The Concept of Continuous Assessment
Continuous assessment (CA) is a form of educational examination that evaluates the students’ progress or performance throughout the duration of a course. This is done in order not to rely on an examination at the end of the academic year/or semester. It is a mechanism whereby the students’ final grading in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of the performance during a given period are evaluated. It is the phenomenon in which students are examined continuously over most of the duration of their education. Aboni, Okereke and Omebe (2005) pointed out that the Federal Government Handbook on continuous assessment posited CA as a method of finding out what the child gained during the learning activities in terms of knowledge, thinking and reasoning, character development and industry. Aboni, Okereke and Omebe (2005) therefore referred to continuous assessment as a method of evaluation by which the teacher periodically ascertains learner’s ability in gaining knowledge, thinking, reasoning, character learning activities using different instruments like tests, assignments, projects, observation, interviews and questionnaires. The results of the continuous assessment are made use of at the end of each course and the results are taken into account after leaving school. In other words, continuous assessment is a method of obtaining information about any child from the school authority.
Continuous assessment entails the careful keeping of records on the pupils, continuously and systematically. It takes into consideration the termly or periodic performances of students in assignments, tests, projects and other educational activities. This is to say that in continuous assessment, emphasis is on the award of scores on any bit of work done by the student. This implies that scoring must be continuous and regular. However, the national policy on education specifically defined continuous assessment as a mechanism, whereby the final grading of the students in cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of education is taken into account systematically, during a given period in the school system. This type of assessment, takes into consideration various methods or modes of evaluation used, the target being to guide and improve the learning capacities of the students, as well as their different performances.
Hence, in the views of many educationists like Hernande (2012), continuous assessment is a systematic, comprehensive and cumulative record of a student’s cognitive, affective and psychomotor attainment within the period of schooling. However, the National Policy on Education (2004) proposed that educational assessment or evaluation should be based on continuous assessment at all levels of the educational system. The continuous assessment replaced the former one-shot summative evaluation, which was then administered to the students at the end of each term or semester for the purpose of promotion to the next class. Then at the completion of the course or program, external bodies are used to administer such examination which is mainly for awarding of certificates to the students. Though in that earlier method, most teachers administer tests weekly, biweekly, even every month, but most times the results of such tests are not being used in the final grading. Having observed the shortcomings of this earlier method, the Federal Government took steps to rectify the anomaly through the introduction of continuous assessment in the school system.
It should be acknowledged that continuous assessment has been defined in different forms but the numerous definitions boil down to the same meaning. Hence, continuous assessment could be taken as a collection of marks or grades systematically over a period of time, the scores are put together into a final grade. This creates room for periodic assessment throughout the course and considers the progress and achievement of the educational goal.
The Nature of Continuous Assessment
Continuous assessment is an educational policy by which children are being examined frequently over most of the duration of their education in relation to a course, subject or programme. It is accompanied by regular feedback. This can take various forms, bearing in mind the final objectives and competencies, for instance; regular feedback on the assignment or paper, regular assessment of verbal language skills, regular testing of one’s insight into theoretical concepts, regular observation of practical skills and attitudes. It could be teamwork skills, collaboration during tutorials, nursing skills, seminar presentation skills among others.
Continuous assessment can take place within various types of contact moments; for instance, during practical activities in the workshops, during lectures, placement projects, presentation of cases, among others. CA can be seen as the result of the learning performance on a course, where the assessment can verify which developmental process one is going through. Thus, continuous assessment counts towards the final mark obtained for the course. Continuous assessment most times goes hand-in-hand with information concerning the assessment criteria. That is, how one performed, what went smoothly, what went less smoothly and the things one need to hasten effort in.
Characteristics of Continuous Assessment
Continuous assessment has many characteristics with which it is identified. These characteristics include systematic, comprehensive, cumulative, guidance oriented, diagnostic, and formative.
Continuous assessment is systematic in the sense that it involves an operational plan, showing the intervals or periods within the school academic year when the assessment will be made. In doing this, the nature of the instrument to be used is specified at both the primary and secondary school levels. Guidelines are given by the Ministry of Education on the requirements for effecting continuous assessment. Emphasis is on the cognitive, affective and psychomotor abilities of the students, which is clearly spelt on a handbook. As a matter, of fact, it is split into 1st and 2nd stages of continuous assessment before the terminal examination to get the total or final score. This is even operational in tertiary institutions where the CA has 30 marks and the examination 70 marks.
