School – based Assessment

The Concept of School based Assessment.

Public examinations have long been the only measurement of students’ achievement. But inline with the on-going transformation of the national educational system this could be changed. This was hinted by Y.A.B. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Education Minister, after launching the state level 38th Teacher’s Day at Dewan Seri Panglima Lee Shen, SM Ken Hwa, Keningau on 5  June, 2009. A new evaluation method will be introduced to gauge the competence of students by taking into account both academic and extra-curricular achievements. “The (present) evaluation is basically based on curriculum-achievements… we would like to see a more rounded sort of education achievements among our children.” (Daily Express, 6 June 2009)

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Educational Assessment is the process of documenting; usually in measurable terms, knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs. Assessment can focus on individual learner, the learning community (class, or other organized unit of learners), the institution, or the education system as a whole. The term assessment is generally used to refer to all activities teachers use to help students learn and to gauge student progress. Assessment is often divided using the following categories:

  • formative and summative;
  • objective and subjective;
  • referencing (criterion-referenced; norm referenced);
  • informal and formal.

For the purpose of considering the different objectives for assessment practice, it is divided into:

  1. Summative assessment: Summative assessment is generally carried out at the end of a course or project. In an education setting, summative assessment are typically used to assign students a course grade.
  2. Formative Assessment: Formative assessment is generally carried out throughout a course or project. Formative assessment, also referred to as “educative assessment” is used to aid learning. In an education setting, formative assessment might be a teacher, or the learner, providing feedback on a student’s work, and would not necessarily be used for grading purposes. An educational researcher, Robert Stake explains the difference between formative and summative assessment with following anology:

“When the cook taste s the soup, that’s formative. When the guests taste the soup, that’s summative”.

3.  Performance based assessment is similar to summative assessment, as it focusses on achievement. They are commonly associated with standards-based assessment which used free-form responses to standard questions. A well – defined task is identified and students are asked to create, produce or do something, often in settings that involve real-world application of knowledge and skills. Proficiency is demonstrated by providing an exended response. Performance formats are further differrentiated into products and performances. The performance may result in a product, such as a painting, portfolio, paper or exhibition, or it may consist of a performance, such as a speech, athletic skill, musical recital, or reading.

4.  Internal assessment is set and marked by the school (ie. teachers). Students get the mark and feedback regarding the assessment. External assessment is set by the governing body (Malaysian Examination Syndicate / Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia) and is marked by non-biased personnel. With external assessment, students only receive a mark. Therefore, they have no idea how they actually performed  (ie what bits they answered correctly).

Two characteristics of high quality assessment are those with high level of reliability and validity.

Reliability relates to the consistency of an assessment. It is one which consistently achieves the same results with the same (or similar) cohort of students. Various factors which affect reliability – including ambiguous questions, too many options within a question paper, vague marking  and poorly trained markers.

Validity. A valid asessment is one which measures what it is intended to measure. Teachers frequently complain that some examinations do not assess the syllabus upon which the examination is based; they are, actually questioning the validity of the examination.

School – based Assessment for Malaysia?

The  then Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin TunHussein, stated that our education system should not be too examination oriented and suggested that The Malaysian Examination Syndicate to look into reducing the examination and to change the examination. A school -based assessment has been suggested (Utusan Malaysia, 22nd. Mac 2009).

School-based assessment is a much talked-about concept but was not really understood by different communities – parents, stakeholders, students and even teachers.  They have different perceptions of what school-based assessment means.

This is because Malaysia has been almost having similar mode of examination since independence; teachers assess their students “formatively” through internal test; whereas the Malaysian Examination Syndicate and the Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia conduct the external tests “summatively” at the end of the year for the whole country.

According to the former Malaysia Director of Education, Tan Sri Murad Mohd. Noor, “The attitude of too obsess to too many standardized examinations in the national education system are the factors to not being able to achieve maximum level of creativity and innovation. Too many examinations at primary, secondary and university levels cause students to not having time to develop their talents, ability and potentials in an area of interest” (Utusan Malaysia, 29th September 2005).

Because of the too many examinations, students are made to memorize the would be answers to the examination questions that are “likely” to be tested. Each student is competing for the maximum numbers of A’s without justifying the means of getting it. Some school heads even went to the extend of barring their weak students from taking the public examination for fearing that the result of that particular year might drop.

What is School – based Assessment?

In our Malaysian System of Education’s context school-based assessment could be understood as :  assessment that is going to take teachers’ grade as part of students’ official grade after completing specific school level. There are four schooling levels in Malaysia; and at the end of each level, students are require to sit for : UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM. The purpose of school-based assessment is to avoid students totally dependent on those high stake examinations alone (for their grade) which  created alot of tensions and anxiety among them.

