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					  Improving Assessment
  Practices through In-service
  Teacher Education

Case Study of Master of Education
Sinha (p.247) comments:
 ... the shortcomings of the traditional examination system:
 memorization was over-emphasized, coverage of the pupil
 growth process was limited, mercurial subjectivity was
 omni-present; inadequate use was made of test results; and
 receptivity to reform and change was discouraged. The
 traditional situation not only nullified all the criteria of a
 sound evaluation system, but also encouraged the adoption
 of slipshod methods of teaching and learning. Besides, it
 provided wide openings for malpractices to enter.
 In Pakistan, Farooq (1994, p.17) comments that, “Too
  much importance is given to scores in academic
  examinations. As a result, there is enormous corruption in
  the examination system. The students, teachers, parents
  and heads of institutions are equally responsible for this
Bethel et al (1995, p.1) state:
  Many question papers contain errors in subject content,
  language, and technical construction. In addition, they
  focus on a narrow range of low-level skills and are
  dominated by the content of the approved textbooks. In
  consequence, the examinations have a negative effect on
  the educational process in Pakistan.
Alternative approaches to
traditional assessment
 The transition from traditional instructional and grading
 practices to an authentic system of assessment represents a
 significant educational transformation. During this
 transition, classrooms are changing from a teacher-
 centered testing culture, where students work individually
 and learning is done for the test results, to a collaborative
 assessment culture, where assessment takes many forms,
 reaches multiple audiences, and distinctions between
 learning and assessment are blurred (Barron & Boschee,
 1995, p.77).
 Sinha (1993) states that, “Reform is invariably a difficult
  task to accomplish, because the traditional procedures and
  practices have become deeply rooted in the system.”
In the process of examination reform,
the following hurdles have been
  1.   Inherent resistance to change:
  a) by the State Departments of Education and Boards of
   Secondary Education. This is because examination reform
   involves a re-organization of the administrative machinery
   and procedures.
  b) by the teachers, because of their unpreparedness for
   taking up the challenges of the new system and because of
   additional work involved.
  c) by the students, as post-reform examinations are likely
   to become valid and reliable, and will require more precise
   and regular study.
 d) by unscrupulous, elements, since malpractices are likely to
    lose ground as examinations are improved.
   e) by vested interests which are desirous of maintaining a
    status quo which protests their powerful positions and
    (sometimes) financial gain.
   Lack of suitable sample evaluation material of a sort that
    provides illustrations of the nature of reforms envisaged.
   3. Lack of financial support, as the reform measures, in
    terms of over-all cost, tend to make the examinations more
    expensive than the traditional ones.
   4. Inadequate training of the teachers for keeping up with the
    changed situation.
 Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational
  Development in Karachi. AKU-IED was established in
  1993 in the context of “a continued deepening decline in
  the quality, effectiveness, relevance and outreach of
  education systems in Pakistan and elsewhere in the
  developing world in the face of growing numbers of
  children and shrinking resources” ( A Proposal to the
  Board of Trustees, AKU-IED, 1991, p.6).
Grand Question

 In what ways do students reconceptualize assessment
  practices and what are the implications for subsequent
  professional practice?
Subsidiary questions
   What have been the course participants’ (CPs) previous
    experiences with assessment practices?
   To what extent and in what ways have CPs
    reconceptualized their views on assessment while at
   What are/were the factors that help(ed) to reconceptualize
    (if any)?
   What assessment practices do they use / plan to use in
    their work contexts? For what reasons?
   What barriers/ constraints have they encountered or do
    they expect to encounter? What strategies do they
    identify for addressing such barriers and constraints?
 Total: 28 people

 1) 21 current and former course participants
 2) seven faculty members
 The purposes of assessment were primarily to promote the
  students to the next class or to select them for further
  education, thus it adds to the importance of the final
  examination, the result of which would decide the future of
  a person.
 The main requirement for assessment was memorization
  (rote learning) or covering material limited to the textbook
  or teachers’ knowledge.
 Examinations and tests were often the only forms of
  conducting assessment.
 These forms of assessment generally promoted and
  required low-order thinking among students, with little if
  any emphasis on understanding.

 Assessment usually came at the end of a term, unit, half
  year or year, thus it was normally of a summative nature
  with little or no meaningful, constructive and formative
  feedback for the improvement of learning.
 Formal assessment was the basic feature of assessments;
  informal assessment was done very little and mostly not
 The type of assessment experienced promoted different
  kinds of malpractice such as cheating, leakage of question
  papers, taking bribes or other unfair means.
 Students are assessed individually but on a normative
  basis. They viewed their peers as opponents with whom
  they had to compete.

