Evaluating students with skill-based assessment

Last Updated 05 March 2014, 15:52 IST

There is a discernible shift towards appraisal of a student’s innate abilities, talent and unique strengths and a movement towards skill-based assessment, writes Shantanu Prakash.

The Indian education system, for all its vaunted strengths has for very long depended on a slip of paper called the mark sheet to justify itself. This, one could argue, has been the be-all and end-all of all the exertions for student, teacher and parent alike for the duration of school life.

 While there is much to be said about performance evaluation through examinations, be they school or board centric, we are realising the limitations of measuring each child’s potential against a set of books and short term memory. Today, we accept that the traditional ways of conducting classroom examinations alone are not enough to evaluate a student’s performance. The present trend in evaluation lays too much emphasis on educational aspects of the students and too little attention on the co-educational aspects. We are therefore seeing a discernible shift towards a more holistic appraisal of a student’s innate abilities, talent and unique strengths and a movement towards skill based assessments. It has also been confirmed that learners acquire a skill at a faster rate if they get feedback about their performance. Hence, timely assessments and informative feedback at the right time can show dramatic results.

Assessment involves collecting information on the progress of student’s learning using a variety of tools and procedures. It is a systemic process of gathering, analysing and interpreting a student’s achievements and progress in educational and non-educational areas with an aim to providing a basis for improvement. Some of the sources that are used to gather information about the student’s progress are work samples, teacher reports, Curriculum Based Measurements (CBMs), informal checklists among others. 
While there are various procedures of conducting regular skill based assessments, the design of the skill based assessment programme can vary from subject to subject, class to class or student to student.  A class can consist of students with different needs, backgrounds and skills and each student with different skill sets.

 Information collected in assessments and evaluations can also be used to build strategies for improvement at each level of the education system. The teachers can employ a variety of assessment programmes to collate the required range of information. The assessment programmes can be designed in a way that reflects the results of what the teachers have taught and what the students have learned. This way the teachers will have the opportunity to determine the learning gaps and document the learners’ achievements which will further help in developing programmes to match educational goals of the school.

Data collected through skill based assessment helps in providing detailed feedback to teachers regarding the student’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Accordingly, they can plan robust skill enhancement programmes, mentoring schemes and strategic leadership development programmes, with focus on improvement of specific areas of their weaknesses. Also, the assessment report enable the parents and school to understand the student’s performance at a specific point in time, and to decide what is required for future progress.

Scope and range

Skill based assessments have expanded in scope and range. Assessments can start in childhood and go up through junior and high school. Skill based assessments today cover reading, written and speaking skills. They map math and specific subject proficiency and they also analyse behaviour and adaptive behaviour of a student. Assessment techniques have also undergone a sea change over recent years and a student’s skills are evaluated not in isolation but also in context of external factors. Therefore, apart from academic tests which are anyway in place, the skill based assessments map a student’s performance on psychometrics which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes and personality traits, adaptive behaviour and other contextual data to ensure that an accurate, overarching evaluation is available for each student. Apart from establishing a student’s particular strengths, it also maps the areas that need attention giving the student, teacher and parent greater control over outcomes.

Recognizing the growing importance of skill based assessments and training, scientifically designed skill based assessment system for schools have been developed.  They evaluate the academic competency in a related area by identifying the learning gaps and the strength of a student and gives constructive feedback motivating and thus helping the student improve. Critically, such assessments provide a ready template for parents and teachers to evaluate best options for career planning and advancement of the student, based on his or her strengths or weaknesses. It also provides a benchmark for parents to evaluate a school, or even teachers, against their ward’s performance and progress over time.

While assessments and feedback are important to evaluate the development of individual students, they also help to improve the quality of various programs designed by schools for guiding the learners. It also provides feedback to policy makers about the effectiveness and efficiency of the educational services in the country and establishes markers to develop strong educational programs for students.
As the job market has matured and the pressures of a global economy have spread out more equitably, evaluation methodology too has shifted to skill based assessments. Today any professional placement is subject to greater scrutiny than ever before. In a time of rising competition, experience and the number of years on a job are no longer considered a guarantee for future performance. The market now expects more credible evidence of future performance before any placement. In many ways, therefore, skill based assessments in schools are a symbiotic development with the job market, underlying the need to synchronise the school output with the demand environment.

(Published 05 March 2014, 15:52 IST)

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