Continuous assessment is seen to be comprehensive in the sense that for it to be operational, many instruments are used to determine student’s performance. Such instruments include homework, test, seminar presentations, checklist, and classwork, among others. In addition, the area of the behavioural domain being taken care of in the process of CA also makes continuous assessment comprehensive. That is the content coverage, for instance, assessment covering the individual’s behaviour; cognitive, psychomotor and affective. Also on each of these domains, a detailed assessment is encouraged like in assessing the cognitive domain, both the higher thinking process and lower cognitive domain are put into consideration.
Continuous assessment is cumulative in the line that previous evaluations and decisions on an individual are being put into consideration in subsequent decisions. This now makes it binding on every school counsellor to keep an up-to-date record of every student.
Appropriate decision on the educational and career of the individual child is based on the records kept through CA. This, therefore, makes a continuous assessment to be seen as being guidance oriented. The consistent interest and performance of the students on specific subjects could deduce his or her area of career choice, like being inclined to literature, CRK, etc. could prompt one to seek for Arts oriented courses, like theatre Arts, Law and many more areas of art-related courses.
CA is involved in monitoring how the students are progressing, so as to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses. When these are identified, they pave way for program planning. If for instance, the students have difficulties, remedial programs will be put in place to assist the child to overcome or improve his deficiencies.
Continuous assessment is formative and summative in nature. That is to say that the record kept on the child shows clearly the progress of the child. Thus as the teacher is teaching, even at the point of entry into the school progressive report of the student is being kept by the counsellor. These reports make it possible for concrete statements on the child’s progress to be made by the counsellor or even the teacher. Thus at the end of each term, a summary of the records will clearly exhibit the performance of the child so far. In this manner, it gives room for the counsellor to deduce if the child has done well, averagely, excellently or poorly.
The role of Guidance in Continuous Assessment
It is very crucial to point out that for an efficient and operative continuous assessment in a secondary school, for instance, there should be a committee. This committee should embrace different individuals assigned to different roles. The counsellor’s efficiency and ability will encourage the sustenance of this committee. The principal of the school who is seen as the head and initiator relies heavily on the counsellor to rapport with the teachers, who have the direct contact of teaching and learning with the students. However, the following could be seen as the roles of the guidance counsellor in a continuous assessment process.
The guidance counsellor acts as a local examination register: That is to say, a counsellor has the duty to sort the records of continuous assessment of each child. He/she as the counsellor does the computation and goes further to send the scores to the bodies that might require them. Such bodies include the West African Examination Council (WAEC), National Examination Council (NECO), National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) or any other examination board or council of national interest and purpose.
It is the role of the counsellor to organize in-service training for the teachers on continuous assessment. The counsellor can achieve this by giving out invitations to resource persons. The resource persons will indulge in elaborate discussion with the teachers on the need for continuous assessment tests to be administered and not just being administered but done as at when due. In addition, not just administering tests, but going further to record the scores. The counsellor educates them, among other things required for CA to be operative. Emphases are made on the techniques required for administration and record-keeping in CA.
The counsellor has the obligation to adopt these tests to suit the peoples’ social-cultural environment. Thus the counsellor does this by educating the teachers on the use of some of these tests and non-test methods, bearing in mind that continuous assessment involves both test and non-test techniques. The counsellor, therefore, initiates the construction of the tests, putting into consideration people’s culture. This the counsellor achieves with his knowledge of psychological testing.
The counsellor has the obligation to monitor the teachers and encourage them so that this test can be periodically administered as stated, taking into cognisance that this issue of periodic testing may be seen by the teachers as an additional burden to their workload. It, therefore, becomes imperative that the counsellor should closely monitor the teachers to ensure that the system of continuous assessment is properly executed. For instance, some teachers if not monitored may want to adopt shortcut measures like giving one test and dividing by two to get 1st and 2nd CA scores. This method falls short of the aims and objectives behind which continuous assessment was introduced. Thus the counsellor should be very vigilant to avoid the teachers operating the process the way one may not see any difference from the one short system or British style that was previously in use.
