1.0 BACKGROUND TO THESTUDY
Assessment is a word that is used every day in human interaction. When trying to assess the worth of anything we need information or yardsticks against which to base our judgment on. In education, we need information to determine the extent to which students have benefited from a course o study.
Quality education is crucial to the economic development and social stability of a nation as it helps develop crucial humanitarian values like equality ,tolerance, and peace. These values lead to sustainable national development,, environmental protection, and improve family health, along with responsible participation in democratic, social, and political process ( owodola and olude 2005). It was further argued that the aim of this goal is the quality of what is learned at school (knowledge, skill, values and attitudes) and how well these are learned( level of competence attained on learning outcome by students). Meanwhile, learners will benefit much from a system of education unless there are assessment aimed at determine student performance level at different stages of schooling. However, puhl (1997) claimed that global influences affecting education ( such as change in world economy, information revolution, environmentalism and cross national health threats) and how educators assess them encouraged the move away from the heavy used of the traditional more judgmental approaches to assessment toward an alternative, more inclusive means of determining what learners known and can do. Assessment serves as the barometer by which student instructional achievement outcome can be gauged.
Assessment enables the school to achieve an overall objective of having a complete a record of the growth and progress of each student as possible in order to make unbiased judgment in the classroom. Kayode (2003) argued that, teacher need to assess student through a classroom mechanism referred to as continuous assessment. Continuous assessment is the alternative ( or supplement) to high stakes testing ( for certification, promotion or placement usually commercial) of student achievement that offers a methodology for measuring student performance and using those finding to improve the success of student.
Nitko (2004) described continuous assessment as an on-going process of gathering and interpreting information about student learning that is used in making decisions about what to teach and how well students have learned. Nitko highlighted some merit of continuous assessment;
- It promotes frequent interactions between students and teachers that enable teacher to known the strengths and weaknesses of learners to identify which students need review and remediation.
- Student receive feedback from teachers based on performance that allows them to focus on topics they have not yet mastered.
The definition of continuous assessment given by ojerinde and Falayajo(1984) captures the real essence in the practice of continuous assessment in Nigeria. They defined it as a mechanism where the final grading of a student in the cognitive, effective, and psychomotor domains of behaviors take a systematic account of all performance during a period of schooling. Afolabi(1999) stated that this definition embodies the need for comprehensiveness in scope, regularity of collection of student performance evidence, and the Handwork on continuous assessment and Ojerinde(1995) take similar perspectives. In terns of comprehensiveness, continuous assessment is expected to make use of different approaches and evaluation tools in the process of assessing the learners such as, test questionnaire, rating scales, observation and anecdotal records to obtain information on the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning by children.
Continuous assessment is a systematic in that it requires an operational plan. It is also cumulative in nature in that any decision taken about a learner is based on earlier decision and it is guidance oriented in that any data gathered on the learner will serve as the basis for further academic growth and development ( Ojerinde and falayayo, 1984; Okpala, 1985 and Okpala & Utoh, 2005). Puhl(1997) also contended that continuous assessment offers a way to cater to a diversity of learners particularly in a language class that derives from sociological factors like maternal-tongue differences, culture, and place of origin as well as individual factors like differing abilities, interest, and motivations.
Continuous assessment is most suitable to the Nigeria education system and is recognized by the government of the federal republic of Nigeria as it stated in the National Policy on Education, NPE(1981) revised in 1998 and 2004 that; Education assessment will be liberalized by basing them in whole or in part on continuous assessment of the progress of the individual.
Continuous assessment as an instructional process began in Nigeria in 1977 with the ideal that it will enable educators to be more involved in the overall assessment of learner and allow for diverse instructional method (pennycuik, 1990 in Israel(2005). It is appropriate to note that the nature, process, and method of handling continuous assessment have since been included in all teacher preparation efforts leading to the award of all education qualification: TCII, NCE, B.Ed, B.A.Ed, M.Ed, M.A Ed.
Nigeria researchers have evaluated and recommended continuous assessment as providing solid evidence of the achievement, attitude, motivation and aptitude of learners (e.g. Ali and Akube, 1988). In term of weighting, Kayode(2003) reported that continuous assessment scores contribute 60% of every terminal assessment at the primary school level. Osunde (2003) and Afolabi(1995) stated that at the junior secondary school level continuous assessment of pupils contribute 60% of the final assessment scores while the final examination at the end of the program is only 40%. At the end of the first three years following primary education, the junior secondary school certificate would also play a substantive role in the overall assessment scores with students examination scores for the SSCE result(instead of standardized scores) as raw scores cannot ensure fair comparability. It was pointed out that any compassion made with a combination at the SSCE level cannot be considered fair, equitable, and just.
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