There is something deep within me that balks at the idea that we can rate children’s academic progress on the basis of either continuous assessment or formal examinations (although I believe the former to be more realistic than the latter). Over the past number of months I have noticed an increasing number of people in my Twitter network who are writing about the same dissatisfaction with this mode of assessing learning. There even appears to be a group of teachers who have signed on to a grading moratorium.
I am torn between wanting to see the children in our school develop competencies that cannot always be assessed in the traditional way and the need to provide quantitative results for parents who want measureable results. Therein lies the conundrum – the desire to provide a more realistic and relevant assessment system and also speak the assessment language known to parents so that they can be assured that their child is actually learning something!
When I began my teaching career I noticed that at parent-teacher meetings I would very seldom refer to the school report or grades. I would instead focus my comments to parents on their child’s attitude to learning, his/her social skills, the ability to focus on tasks during class and offer comment on how they could assist their child in improving the learning experience. I would also ensure that I listened carefully to their comments so that I would know how to reach that child better. This approach was also well-received by parents who understood that their child’s education was so much more that symbols on a page. I also learnt early in my career that I intuitively knew more about the child’s skills and competencies than a simple test could tell me. This intuition was my guide in the comments I wrote on reports and most times guided my assessment of children’s competencies. I still firmly believe that good teachers should more often than not follow their gut feel about a pupil more than they should rely on assessments.
A very intentional and strategic re-education needs to happen in our schools so that we can find a middle ground on this topic without alienating our parents, frightening our teachers and without compromising the complete education of our children. As Alvin Toffler said,
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
We cannot afford to have our classrooms filled by teachers unwilling to unlearn old paradigms and too scared of relearning how to assess pupils in world which is constantly reinventing itself.
As always I would love to read your comments on this topic – write away!