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The present system of one-shot summative evaluation by means of the course end examination has been criticized (and also supported by some) by some of the stakeholders of education system. The purpose of evaluation is to see if a given programme is working, an institution is successful according to the goals set for it, and the original intent is being successfully carried out. It means to determine social utility, desirability or effectiveness of a process, product or a programme and includes recommendation for some better future course of action. Evaluation does not just mean measurement of the level of learning outcomes but more so an approach for further improving the system. It needs to be diagnostic and formative in nature to provide remedial help to the students. It is also agreed by all academicians that evaluation should act as a positive input for improving the teaching learning process and not as a deterrent. The report card of evaluation should reflect not only the scholastic aspects of the learner, but also Life Skills acquisition, personality attributes, behaviour interests, attitudes, values and proficiency in indoor as well as outdoor co-curricular activities. It should facilitate in unravelling the latent talent and reflect a true picture of the growth and profile of a young learner (Vineet Joshi, Chaiman & Secretary, CBSE, 2009).
One consequence of the global influences, such as changes in the world economy, the information revolution, environmentalism, and cross-national health threats, is the move away from the heavy use of traditional, more judgmental approaches to assessment toward alternative, more inclusive means of determining what learners know and can do. Along with this move is a thoughtful re-examination of just what we want from our learners in classrooms worldwide. (Carol A. Puhl, 1997).
Realizing the flaws in the present system of evaluation and importance of comprehensive continuous assessment, a country has to not only reform but also transform the process of evaluation in the current education system. With this objective (for improving the quality of education), Government of India also has planned to put in place a system of continuous assessment in few months time (PM,s address to the nation on the occasion of the country’s 65th Independence Day).
Different forms of continuous assessment can be used by different subject teachers for different levels of learners. Though broad guidelines can be laid down, exact procedure to be followed cannot be explicitly stated for a specific course or programmes. Every individual tutor may be trying within the limitations of resources and his experience different ways of evaluating the students continually over a semester or academic year. The effectiveness of this process can be determined only through the learner’s performance after the course. In this paper, I have made an attempt to share my experience in comprehensive continuous assessment of the students at tertiary level in English language/ literature class rooms.
Changing Role of Teachers
Modern India’s system of education expanding as never before with graduation as the minimum entry level qualification for a job and Master’s degree a mere gateway for a career, the need of the hour is far beyond the degrees in paper. What matters most is attitude and varied skill sets in order to sustain one’s place in the competitive and challenging global job market. To fulfill these requirements, our democratic nation shoulders the huge responsibility of modifying its past principle, ‘Survival of the fittest’ to suit the current needs as ‘fit all of them to survive’. This present principle being our goal, all the universities and academicians play a vital role in transforming this goal into action. The function of tertiary and higher education institutes and the quality of students produced by them requires not only a thorough scrutiny but also a major revision and a complete reformation to address the challenges in today’s changing education environment. Our country needs not just graduates but intellectual dynamites to think locally and act globally, individuals with thinking minds, responsible citizens to lead India in the path of progress as a developed nation.
In the branch of tertiary and higher education today, semester pattern is largely being followed by most of the universities, India and abroad. With such practice in vogue, an academic year comprising two semesters, Spring and Fall, should contain relevant topics, both significant in content and interesting in variety thus fulfilling the knowledge function. True to the saying that knowledge is power, only if applied, such knowledge-gain has to be tested in practice. Testing is nothing but practicing the power of learning. From times immemorial, examination, either oral or written has been in vogue only to check the comprehensive level of the receiver. We should keep in mind the fact that checks and balances are part of any established system. Contrary to this ancient belief, testing of knowledge, in a way, also helps both the learner and the teacher to know more from each other which can further lead to self-scrutiny and betterment. To smoothen this process, as a first step, appropriate modern teaching methods have to be applied along with the essential pedagogical resources for the knowledge transfer to happen successfully.
Again the teaching-learning process remains partial if there is no training function. Implementation of practical methods has become the need of the hour not only for science subjects even for humanities. Due to such changing trends in the field of modern education, a classroom, meant for knowledge-sharing, is no longer an exclusive teacher-cantered domain for delivering lectures based on theory. As the dimension of ‘ learning process’ includes in its fold different types of experimental learning techniques using technology as teaching aid, the classroom becomes a world in itself. The suggested place also serves as a continuous learning-cum-testing ground to know more and more: starting from critical thinking to presentation skills, personality enrichment to behavioural science, verbal to non-verbal communication methods, subjective to objective approaches, so on and so forth. With these wide-ranging benefits, continuous internal assessment paves way to self-development, knowledge upgradation, creativity, innovative thinking , problem-solving, strategic planning, time management etc. thus leading further to the road not taken. Thus learning and assessment go hand in hand as a continuous process.