 There has been ‘ranking’ or ‘labeling’ of the students as a
    result of assessments.
   The teaching and learning process was driven by the exams,
    thereby creating what the literature terms the ‘washback
    effect’(Harris & McCann, 1994).
   Competitive marking negatively affected the classroom
    environment; that is, students did not help each other.
   The examination system was taken for granted rather than
    being questioned.
   Tension and anxiety appeared to accompany examinations,
    partly because examinations were not adequate to assess
    within three hours what has been learned in a whole year,
    thereby increasing stress.
 Reconceptualization of Teaching and Learning
 Identifying existing beliefs and practices.
 Challenging beliefs and practices.
 Exploring alternatives.
 Mediating with context.
 Making choices.
 Planning for improvement.
 Executing plans.
 Reflection on improvement.
1) Awareness
Being aware of the alternatives to teaching and learning.
2) Dissatisfaction
In order to undergo reconceptualization, the CPs become dissatisfied
   with the     position that they are coming from.
3) Buying into a new paradigm
The CPs need to ... go back to equilibrium. They have to replace
   their old conceptions with a more powerful conception which they
   really believe in. They have to explore the options thoroughly,
   they have to discuss, rigorously with others.
4) Application or testing
Once they accept a new paradigm, they have to go out and test it.
   They have to be really convinced that this new paradigm is more
   powerful, and it works in the new setting. Only then they will be
   ‘truly reconceptualized’, and the new paradigm cemented.
   Assessment Practice at IED
   No summative forms of assessment
   Written assignments
   group work
   practical mini-activities
   class participation
   reflective journals
   self assessment
   peer assessment
   presentations.
   Teaching practica
A typical breakdown of
assessment criteria:
 class participation                10 to 20 %
 major assignment(s)                40 to 60%
 presentation                       20 to 40%
 practical activities
 (e.g. micro-teaching, workshops)   20 to 40 %
 reflective journals                0 to 20%
 peer assessment                    no weighting
 The purpose is to diagnose the students’ strengths and
  weaknesses, provide information on the their progress,
  give feedback to them, parents and teachers on teaching
  and learning process.
 Teachers also get feedback on their teaching and
  curriculum implementation, then make modifications if
 Assessment is seen as integral part of teaching and
  learning, not an isolated component.
 Assessment may be measuring not only memorization,
  although that is necessary too, but also understanding,
  synthesizing, application and evaluation levels of
 All three domains (affective, psychomotor, and cognitive)
    should be assessed.
   There are multiple tools and ways of gathering information for
    assessment, not only restricting oneself to examination and
    tests. It can also improve the quality of tests and
   Assessment gives meaningful formative feedback for the
    improvement of students’ learning.
   Informal assessment is used together with formal assessment.
   To eliminate or reduce malpractices while assessment is taking
   Assessment is seen as a cooperative venture; students do not
 They may be assessed against the criteria developed by
    teachers and students together.
   The students are seen as people of different multiple
    intelligence, and not given an oversimplified label such as
    ‘intelligent’ or ‘dumb’.
   Assessment is done to question, reflect and develop
    assessment practice.
   Assessment is done to reduce negative psychological
    effects of assessment that might cause alienated behavior
    while assessment.
   Assessment is to make the students aware of the fact that
    grades are not the end of everything.
 Espoused and actual assessment
 Director of IED:
 Many students had endorsed other than traditional ways of
  assessment because of IED’s impact. However, in some
  respects, IED’s actual practice in assessing the M.Ed. students
  seemed to reflect more traditional assessment assumptions
  than its own teaching recommended or advocated.
  Consequently, in a number of cases the students reverted to
  behaviors and attitudes associated with traditional assessment,
  including those students who accepted the notions of
  alternative assessment in principle or theory. As a result, the
  IED has been experiencing a paradox in which espoused
  beliefs contrast with practical realities.
 The impact of grading
 Half way through a course they stopped giving us grades,
  they said that grades are causing the tension. Maybe some
  people must have gone up to them (administrators), with
  some complaints, some dissatisfaction.

