different abilities of understanding as well as different ways of expressing their ideas. It is through considering this that an integrated approach of assessment should be used that includes all the possible techniques. There should be a series of assessments carried out before a final evaluation is done on the performance standard of the students and the school in general. If the right procedures are used, then the assessment will generally improve the performance standards among the students in schools.
The assessment will enable teachers to identify varying abilities among students in the class. As such, the teacher will be able to know the individual educational needs of students in the class. It will enable teachers to review the teaching methods to be used depending on the individual needs of students that shall have been identified. Those students who are not performing well will be given necessary incentives like motivation, which will improve their performance. On the other hand, students who will be reported to be performing well will be given incentives that will maintain their spirit of hard work.
Assessment, especially at the national level, often leads to an improvement in educational standards in a country. Every school will strive to be ranked the best on national ranking and this, accompanied by the possibility of teacher appraisal, often leads to positive competition among the educators. The government’s move to promote schools to state-level schools due to good performance often boosts the morale of management of various schools who in turn embark on thorough hard work to achieve the set standards. Moreover, it will enable educational planning at the national or district level and this may improve educational standards (Grant, 2001).
A good assessment will enable students to identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as enable teachers to have intrinsic motivation on students who will then be able to look into their weaknesses as they capitalize on strengths that have been identified.
Bell, B. and Cowie, B., 1998. The characteristic of Formative Assessment in Science Education. Hamilton: Waikato University. (Online). Web.
Grant, J., 2001. Learning needs assessments: assessing the need. (Online). Web.