The implementation of school-based assessment will imply that school teachers will have to take some of the responsibilities of Malaysian Examination Syndicate / Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia in conducting external tests/ assessment; that is some of the external test jobs carried out by MES / MPM are to be transfered to become teachers’ jobs while conducting their internal test. It requires a teacher deliberately gather information (grading) how well each student has achieved stated learning objectives. This means focusing an activity on specific  learning objectives and evaluating student achievement of these learning objectives against established criteria.

Presently, the major reasons for MES/MPM to solely carry out the high – stake test like UPSR, PMR, SPM. and STPM is to ensure the validity and objectivity of the examination of the examination. Once part of the responsibility of conducting external assessment is transferred to teachers, the major issues are:

  1. how to maintain scoring objectivity or reliability , and
  2. how to ensure the validity of the school based test.

Thus, the need of a well-designed school based assessment system conducted by classroom teachers to complement the role of MES who conducts the conventional standardized test.  Currently majority of tests administered by MES / MPM are paper-and-pencil type whereby candidates are given written questions for them to respond in a specified time span.  This type of test is good for large number of candidates and the scoring objectivity can be easily and systematically maintained.

One of the test forms that fit the requirement of a school-based assessment system is performance test. By performance test, we mean a test that needs students to provide genuine response in an assessment domain closest to the intended criteria for the examiner to make inferences. (Popham, 2000). The medium could be through actions or report writing; such as report writing on  study of Local Geography at PMR. The examiner will observe the performance and is required to repeort the judgement about that performance. Thus administering performance test in a big scale is not easy in terms of maintaining scoring objectivity.

Nitko (2004) in his keynote address entitled “Alternative Assessment for Teaching and Learning” at the Second Intyernational Conference on Measurement and Evaluation in Education; in Penang stated that alternative assessment to our existing examination system should:

  1. presents a hands-on-task requiring students to do something with their knowledge, such  as making (a bookshelf), produce a report(on a group project that surveyed parents attitudes),  or give demonstration (show how to measure mass on a laboratory scale);
  2. a clear rubric for scoring – clearly defined criteria to evaluate how well the students achieved this application.

A common misconception is that any alternative learning activity used in teaching is also an assessment. Usually, classroom alternative activities lack this scoring rubric component, and thus cannot qualify as assessment.

Technology For School-based Assessment.

1. Computer aided assessment is a term that covers all forms of assessment, whether Summative (test that will contribute to formal qualifications) or Formative (test that promote learning but are not part of a course marking), delivered with the help of computer, either online or on a local network, and those that are marked with the aid of computers, such as those using Optical Mark Reading (OMR). One of the most common forms of computer aided assessment (e-learning) is online quizzes or examinations. These can be implemented online, and also marked by computer by putting the answers in. Many Content Management Systems will have easy to setup and use systems for online examination.

2. Since 2000, New Zealand has researched, developed, and deployed a national, computer-assisted effective school-based assessment system. Eight major principles for the development of the school – based assessment are focused on:

  • Curriculum alignment;
  • Calibration;
  • Innovative communication;
  • Choice;
  • Low consequences;
  • Local control;
  • Incremental design;
  • Deployment of computer technology.

These principles can be adapted in our country to bring about effective improvements in learning and teaching outcomes.

3. A group of researchers at the School of Educational Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang; developed a performance assessment tool for a school-based assessment system – a Computer Environment Diagnostic and Remediation (CEDAR) courseware programme. The programme was developed for 4 subject areas (Mathematics, Science, Bahasa Malaysia, and English) of Year Six pupils who are sitting for their UPSR examination. Mokhtar et. al (2003) in his paper “Diagnosis of pupils’ Learning Difficulties in Mathematics” presented at the Second International Conference on Measurement and Evaluation in Education in Penang, discussed the suitability of the programme for diagnostic purposes to prepare pupils for the UPSR examination.

The important feature of CEDAR programme is the pop-up signal and remediation activities. If a students fails an item after three continuous attempts, a pop-up signal will appear on the teacher’s computer terrminal. On getting the signal, the teacher will go to the pupil concerned and starts talking to that pupil on mistakes that he or she made. After completing the remediation, the teacher will key in a password on the pupil’s key-board to let the pupil continue with the diagnostic testing programme. Scores obtained by each pupils are recorded and these scores can be cumulated to beome part of school – based assessment scores.

This Computer Environment Diagnostic and Remediation Courseware programme is one of the many alternative that can make our Malaysian school-based assessment a success.

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