Obviously, to match the changing trends, the learning outcome tested by means of assessment is undergoing a sea-change as well. Now, to focus on the teaching of English language and literature in the present century, a teacher cannot sit back to play the conventional role of merely teaching and assessing the students’ performance and publishing their results. There is no denial of this public-service function performed by a teacher which in addition to this mandatory task demands an extension of role as a trainer to identify and hone the skill of students. Therefore, a multi-level learner-centered training programme has to be incorporated as part of the regular teaching method in the form of activities and games to develop language skills and literature study. As a result, a new job-description evolves for a teacher in order to match the rising professional standards. To bridge the existing gulf between the old and new standards, the teaching faculty has to be made aware of the ever-changing roles and responsibilities across the world. Teaching profession expects the teacher to emerge in a new avatar of multi-tasking. As a result, a new job-description evolves for a contemporary teacher to suit the rising standards. For equipping the teachers, orientation programmes and training workshops on tech-savvy teaching can be organized at regular intervals thus helping the tutors do justice to this new avatar.
Learning journey takes a new route:
With the increase in population and “universal primary education” becoming one of the seven millennium development goals proposed by the United Nations, the class room size is increasing and paying individual attention to each and every learner becomes extremely difficult even for the most dedicated tutors. Evaluation of continuous assessment components becomes even more time consuming and labourious. In such circumstances, Virtual learning environment eases the work of the tutor and reaches the door steps of the learners who have access to the internet. Among the present generation of students, there is hardly a person without a laptop and in some states in India, government offers free laptops to the student community at the tertiary level. Thus the changing times and emerging trends bring technology to our service for fulfilling the demanding educational needs in a much more effective way. Many open source software (Moodle is one) are available which needs just customization to suit the needs of the institution/ programme. With VLE, students and teachers can work on the same platform as per their convenience in many ways having scheduled activities over a semester with a time frame for every activity. Semester work plan/ weekly teaching schedule, learning resources such as power point slides, videos, lecture notes, reading or course material, assignment and presentation topics, links to files or websites having learning resources, quiz questions, or anything you name can be added and uploaded, periodical online tests can be conducted. This tool also provides extended facilities for grading, report generation (best results are achieved with MCQ based tests), backup and restoring of files. The actual constraint may be the resources and training provided to the tutors by the institutions they work with. Access to the computers during off-class hours in the college, stable and fast internet connection and necessary software should be available to the faculty. There may be resentments at the beginning as it involves extra labour on preparation, over the years the tutors will have the ease of using it effectively even for a large group of students.
From east to west, assignments are the best methods to inculcate research practices in students, as research at graduate, masters and doctoral level has proved to be application oriented. The general framework/ sequential task involves gathering relevant information through research, understanding and interpreting the collected details by applying critical thinking, planning and outlining the draft, coherent organization of details, structuring the paragraphs with appropriate thesis statement and topic sentences and thus presenting the thought-inductive ideas in a refined written form. Such series of steps can be worked together in pair.
Even for this task, innovative measures can be applied right from the beginning by posting the assignment topics over VLE along with the necessary guidelines and time frame to monitor the progress and submission. Assignment submitted after the deadline will not be accepted by the system. Also, the question of being unaware of the task never arises as the assigned task glows with the tag NEW and its mandatory for both the teacher and the taught to access this link very often for exchanging their views in the discussion forum , for the announcement of academic activities etc. One another advantage of this soft copy assignment submission is that the whole write up can be scrutinized for on line plagiarism by using software (Viper is one such software which is an open source software). This feasible method can curb plagiarism, an academic dishonesty, to a possible extent. Moreover, students can submit hard copy as well to proceed with the usual evaluation pattern. For systematic evaluation, following a specific preset marking criteria encompassing content, critical analysis(inclusive of quotations), referencing (in-text and end-text) and language can help in setting a standard evaluation procedure thus enhancing the skill set of the learners with a better end-product.
Power Point Presentation:
The main objective of this internal component is to enhance the spoken communication of the students. Other inherent aspects looked at are the style of presentation, fluency and flow of speech, pronunciation and choice of words, use of right terms, intonation, body language, the level of confidence and above all the ability to reach out to the listeners and tackling the questions at the end of the session. The presentation purpose listed above is quite common for all. Therefore, let me move on to the presentation tool.
