THE NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENT IN SCHOOLS

It is imperative that schools give adequate feedback to stakeholders involved in the educational sector. Parents, government, guidance and other key-players require a responsive description of their educational expenses. Hence, the need for evaluation in our schools cannot be overemphasized. Evaluation simply involves collection of relevant data, organizing the data and using these data so gathered to make decisions and/or pass judgements as to the worth of an educational program or how well students are faring in line with sets goals and objectives.

The need for gathering data with respect to what students have acquired in the learning process calls for a framework termed assessment. Assessment entails all procedures employed to obtain data as regards how well students are able to accomplish or acquire certain desired behavioral changes with respect to set objectives. Assessment centers on students or group of students’ achievement. In the educational setting, assessment is expected to center on the three domains as identified by Bloom in his taxonomy of educational objectives.

The domains are; the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor domains. The cognitive domain focuses on the academic aspect of the student. It is the domain that supplies answers to most questions. It is the domain most schools center on. Assessment is usually concentrated here, as it has to do with mental recall or memorization of facts, regurgitation of meanings, understanding, analysis and interpretation of concepts, drawing relationships, and worth determination. Data are usually gathered through tests. The results obtained from this domain are usually represented with numerical equivalences or letter grades.

However, these results may not necessarily be true representation of the students’ worth or level of understanding of the concept being measured. Hence, the need for the second domain of education; the affective domain. The affective domain is the domain saddled with emotions, affections, feelings and any other aspect of socio-personal relationships. It takes receiving, responding, valuing, observation and characterization as key elements. This domain can be measure qualitatively by the use of sociometric tests, checklists, questionnaires etc. However, most schools do a face value evaluation, often assessed by posing questions such as relationship with others, leadership, cooperation, amongst others.

The psychomotor domain is the domain responsible for skill demonstration, performance, role-playing amongst others. It is usually seen as the domain responsible for the utilization of the hands (tactile) and the legs (kinesthetic). This domain is mostly utilized by sportsmen, artisans or skilled individuals. In the school system, the domain is usually rated via handwriting, handling of materials, engagement in sports, amongst others.

Thus, haven identified the domains of education, it becomes imperative to consider the procedures for gathering data as regards the worth or level of attainment in each domain. Often times, a student’s progress to the next level or class is solely based on his or her performance in the cognitive domain, leaving the two other domains unimproved or neglected. With this as the practice of our school system, it is impossible to present a holistic description of a student. Hence, where students are not able to regurgitate facts, such students may find it difficult progressing academically.

Most people will be quick in defending the schools’ practice of a single domain evaluation, and say individuals that encounter challenges academically be placed in special schools. But this argument or stance holds no ground, as the regular schools are expected to cater for all categories of students provided such students are neither deformed, nor handicapped, which in this case, calls for special schools or individualized instructions. Schools should constantly seek and emulate best practices that do not consider a single perspective to evaluation, hence, the call for alternative assessment.

The traditional forms of assessment utilize teacher made or standardized objective tests to elicit responses from students. This being good, but presents a shallow and narrow; one-end description of a students’ progress. The school should in cooperate into her evaluative strategies, the concept of alternative assessment. This assessment help present a holistic description of the student’s progress. They are usually gathered from the start of the program to the end of the program, where-in showing manifestation of progress.

These assessment procedures considers the three domains of educational objectives, and judgements gathered from the three domains are key in decision making and judgement. The student is usually an active determiner and a stake-holder in the data collection process. Since the student is adequately involved, he or she plans strategies that can help develop other innate talents. Thus, rather than been tedious, learning becomes fun, inclusive and conscious on the part of the students. Alternative assessment employ as instruments; students’ observation, portfolios, anecdotal records, problem solving, self-evaluation, group evaluation, models construction and presentation, simulations, podcasts, field works, exhibitions amongst others.

It should be added that alternative assessment can be visualized in two forms, these are; performance assessment and authentic assessment. Performance assessment presents the child with a demo of what to expect in future. In other words, students are usually pre-informed of the need to be adequately prepared for a task ahead. The students usually concentrate their efforts on presenting the best part of their abilities for their submission. The students are usually given adequate time to gestate. During the periods of gestation, students compare their previous performances and their present performances and identifies areas requiring improvement.

Authentic assessment on the other hand presents the students with task of real life occurrence or situations. Students are not pre-informed of the task ahead, but rather partake in the tasks as they emerge. Advocates of this assessment argue that since the students are expected to be members of the wider community or the world in general, they should not be given a pre-warning, as practitioners in the real world do not get a notice before embarking on tasks. An example might be the case of an accident victim, the doctors, caregivers or first aiders are usually not pre-informed of an accident, rather they take charge of such situations as if pre-informed.

Thus, schools are implored to make their assessments all inclusive, rather than basing their judgment on an aspect of the educational domain, and doing a face value evaluation of the other domains. With the use of alternative assessment, schools and teachers will be in best position to present detail description of their students. Similarly, students will be able to predict their successes, monitor their progress and readily conceptual their areas of interest at a tender age, rather than relying on less detailed facts.

