Assessment for learning — the way forward

Assessment for learning — the way forward

Assessment of students come in many shapes and colours and the most common among the assessments are Summative and Formative. While the former consolidates what the students have learnt, the second one, consolidates and indicates the future course of action for the students and the teaching and learning objectives. Assessment must help us improve the teaching strategies adopted or strengthened further,and help us focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the students to help them improve.

Assessment of Learning, which is very close Summative assessment, is usually done after the instruction. Assessment for learning, which is otherwise close to Formative assessment and it takes place duringthe instruction. It gives the students the motivation and the professional skill to improve, recreates the goals for further learning, recognizes the skill so far achieved and leads to what can be achieved more, and gives the self-capacity to achieve more. Assessment for learning also helps the teachers to know what their students have learnt so far and where they can give feedback to students about the focus areas. Assessment for learning is a continuous process as learning is happening at the same time and requires both the efforts of teachers and students.

Schools must adopt systematic ways to assess the students for learning, as and when the learning happens, so that the skills required by the students in comprehending the lessons can be improved. The assessment patterns, as per the NEP, needs to be redesigned. It is ideal that the schools start including assessment questions that make use of apt, ‘Why’, How’ kind of questions that bring out the problem solving, thinking skills of students most certainly. The students must be encouraged to ask questions so that they develop a habit of thinking and they should be taught, ‘how to think’ and not ‘what to think’ during the instructions.

The NEP necessitates revamping of educational assessment and what we need to assess the children must therefore be redefined. We must test the children on what they have learnt and not what we have taught. Now we are testing them on what we have taught them. That is the biggest flaw in the assessment system today.

We must assess the students on three major aspects –

  • Cognitive understanding where concepts and not content, are learnt with the application of the concepts
  • 21st century learning skills are assessed by learning the prescribed content
  • The values that are integrated with those learning and the skills to handle them

As against the existing practice, this would demand more of an open system of questioning where several skills set of children like critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, imagination and communication and collaboration are tested. This means more than a paper pencil test, this would involve a team work on projects, working together with the required adaptability skills and able to think independently. Projects chosen must be related to the academic content but more on an application scale and with a social angle and this must be tested on different parameters. Not like a 20-mark project that are ready made and available in the market. And this is a continuous process. Language and numeracy concepts, reading and writing must be clearly assessed as that enhance their communication and inferential skills. The subjects that are specially liked by children—it may be music, art and craft or music — must also be tested as per the required parameters of that subject and not with a common scale. And there should never be a failure kind of remark. On the contrary the grades awarded must specifically give asterisks marks to say what way the student must improve on that cognitive area or skill. And this is how it becomes Assessment FOR Learning. This helps the teacher to understand the future needs of the students.

Skills must also be tested with suitable parameters that define those skills and that must have a complete bearing on the concept and classroom learning. The responsibility is that of the teacher to prepare the students for acquiring that skill. Values acquired by the students are something that cannot be physically tested and hence must have observational parameters of the behaviour and emotional growth of the students. This comes totally under the responsibility of the teachers who handle them.

Now, hybrid classrooms are in vogue, and hence continuous assessment as and when students complete certain levels of learning is easy. Be it MC-kind of questions or subjective-type, it saves a lot of time in evaluation and consolidating the finding. The saved time must be usefully adapted to test the students on the above aspects mentioned.

The rubrics for assessing the skills

Rubrics can be made by deciding the criteria for performance, the scale used to assess and the indicators that show the attainment levels. Proper parameters to test the skills are very essential to begin with. The rubric prepared must overall tell the assessor what the attainment level of the student isand help the assessor to analyse the different levels that contributed to the holistic attainment. Both are important. While testing the written and reading skills are already available with the teachers, testing the real skills associated with their problem solving, creativity, analytical skills need a little more comprehensive approach. Multiple choice questions, comprehension questions, derivations, practical application-oriented questions etc are in use now in schools though the % of the types of questions used in question papers vary from school to school. Reading and writing skills primarily test the ability to communicate,which consequently help test vocabulary, its usage, and grammar. With Science and Mathematics, several objective-type questions are possible to elicit the skill of children. Basically, the assessment must be continuous across the instruction time and not at the end of instruction. This calls for a detailing of the school schedules and class period arrangements.