 We were given grades for two or three modules and then
  they stopped giving grades to us after module X. There
  were a lot of furors. People were very upset over certain
  things. Some people said that tutors were biased against
  them and there was a lot of commotion. So it was decided
  among the faculty members that no grades will be given.
 The impact of grading
 When we got grades, I think the people become frustrated.
  Division has started. Division means categories. Some people
  who got A they are in A category, who got B are in B category,
  some were in C. So it was observed and felt that this grading is
  affecting collegial attitude. And it is not good for cooperation,
  for cooperative learning. Then they did not share the grading
  with us. But assessment was there, we would get only the

 There was no objection to grading, the objection was the criteria.
  If someone does not follow the criteria, then there is conflict. I
  heard remarks as “he was not so good, but got B, and person X
  was so good, worked really hard, but got C grade”.
 At the time of assignment I think the colleagues would usually
  hide, cover page of the books, not help each other.
 ... nobody wants to see C (grade), it was personal attack. It
  was like harsh blow to them [the students who got poorer
  grades]. “Oh I got C when I am teaching so many years.” It
  was more of a shock to them rather than a learning experience.
 I don’t know if IED can do away with grades. I feel that what
  they have said if you get four As and in dissertation A, then
  you will get a distinction. They are going against policy.
  They say that (grade) does not matter. How can you say if you
  get an A you will get a distinction, and don’t think about
  grades? It is a mismatch.
 In one of our modules a lot of us got A grades. Then
  director came and said it was not the right thing. “The
  tutor who marked was not really paying attention.” They
  said that it is wrong, it should be bell curve... they were
  not happy why everybody was getting an A.
    Faculty members’ reactions
 What happened in our first M.Ed. programme, we shared
  assessment policy with the students and we had been doing
  things, but unfortunately in the middle of the programme there
  was a problem. People got some frustration with the assessment
  marks. We thought that since IED's purpose is to flourish,
  nurture the environment of the collaboration and collegiality.
  We thought perhaps collaboration and collegiality are going to be
  defeated. So we made a decision and stopped distributing
 We had been debating in faculty whether we should disclose or
  not, because our first experience was not very good. There is
  still a problem, some people are not happy. But it is a natural
 I favour telling people their grades, and building enough support
  to help them to cope with, know that they can do better about it.
 I don’t think that people are graded on what they learn from the
  books only. We are not assessing on their English, we are
 If somebody talks a lot in the class, does not give other people a
  chance, does not really listen to what other say, how do we assess?
 If I had my choice, I think I would do away with the grades. I
  think they are in some sense a deterrent to learning at IED,
  because they represent in an area IED is trying to get away from;
  increased weighting, emphasis on the actual grades. Because we
  know in education that we cannot measure quantitatively many of
  the things that we are grappling with at IED to the way that people
  think we can.
 ... the CPs when they were students performed extremely well. ...
  here people were getting B and Cs, they just could not stomach
  that, they felt that it was below their dignity... We had to council
  them that it is not the letter grade that really matters, it is their
  ability to function as teacher-educators in the end, which will
  really tell us exactly how successful we have been in helping them
 What does that achieve by hiding books. I don’t see how
  hiding your books can get you more excellent marks... It is
  just a very spiteful, it is a very negative way to behave. I don’t
  know what word to use here... It is displaying a lack of good
  feeling, lack of trust. All sorts of qualities that we want to
  build in professional relationships is denying all of those. ...
  am I so arrogant that I think that only my ideas are important?
  I can learn so much from hearing from people’s ideas whoever
  they are. I think I need to talk to some of the people who are
  saying these. I should get very angry.
 I don’t believe that grades are not important. I think they are
  important. I understand how people feel what are grades. My
  view is that we should not hide the grades... But some of my
  colleagues disagree with me. Because they know how hurtful
  it is to some people not to get A grade.
Assessment after IED
   Barriers to assessment practices
   parents
   head-teachers or management
   school facilities (classrooms, furniture, resources)
   time factor and large classes
   Board / National Examinations
   colleagues
   malpractice (Cheating, leakage of papers, setting papers,
Faculty member’s concern
 There is a danger that IED graduates might revert to their
  old ways of assessment. Those people who end up
  teaching higher classes, they might go back whether they
  like it or not. If they are teaching class which has got
  Board Examination, surely they will have to revert. In
  Pakistani schools, tests mean a lot. They can’t change the
  school overnight. When you are trying to change the
  school, the school is also trying to change them.
 To bring assessment to centrality of education reforms
 Faculty development in the area of assessment
 Conduct courses on assessment at IED
 Education issues on assessment with various stakeholders
  (heads of schools, District Education Officers, University
  teachers, school teachers, parents, etc.)

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