Assessment is a way of getting information about students’ learning. It is an integral part of teaching and learning. Assessment mainly can be formative and summative. Continuous assessment is a form of formative assessment.
We tend to depend on the result of terminal/annual examinations in order to evaluate students for different purposes. Continuous assessment breaks the tendency of relying on specific examinations either for diagnostic and formative or for summative decisions. It suggests that learners’ every activity has to be observed instantaneously and recorded for future decisions using different instruments like tests, assignments, projects, observation, interviews, and questionnaires. CA is a testing and record-keeping mechanism in which students are examined continuously based on predefined standards over the duration of their education. The result of CA later can be used for both summative and formative purposes.
CA assumes that every single child learns many things during the learning activities. Everything that a child learns during a specified period of time cannot be measurable. Student’s performance keeps fluctuating-different factors are responsible for this. A teacher has to observe every small change in his academic performance conducts, thinking, reasoning, and so on and record it immediately. A student cannot be judged fairly by looking at the result of the annual examination only. The teacher awards the score (in any form) systematically and continuously to every attempt and risk a student takes while learning. The score further can be interpreted as being based on terms. 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.
Characteristics of Continuous Assessment
Continuous: By nature, it is continuous and frequent while learning.
Cumulative: CA accumulates the results.
Comprehensive: It includes wide-ranging tools for measuring; project works, homework, conducts, thinking and communicating skills etc. it is inclusive in itself.
Systematic: It is methodological. Doing assessments, collecting scores, and analyzing scores are done orderly and systematically.
Diagnostic: The teacher instantly identifies/analyzes the problems with students and himself regarding teaching-learning.
Formative: CA is more formative less summative.
Other beautiful features of Continuous Assessment
- A teacher not only assesses learners but also gives feedback and runs remedial teaching
- It gives such a comprehensive result that the records of CA can be used for molding a child’s behaviors.
- It reduces the burdens for examination
- It makes teachers innovative and flexible
- Not only students but also teacher gets instant feedback about his/her teaching methods, techniques, knowledge, and behaviors
CAS(Continuous Assessment System) and LPP (Liberal Promotion Policy)
Liberal promotion policy and continuous assessment system are used together and sometimes understood similarly. They may share some features but they are different. CAS is a key for LPP. CAS gives required data for LPP. LPP policy assumes that the learning outcomes a child could not gain in one class has to be fulfilled in another class instead of repeating the same class for an entire year. For example; Student ‘A’ could not attain some of the objectives of any subject of grade 1, he/she will be promoted to another grade i.e. 2 and the respective subject teacher has to investigate the CAS report of the previous grade and fulfill all the objectives in this grade. This is how CAS not only supports LPP but also improves learning achievement.
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Continuous Assessment as the Distinct Pedagogy
Continuous assessment also calls for individualized instructions to be given to students of various grade levels in the same class. This runs into practical difficulty if the class size is considerably bigger
The school sector development plan (SSDP), which is currently underway in Nepal, envisions bringing about change in the school education sector by strengthening it in altogether five core dimensions: Equity, quality, efficiency, governance and management, and resilience. As one of the core dimensions is ‘quality, enhancing the relevance and quality of assessment and examinations is a key output area.
An assessment is ‘the process of gathering, interpreting, recording and using information about a pupil’s responses to educational tasks.’ Understood broadly, students’ appraisal can be done prior to their learning through pre-assessment, during their learning through what is termed as formative assessment, and after their learning through summative assessment.
The first two modes of assessment, which fall under the broad framework of continuous assessment of students (CAS), are relatively new and have been introduced in Nepal’s schools with no tangible and observable success. The latter, ever-present with variously-known monikers, like final exams, end-term exams, level exams, and public exams, still reigns supreme. As cited in the SSDP, although the CAS was introduced in 2009, it is yet to be fully comprehended by parents and teachers to be preferred over summative exams.
As regards teachers, one of the problems is that they do not use the CAS to inform how and what they teach, which is its primary function. And while we still eagerly await the government’s ‘strategic intervention’ to change such a state of affairs, it might be worthwhile to share its implemental ™challenges and how it can be made to work for better learning outcomes through this teacher’s ‘hit and trial’ with CAS.
Continuous assessment also calls for individualised instructions to be given to the students of various grade levels in the same class. This runs into practical difficulty if the class size is considerably bigger. Implementing CAS in a class size of 30 with a good amount of relevant training, ample resources and even with the support of a co-teacher has been quite a challenge for this teacher over the years, although it had positive results nonetheless eventually.
This paradigm shift in assessing students and break away from the practice of simply giving them tests require pre-requisites other than teacher factors like patience, willingness, his/her aptitude and attitude. Such prerequisites include the availability of resources, class size and teacher training to orient them towards it, the curriculum in line with it, examination pattern and parental support, amongst others. Although considered important stakeholders in all these areas, the teachers really do not really have them under their direct purview to bring about any substantial change. In the report by Dr. Tirtha Raj Parajuli to the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC) on the effects of CAS on students’ achievement, drop-out and attendance’ in schools where it was piloted in 2003, teachers have blamed the large class size and a mere 5-day training on CAS for its dismal performance.
The SSDP’s ‘strategic intervention’ aims to rectify such structural and systemic deficiencies, and those directly concerned, like parents and teachers, can only hope with cautious optimism that significant changes will be forthcoming by 2022/2023 – the timeline it has set for itself to meet its objectives. Recently when suggestopedia, a language teaching method through a rich sensory learning environment, was being discussed in the class on English language teaching methods, a classmate quipped: ‘We will soon be fired if we introduced such methods in our class!’ The professor rejoined with a befitting reply, ‘Do you teach the students or the curriculum?’ By and large, it’s the curriculum that teachers are compelled to teach and finish to get students through the achievement exams.
How can CAS possibly work if the pre and formative assessments, which are ‘assessments for learning’, designed to enhance and evaluate the skills and competencies of students or to make it more ‘learner-focused rather than content focussed, are again made to be beholden to the same old content-based achievement exams? And even when single-subject report cards are prepared, comprising the detailed comments, skill proficiency and recommendations, it’s the sacrosanct single sheet report with scores that parents value. And why wouldn’t they? It’s such numbered reports that matter when they pass out of school.
Until a major restructuring, if not a total overhaul, takes place in the curriculum, examination system and teacher training, which is not limited to the cosmetic five-day affair feeding the egos of the high trainers, CAS practice is best utilised if understood in terms of constantly evaluating the students during learning to prepare them for the achievement exams. When they view their students getting through the summative exams as the predominant or the only marker of their success, training them in a way that aligns the CAS tools they would be using to have a bearing on the students’ examination performance could be a good starting point. This indeed is not what continuous assessment is meant for, but until such a conducive environment is created, CAS could be tapped in this way for better learning outcomes.
Hernande, R. (2012). Does continuous assessment in higher education support student learning? Journal of higher education 64, pp489-502
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