Are Schools Measuring The Progress Of English-Language Learners All Wrong Against Continuous Assessment and Modular Examinations, For Final Examinations

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Against Continuous Assessment and Modular Examinations, For Final Examinations

It is commonly argued that long summative final exams are unfair. The usual view is that students could have a bad day, could be too scared, and, if the exams are only once a year, they provide little opportunity for recovery from a failure.

The answer to this I hope is obvious. If there is only one large exam – perhaps with only one exam in it, then there may be some reason to discard the summative assessment. But when there is more than one exam done on at least two different days, then the low marks due to unfortunate circumstances will be mitigated. The chance is further reduced when there is a variety of exam formats, such as an essay paper, a short answer/structured paper, a multiple choice paper, and a practical exam, as well as a project or extended essay . A bad day will not greatly affect the results under such a system.

There are at least seven reasons why continuous assessment and modular exams are inherently unfair and unnatural.

1. It can take more than a year, maybe two years, for students to learn a subject.

This means more than a year of constantly struggling to understand the concepts and to learn fluently the terminology of the subject. Until the concepts and other related concepts are learned then the vocabulary is difficult to understand. Until the vocabulary is understood, then you have no way to deal with the subject. Often in science concepts are interconnected and it is extremely difficult to put an iron box around one part and learn without reference to other areas of science.

In my experience in my last two years of school physics, I started to understand all the modules only when I reached the last three months of the course. The module tests, every 6-8 weeks were useful as a means of summarizing the module. It would have been disastrous for me if the marks had been counted towards the final grade.

2. An integrated approach to the whole subject is much more important than learning every detail.

It is much better to have summative exams after two or more years of work and to ask questions that require detailed knowledge in the whole subject. Continuing the physics example, I remember that I failed the first nine out of ten modules, then went on to get a good grade in the exams. Suddenly, in the last module, many pieces of the jigsaw began to fit together. I could not fully understand the first modules until I did the later modules. The later modules could not be tested without the foundation of the earlier modules. In addition, the last module provided an integrated function that reinforced the details and general principles. In the end, it is this integration that has stayed with me and has been useful, and is best measured with a final summative exam.

3. Background reading is best at the end of the course.

Something that even weak students can do is to read widely around a subject. In some school exams in Great Britain “unknown” information is presented and students are required to reason from first principles and apply what they know. Those who have read widely are at an advantage. This area of ​​knowledge only really flourishes and shows itself in final exams. The continuous assessment would have worked against this reading program in that the focus would only be on the next test and did not allow time for the reading to have any effect.

4. Assessment scores while someone is in the learning process are unfair.

There are many skills that take more than a year to learn. Students need time to learn. If a mark for the courses is included in the certification, then the lowest previous skill is awarded. If a bad mark is given while still learning and is counted in the final award then this is unfair!

This is a true story from my high school teaching years. I was a new fourth year chemistry teacher. A significant part of that year was spent explaining and practicing chemical formulas. At the beginning of the year, a struggling student asked me if I could make the lessons simpler and break the material into smaller, easier parts. I replied that I could not. However, he needn’t worry. Most students feel this way for at least six months. All he had to do was keep trying the regular exercises and by the end of the year he would have learned it.

Evidently, he did not like the answer, because later the deputy director received a complaint from his parents. Did I really tell a student that it takes more than six months to figure it out? Was it really true that he could not make the subject easier? Can I really not break it down into smaller more understandable parts? As a young teacher, I remember taking a deep breath and saying when I made the remark: I supported what I had said, and if I wanted confirmation, I only had to ask the other teachers science

The basics of chemical formulas and reaction equations usually take a year to learn. There are no shortcuts. Graded courses will be incorrect for such topics.

5. Some students are late starters; they need more time to assimilate knowledge than others. Continuous assessment unfairly penalizes late starters. It seems in Great Britain that this point of view has been largely ignored, especially in the development of half-A levels, where it is possible, although not mandatory, to take separate annual exams instead of taking the traditional route. A” of exams after two. years of study.

6. Focusing on graduating in small steps takes away from the focus of learning.

I see with horror the American university system of small distinct modules and credits. Inevitably, if a series of small grades are required, this will devalue the subject because people will focus on the material and skills best suited for small tests. Postponing real tests to formal exams allows you to set questions that vary throughout the subject and provides a measure of achievement at the point where a student has completed studies.

7. Only the final grade is important – not coursework or intermediate test grades.

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