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Assessing Students Without formal Exams

by Vijay Garg
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Should we hold exams or not? Will colleges be comfortable accepting grades without the formal exam? 
 Assessment carried out by the school where the child has spent 12-14 years is less authentic/or of no consequence. Our internal assessment systems are not robust enough to give authentic and valid data on student achievements, which is why we cannot trust the grades we get in schools, and instead rely on the external exam.
 Improve our assessment system, because only then will we give opportunities to develop these in the classroom. These include information literacy, digital and media literacy, collaboration, communication, research, data analysis, critical thinking, problem solving, among others. The traditional assessment system has not been able to develop these skills and cannot do so. Better teachers might still try and give opportunities in the classroom but constraints of time and of syllabus eventually lead them to encourage memorising and learning meaningless, outdated facts.
 Every individual comes from a different set of cultural and social norms, has different abilities and talents, and cannot and should not be assessed in one way. Assessments will have to include elements of research, personal perspectives, and opportunities for displaying creativity/innovation. Children should also be allowed to show work that has been developed when given the opportunity to work at their own pace, with little constraints on time.
We will therefore have to develop assessments in school, often also called internal assessments. This will have to include student work through the year, be it a research piece in science, a critical appreciation of a book the child has read in languages, or an essay on contemporary issues in humanities, identified by the child. This will not only give an opportunity to the child to take time on a project but also allow her to form and express opinions.
Second, assessments will have to allow students flexibility in presenting their ideas via any medium, a movie or a monologue, in the written form or a painting. Languages will need to be assessed in not just all four skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening — but also in presenting ideas, comprehending what has been read or heard, discerning between real and fake facts, and in appreciating good forms of expressions, whether in the written form or spoken or in reel. We will also have to move from the idea of teaching a text to teaching the skill to appreciate and comprehend language in all its forms.
Students will have to be given opportunities for collecting, processing and interpreting data and ideas. They will have to learn to wade through all sorts of information and choose the most appropriate resource. Each subject area will have to identify important attitudes and skills that need to be developed and provide opportunities within the classroom and subject area to develop and assess these skills. If we are able to achieve this, we will be armed with enough information about the student to be able to comment with confidence on skills and abilities. We will also give ample and diverse kinds of opportunities for every individual to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and abilities. Increasing the weightage of internal assessment grades in calculating the final grade is the way forward. The problem of standardization can be easily met by using percentiles and not absolute scores.
 Every Holiday homework, which encourages research and interpretation, is assessing skills of data interpretation and information literacy. Every assessment of speaking and listening skills, which asks for personal ideas, and every book cover that children design, assesses creativity. .We need to show honesty in our internal assessments and trust and belief in our systems.

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