Assessments in Primary/Secondary School

Module 1 Reflection: How useful (how meaningful) had assessments been in my grade school / high school classes.  What does this tell me about the value of teachers’ understanding about assessment activities?

I went to a few schools for elementary and high school, but assessments in all of them were pretty much the same. All academic classes would have seatwork, homework, quizzes and exams. Sometimes we would also have games and reporting via performances (e.g. create a short skit, compose a song, etc.) All of the students did the same work. The non-academic courses had projects and demonstrations of specific skill sets (e.g. cross-stitch, cook a dish, perform a high jump, play an instrument, complete a painting).

I think these assessments were useful for me in the sense that I knew whether or not I was doing well in school. However, in terms of learning the material, I’m not too sure. The objective was to pass the exams and not really to learn. I was busy learning what I wanted, mostly through reading books in the library. If I was not interested in a subject, I did not study too hard. I just made sure I did not fail anything because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. As I got older, I got better at passing exams. I was able to predict which questions would come out based on what the teacher emphasized. I was also good at memorization, and so I was able to get high grades without really understanding all of the material.

It was only in high school, when I moved to another school, that I developed a love for learning. My teachers were able to make the subject matter fascinating, and so I wanted to understand the material. I started to care more about learning than grades. Also, my teachers were attentive to the needs of students, providing feedback and encouraging us to figure things out on our own, rather than give us facts to memorize. Assessment became more meaningful this way. I was actually excited to do the work and take the exam to see how much I had learned. Because yes, I was and still am and will always be a bona fide nerd. 🙂

On another note, in my elementary school, the bulk of the grades were taken from the exams (around 60%). Quizzes, homework, etc. were around 10%, and the remaining 30% was taken from our Individual Work (I.W.). We were given around 1 hour every morning to do our I.W. There were tasks assigned for each subject, and we were given two weeks to complete all the tasks on our own. We were not allowed to do any of the work at home, but were required to complete them within the time period prescribed. We joke that I.W. made us all professional crammers, but I believe this form of assessment was very helpful in making us independent workers. After each morning, we were given an evaluation sheet wherein we would record how well we worked that day so that we could assess ourselves and hopefully do better next time. I think this would have worked better if the teachers talked to us about our evaluation sheets, because some students would not be entirely honest in filling out this sheet.

I also appreciate the high school I graduated from, because they tried to lessen competitiveness between students. Students were not ranked. We did not have valedictorians and salutatorians. Our grades were also non-numerical. We had Excellent, Very Good, Good, Satisfactory, Fair and Unsatisfactory (If I remember correctly). All students whose average grades were not less than VG were honor students (Outstanding Students). If you had an average of E in one subject, you received a certificate of excellence for that subject. Since there was no ranking in assessments, we were encouraged to help each other succeed and not compete with each other. This made for a very friendly environment in school where we would share notes and study techniques with each other.

Thinking back to those times, it seems to me that teachers basically assessed us the way they were assessed by their teachers. Perhaps assessment was not very much studied during their time, and access to materials were not as easy as they are now. I would like to believe my teachers did the best they could. It is just unfortunate that they didn’t learn about different kinds of assessment and how these can  truly help a student learn lessons and also build character. However, I do recognize the positive aspects of assessment (e.g. non-competitiveness).

Assessment is vital in any learning process. A teacher who has understood the foundations of assessment and how to apply these effectively and creatively, is essential for maximizing learning and helping students achieve their potentials.


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