 

INDIVIDUAL UNIQUENESS; OUR DIFFERENCES, OUR UNIQUENESS, OUR STRENGTH

We are uniquely made, uniquely different in our needs. Some prefer the hot weather, while some rejoice in the cold. Our needs can never be the same, what matters is our ability to understand and tolerate the differences in our needs. A child’s need is quite different from that of an adult. Even amongst his peers, his needs seem varied. He may sometimes be seen as an isolate, often neglected amongst his group, he is shown the picture of not been wanted, he belongs where he does not, yet, he never chose his condition, for he is wonderfully made.

Many a times, our expectations about what a child should be able to perform makes it intolerable when he is unable to meet up to our expectations. The society expects more than what the child can offer. Tasks and expectations are usually age ranked. When a child is unable to meet up to the social demands, such child is often seen as been irrelevant, inadequate or one who is not fit for any competitive tasks. Usually, this operates in our homes, schools, workplace and even around us.

It is no news that twins share similar traits and attributes, but usually there exist a slight or noticeable variation. This makes it possible for identification. While one might be highly intellectual, the other might be intellectually retarded, one might be outspoken, the other an introvert, these situations exists. It does not mean, these individuals who possess limited or inadequate skill are not fit, it only entail that they are uniquely made.

Often times, parents and teachers are confronted with these unique being. Individuals enrolled for knowledge acquisition, a raw material brought into the industry for processing. The school in this case serves as the processing industry, with the teacher playing the role of an industrial worker. The aim of any business is usually to maximize profit. However, the school’s structure does not necessarily give room to identification of unique features amongst students, they are usually presented with placement tests, once successful, these individuals are enrolled into the school system. What happens if they are not? They are rejected, often to be neglected, they are presented with an outcast imagery.

The teacher usually is saddled with the task of completing a set of content over a period of time. He visits the classroom only to discover the child’s inability to cope with his peers.  The teacher’s opinion in these situation often times do not count, he is seen as a school’s staff, one saddled with the responsibility of content delivery. In instances where the teacher’s opinion count, how often are his presentations/ ideas utilized in the teaching and learning situation. Usually, he is seen as a toothless bulldog.

However, if a teacher should exist in such environment, he should rather see that as a great challenge on his part. The real question of his teaching should be answered. Is he on the job for the money or for qualitative life improvement? If he can answer this question accurately, the barrier in his workplace is gradually eliminated. A teacher’s happiness is in his products, his impacts on the child’s overall development and growth. He is never discouraged based on the society’s perceptions of his profession. His driving force resides on the smiling faces of his products.

He goes into the classroom, bearing in mind the variations existing amongst his students. He tries all his possible best to ensure that his teachings are well understood and utilized by all his students. These he achieves by applying all the pedagogical skills of teaching. The notion that anybody can teach no longer holds water, for this notion as for many years sent our educational system into years of ancient traditionalism.

Whichever level one operates, it is pertinent to understand that as teachers or parents, the optimum benefits exist in seeing our students/children learn and succeed. To achieve this however is a daunting but rewarding quest, a quest not easily attainable, only available to those who present themselves worthwhile. Even when the teacher becomes readily involved in the overall development of the child, the task should not be limited to the four walls of the school.

This however is the case for most unique individuals. Many a times, they are neglected even at their first point of contact, the home. They are either shouted at or abused. They often forget that even if the child loses public friendship, the home should be there to provide the child with constant re-assurance, a re-assurance that all is well. It is not as easy as it seems, but indeed, it is a situation one must learn to live and cope with, it is essential that one faces reality.

It should be added that some famous individuals whose names now become synonymous with one invention, event or the other did not find it easy growing up. Some suffered from inability to identify alphabets, some could not perform simple mathematical operations, others where socially unfit, while some operated at levels way too high for their ability levels. However, these individuals never gave up but persisted in a path whose leading ways were unsure. Today, we celebrate and recognize them.

Thus, as parents, teachers or anyone involved in the child upbringing enterprise, it is imperative to know that our attitudes affect the optimum behavior and development of the child. We can raise a socially balanced individual from an autistic individual, we can fine-tune the behaviors of an introvert, and similarly, an academically backward child can be encouraged to learn better.

Once we recognize the weakness in a particular child, it is incumbent on us to also identify and find ways that will make the child exist independently as an entity, and also recognizing the need for social interactions. Special or uniquely different children or individuals should not be laughed at, mocked or looked at as socially unfit individuals, they are inseparable, and essential key players in the overall development of any society.

For the fact that he is uniquely made does not make him unfit, misplaced or demanding too much. What he needs is a smile on your face reassuring him of hope. Your smile is the key to his existence, and his existence is vital to your existence. He may hold the key to the platform of our unknown tomorrow.