Furthermore, among the characteristics of continuous assessment is that it is guidance oriented. This is one of the cardinal points for which continuous assessment was introduced into the Nigerian school system. It is, therefore, very crucial for the counsellor to ensure that data collected from the continuous assessment are properly used in educational, personal and vocational counselling of the students.
The counsellor in addition should monitor closely the contents of the CA. This is very necessary because there is the tendency that the CA may be more loaded in the cognitive aspect. Therefore, the counsellor should ensure the implementation and coverage of the three domains of education; cognitive, psychomotor and affective.
The counsellor is seen as the watchdog of the students and therefore is expected to ensure that there is justice and equity in the scoring of the continuous assessment. The teachers may be tempted to influence the students’ scores. Often times one may notice the disparity between the scores given by teachers to students and the scores of the students when strictly exposed to other examination boards, like WAEC, JAMB, NABTEB and NECO and other bodies of national status. Thus, if not checked may mar or deter the purpose of initiating continuous assessment. It is, therefore, very important that such tendencies by teachers are vehemently discouraged by the counsellors. These they can achieve, by monitoring the teachers’ scoring method and the process of recording the scores.
The Use of CA in Counselling
Continuous assessment has several educational and social utilities. Among such utilization values are:
- Decision making: Accurate or precise, reliable decision is made about a child through the use of continuous assessment.
- Obtaining Data about a Child: Continuous assessment makes it possible for a child’s data to be obtained. This could be traced to the systematic role of continuous assessment, where the test items are planned, organized and scored in such an ideal manner that accurate data about the child are obtained within the child’s stay in the school.
- The comprehensive information gotten through continuous assessment is used by the counsellor in his day to day activities or interaction with the students. The counsellor uses such mediums as assignments, projects, tests, examination, observation, demonstration, fieldwork or any other medium to go about the process of data collection about a child.
- Continuous assessment provides the overall general picture of an individual; this could be seen in the aspect of record keeping. The progress of the child in the school, examination, the performance of tasks and even taking decisions in the academic performance of the child are all being kept in the cumulative record folder. Thus, the overall picture of the child is made available at any point that it may be required.
Specifically, CA could be taken to be of assistance to the counsellor in the following ways:
- Provide up-to-date comprehensive information about a child on the three domains of education.
- Identification of the areas that the child needs assistance in his learning process; that is the learning needs of the child are pinpointed including the areas of remediation.
- Information from the continuous assessment system assists the counsellor in his provision of ideal programmes for behavioural management.
CA makes it possible for the child to make a judgment that is realistic and true of his person as an individual. This, therefore, facilitates the effectiveness of counselling. It provides the baseline for counselling, especially in referral cases. This is made possible because CA is diagnostic and monitors the performance of clients through the use of skills and techniques. In a counselling situation, the process of continuous assessment helps to provide a cumulative balanced picture of the client. The information gotten from continuous assessment provides the medium for the clients and counsellors to have a better working relationship.
The Rationale for Continuous Assessment in Schools
- It is believed that Continuous Assessment will give the teacher who teaches the students the opportunity to participate in pupils’ evaluation.
- The teacher is involved in the final assessment of the students or pupils he taught since assessment is an integral part of a teaching process.
- Continuous Assessment takes care of the performance of the child during the period of education, and any assessment that does this is seen to be more valid and shows the learner overall ability than a single examination.
- It was also introduced to enable teachers to be more flexible and innovative in giving out their instruction.
- Continuous Assessment was aimed at providing bases for more effective guidance of the child.
- It was aimed at the provision of a basis for the teacher to improve his or her method of instruction.
- The target also was to reduce examination malpractice.
Abonyi, O. S. Okereke, S. C. & Omebe, C. (2005). A First Course in Educational Measurement and Evaluation. Fred Ogah Publishers, Enugu
Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, London: Longman
Federal Ministry of Education (2004). National policy on Education. Lagos NERDC Press
Hernande, R. (2012). Does continuous assessment in higher education support student learning? Journal of higher education 64, pp489-502