Students can be assessed not only through a scheduled examination alone, but also by various means such as observation of their skills in handling various activities, their speech, their expressions, and the way they respond to stimuli. Even open textbook assessment is one of the best ways to understand the skill of students in filtering the right information. Students do projects, participate in discussions, debates, storytelling, drama /play, role plays, solves puzzles, problems, create new patterns; these require all the 21st century skills to excel. And here the parameters must be used in a very flexible way because each child is different. So, while using the same parameters for testing the skills of students, the teachers must test them based on what the child is capable of and not what he has to achieve to excel. Each of the above activities is skill based and they all require different set of parameters. Some examples are given below:

Storytelling: Grammar, language-simple but elegant to understand, expressions, capability to imaging, inferences predictions, giving titles for the story etc.

Discussions and debates: Errorless speech, capable to communicate ideas, use of vocabulary, capability to introduce the crux of the discussion in an effortless way, competency to use the language and make conclusions, quick enough to understand the views of others.

Problem-solving requires the ability to decipher the problem, collecting information or data required to solve it, method adopted, the uniqueness of the solution and its application.

Analytical skills require the competencies to observe, compare, contrast, filter the right information needed, and infer the findings.

Creativity applies to all learnings, be it Science or Mathematics, Languages, Social Sciences, Computer Science, etc. Uniqueness, imagination of approaching the issue at hand or question at hand, and the skill demonstrated by execution of an act contribute to honing creative skills in children.

Rating score must be broadly spaced to include as many students as possible and the expectations of the teachers can be categorized in certain % criteria.For example,

  • 50-59% can be adequate
  • 60 -69% can be competent
  • 70-79% can be good
  • 80-100% must be excellent
  • Below 50% needs always improvement.

So, teachers can include many students in suitable brackets and work with them accordingly to improve. This scoring scale is applicable even for projects. Projects require all those skills and there also the same rubric and scoring pattern works.

Value integration or assimilation by students must be only through continuous observation of the behaviour of the students as values can never be taught, it can only be caught. The participation of the students in various activities of the school, respect and obedience shown to superiors and teachers, helping nature in classroom and outside, managing one’s own self, team work, leadership qualities, taking initiative etc are some factors which if the teachers make a proper evaluation table would to a large extent help the teacher to analyse the value assimilation. However, it is a very inappropriate activityif the school student profile grades value assessment too. There must be a refinement required in the student profiling every year by a descriptive statement by the class teacher after serious discussions with various subject teachers who also are in touch with the student. Non-scholastic subjects are mostly practical oriented or through real performances. There are measures and indicators available for PE, Music, Art/Craft etc, and they must be appropriately integrated into the student profiling. Sufficient importance must be given to all these subjects unlike the past practice of the schools where these are considered an ‘also’ subjects. Holistic performance of the student must integrate the performance of the students in all these activities too.

But for this the school should give equal opportunities to all and only then this assessment become justified.

Between all the three major aspects given above, these assessments must be holistically done with description wherever required. It would be a great idea if the schools can think about the expected level of learning behind the student profiling score card. Some call it transcripts, but I would suggest that this be the expected level on the holistic development of the student.

Preparing a descriptive student profile at the end of every learning schedule or time is prescribed for learning is as important as preparing for learning through proper assessments as mentioned above. If the analysis of student performance is not properly presented to the parents in reasonably good understanding language, then assessment does not carry any meaning to anyone, including the student.

Schools must think of redefining their student profiles.

This requires a concerted effort from school leaders and teachers. Redefining the assessment pattern into inclusion of more argumentative questions that promote the thinking skills and skills to infer or comprehend of the students is the need of the hour. An ordinary math problem that the teachers asks in a normal class can very well become and arguable question that makes the student’s think, if the teachers change the way the same question is posed. While the question addresses still the same concept, the way the answer is written or conceived brings out the skills. Quality of assessment decides the quality of schools and not marks of students. That age is gone. Promoting the students to ask intelligent questions and making them think is the way ahead and not consolidation of their knowledge.


Dr VijayamRavi is an eminent educationist having more than 34 years of experience in education domain. She has held various roles such as Teacher, HOD, Principal, Director and Administrator in her career. She has an investigative approach to any issue, with specialization and excellence in teaching support, promoting thus student achievement. She believes in Transformational Leadership and her journey in the last two decades had been one of creating a community of leaders.

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