Classroom assessment takes spotlight at teachers' conference
Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
With assessment in the classroom identified as one of the weakest areas in the standards in the education and learning process in schools, the Ministry of Education has recommended a five-pronged approach to deal with the problem.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Elaine Foster Allen, told delegates at the Jamaica Teachers' Association Education Conference on 'Assessment in the Classroom' held at The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort yesterday that, of a sample of 135 schools inspected across the island, assessment was rated as poor among 42 per cent of them.
"Based on a sample of 135 schools, assessment was rated as unsatisfactory in approximately 42 per cent of them. The problem area is the use of formative assessment by teachers to inform their classroom practices, chiefly because many teachers do not use reflection as a tool," Foster Allen explained.
She said assessments were done regularly which were effective in highlighting the weaknesses in the systems being used in the sample schools.
"The weaknesses that were detected were lack of differentiation, an over-reliance on recall, too few opportunities for children to relate their learning to real-life situations, among other things," Foster Allen said.
The permanent secretary said the assessment practices were found to be weak, irregular and inconsistent, hence most students were not stimulated to learn in these classrooms.
She also asserted that the assessment practices were limited to simple recall questions which, in some cases, were answered by the teachers who posed them and that tests were usually summative and the results were seldom used to inform meaningful feedback to parents and students.
Foster Allen indicated that it was not all bad, citing the chief inspector's report which stated that notable features of good teaching support were observed.
"These included consistent evaluation, meaningful feedback to students, and thorough record-keeping by teachers. As a consequence, the students were keen to learn and made useful connections between what they learnt in the classroom and the real world."
Among the recommendations are:
Schools should develop clear guidelines for assessment and document them as policy.
Regular revision of the policy should be based on reflection and reflexivity.
Classroom practices should reflect the varying needs of all the students.
Testing and measurement skills should be learned by more teachers.
Include self-assessment techniques that will help teachers to help their students student assess their own learning.