Practices through In-service
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
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,
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
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
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).
In what ways do students reconceptualize assessment
practices and what are the implications for subsequent
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
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
FINDINGS: ASSESSMENT PRIOR
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
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
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
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.
ASSESSMENT AT AKU-IED
Reconceptualization of Teaching and Learning
Identifying existing beliefs and practices.
Challenging beliefs and practices.
Mediating with context.
Planning for improvement.
Reflection on improvement.
Being aware of the alternatives to teaching and learning.
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
A typical breakdown of
class participation 10 to 20 %
major assignment(s) 40 to 60%
presentation 20 to 40%
(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 is done to reduce negative psychological
effects of assessment that might cause alienated behavior
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
head-teachers or management
school facilities (classrooms, furniture, resources)
time factor and large classes
Board / National Examinations
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.)