The shortcomings of the conventional method of assessment have motivated the need for a more effective, efficient and reliable method of assessment.
After several brainstorming at conferences, workshops, seminars, and at individual levels notable educationists such as Yoloye, Falayajo, Ojerinde, Ohuche, Obioma, and Ezewu, Okoye, and Holloway, to mention a few, came up with what is now referred to as Continuous Assessment.
The National Policy on Education, among other things, regards secondary education as preparatory for both useful living within the society and for higher education.
A person with poor study habits is likely to transfer the same to poor work habits which will invariably make him unfit for useful living in society and invariably incapable of benefiting from higher education.
At various times, people have defined Continuous Assessment differently. Examining all the various definitions, certain characteristics seem to cut across. Succinctly put, the common features are as follows:
Continuous Assessment is systematic.
Every aspect of the assessment is well catered for. Things are not left to chance. On the schedule is usually a Performa indicating what to assess, how to assess it, at what point in time it is to be assessed, the duration of the assessment, and what instrument to use for the assessment.
Continuous Assessment is objective.
The aforesaid preparation for the assessment usually involves getting already validated instruments for use in obtaining our scores. The use of validated instruments makes objectivity attainable.
Continuous Assessment is comprehensive.
The assessment covers all learning activities. This gives room for the identification of individual differences and assessment of teaching strategies.
Continuous Assessment is cumulative.
Judgment on the performance of a learner is based on his performance in various tests taken at various times on various aspects of learning and in all the domains of learning (Affective, Cognitive, and Psychomotor) throughout learning.
In short, all the scores are made use of and count towards the determination of his level of attainment in the learning of the course.
Continuous Assessment is Guidance-oriented.
In-built into every test is the provision for feedback to both the teacher and the learners on the progress attained during the period of learning. The feedback will point out areas of weaknesses and strengths.
Remedial work or reinforcement is provided accordingly. These feedbacks allow the learner to procure good counseling on what field of learning he may well fit into in the future.
The teacher feels proud when his students do well as he feels that he has good control over the teaching/learning situation.
He is in a position not only to identify students who require his assistance. He also knows the particular areas of need for individual students.
He identifies those aspects of the curriculum he needs to improve on his presentation and learns to modify his method of instruction.
Continuous Assessment is geared toward the total development of the learner.
Quite unlike the use of conventional assessment, continuous assessment aims to ensure the total development of the learner.
The assessment is no longer restricted to the 3 Rs (Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic); it now covers the 3 Hs (Heart (Affective), Head (Cognitive), and Hand (Psychomotor)).
No child is therefore likely to be discountenanced at the end of such an exercise. Within the period of training, his potential would have been identified and he should have received the necessary assistance to develop in that area to enable him to fit into society rather than turn out to be a never-do-well.
When a child knows that without being good in academics he can still fit into society he does not feel worried and hence the urge to engage in nefarious activities geared towards attaining certificates at all costs through bribery, corruption, examination malpractices, beating up of invigilators and supervisors will be minimized if not brought into extinct.
The Demands of Continuous Assessment
We have in our discussions so far presented Continuous Assessment as a way out of the problems associated with the inherited conventional assessment.
The picture painted has so far been very fascinating. It is, however, important to note that all good things are never without their associated problems.
Many laudable programs in this have met with failure either as a result of misgivings in certain quarters or problems of fund or method of execution.
A typical example of a laudable program on which the Nigerian government spent a huge amount of money only for the same government to abandon is the case of teaching modern mathematics in our secondary schools.
The program was not itself bad but the planning. The execution of such a program should start with the training of anticipated executors in a reasonable number.
This was not the case; some teachers felt their work was at stake and so quickly rose against it and soon received with joy an edict at that time prohibiting its teaching.
Alas! The content is now being taught in our schools under the name ‘mathematics’ and nobody has kicked against it. Therefore, continuous assessment is faced with the following problems:
Devotion to work
By the nature of continuous assessment, it is time-consuming and energy-sapping and thus calls for a lot of devotion to duty on the part of anybody to implement it.
If the government delays payment of teachers’ salaries and allowances, no amount of preaching will make for dedication. Strikes and closure of schools do not augur well for continuous assessment.
The demand for hard work may be too much for some teachers. In an era where teachers’ salaries and allowances are not paid regularly, there may be a tendency for teachers to be dishonest in their recording of assessment scores.
The score in a single test of four essay items may be recorded as scores obtained in four tests administered at different times on different aspects of the curriculum.
Committees at national, state, WAEC, local government, and school levels may be needed to curb dishonest practices.
Knowledge of processes involved
There is a need to train teachers in the processes involved in continuous assessment. They should be made conversant with the construction of formative test items, method of administering test items, keeping of test scores, organization of remedial work, and methods of motivating learners.
The comprehensive and cumulative nature of continuous assessment calls for much use of stationeries, equipment, and personnel.
The implication of this is that if the continuous assessment is to be properly executed a lot of provisions should be made to ensure the availability of funds to execute it.
Comparability of standards
Continuous assessment demands administering various test instruments to learners at different times and in different schools.
The country is a vast one with thousands of schools therein. Public examinations have no difficulty in standardizing their assessment instruments but the question is how to ensure that the standard in the various schools compares favorably with one another.
Continuous assessment calls for the keeping of a lot of records. A lazy teacher cannot be saddled with such responsibility less he muddles up everything.
In most schools, a career guidance counselor is charged with the responsibility of record keeping under the supervision of a Vice Principal.
Proper keeping of such records will facilitate the issuance of transcripts, offering of necessary guidance counseling, and adequate knowledge of the students in their schools. But poor keeping leads to poor/non-retrieval of students’ records.
Students’ population has risen enormously in our schools. This rise calls for an increase in staffing. The country may fail in its execution of the program if efforts are not made to control a manageable size student/teacher ratio.
Where a class is large and a teacher is assigned many periods, a lot of constraints are already posed as to the number of tests and quality as well as quantity of items he can administer if he is to faithfully grade the papers, record the scores, unanalyzed scores and identify areas requesting remediation work.