Since Chart is the most familiar tool used even at school level , today’s young students whose lifestyle keeps moving from screen to screen (from television to mobile to computer) can be trained to present the topic as ppt slides. The constructive use of technology as an aid in academics not only makes the presentation interesting and informative but also kindles the creativity of students. Coming to the assessment part, an exclusive grading sheet for the presentation can be formulated to evaluate the performance. To ensure a cohesive presentation, prior planning is required which includes a brief outline of the presentation schedule with the group division of students and their topics along with the grading criteria. The planned schedule can be uploaded over VLE well in advance so that students can start preparing their topics. Usually the presentation can be conducted a few weeks before the semester draws to a close and using this method one particular text – a play or a novel can be assigned for the students to prepare and present. A model presentation plan has been chartered for practice.
Group & Names
[ Group division]
Marks & Total
In-depth subject knowledge
Proper use of textual lines & adequate explanation
A , B & C
Text assigned: Ben Jonson’s
“The Alchemist”- a play
A: The Age of Jonson & BJ as a playwright.
B: Intro. To the play concerned with a briefing on the plot structure & characters.
C: The origin and application of J’s theory
Clarity in presentation
Coherent flow of ideas
Unique method of representing the concept
Each group can have 4 or 5 presenters
Presenter 1: Act I-sc.i, ii
P 2: sc. iii & iv, an analysis
P 3: On character sketch, traits and major events.
P 4: Overall critical analysis of Act I with the comments of critics
Appropriate choice of words
-The pattern continues for a week or for 7 lecture hours.
The method continues for all the acts of the play done by the subsequent groups
Sums up the whole task
P 1: Revisit the play as a whole highlighting the major events and their significance.
Independent tackling of the queries
-Task to be continued and completed.
P 2: Focuses on the method of characterization with the classification of major and minor chrs
The prime objective of this presentation model is to promote independent learning and individual thinking.
End purpose: Students gain knowledge through self-learning and practice.
P3:Traits and disposition of the chrs, highlighted.
P 4 & 5: on Thematic concerns.
Action Spread Sheet Method:
This unique method is also a proven success when implemented in my teaching career. It’s feasible for a small group of learners with a student strength ranging up to 25 and can be applied in the II or III semester after establishing a friendly familiarity with the attitude and aptitude of the group involved. The uniqueness of the mode of assessment for this method lies in the fact that it’s purely based on text-based activities performed by each group throughout the semester. For instance, I applied this method for the II semester English Literature group comprising 24 students.
The module title and the recommended texts for this module are:
English Poetry & Drama: C14 – 17.
1.Chaucer : General Prologue to Canterbury Tales
2.Marlowe: Doctor Faustus
3. BenJonson: The Alchemist
4. John Milton: Paradise Lost, Bk.I
5. Metaphysical Poets: 3 Poems of John Donne & 2 poems of Andrew Marvell.
Continually assessed semester activity plan: A Sample Product
When a text is being taught, either in the middle of the weekly schedule or at the end, students should perform a group-based activity. The one and only condition is that, all the members in the group should contribute, so that they can be marked. Otherwise everything is left to the creative imagination of the students. This fun learning exercise happens in the classroom within the class hours and that too with minimum properties.
Group 1: Activity 1: A mime show on Chaucer’s pilgrims.
Gp.2 : Activity 2: Literary parade of seven deadly sins and its contemporary relevance.
Gp.3 : Activity 3: Choose one gulling scene involving Subtle, Face and any other victim or Quiz programme can be conducted by the group on this particular text.
Gp.4 :Activity 4: Famous speeches of Satan, Beelezebub and the epic similes: to be recited and their significant meanings pointed out.
Gp.5 :Activity 5: A slideshow or an album of the major metaphysical poets, their contribution, and the rules devised by the metaphysical school of poets for their poetry construction with examples from the poems studied.
Gp.6 : Activity 6: Definition and explanation of the metaphysical conceits, wits and symbols appearing in the prescribed poems.
This method provides ample room for fun and creative learning with enthusiastic participation from the students thus creating a better learning environment. For this activity, the assessment record has to be maintained throughout the semester as it can be finalized only at the end.
Portfolio Assessment for Creative Writing:
The Creative writing module containing short fiction and non-fiction writing has submission of portfolio for assessment. All the drafts, workshop materials, activities done individually, in pair and group and the research work done has to be filed in order with the date and topic and has to be submitted along with the final draft of the story and an essay. Short fiction comprising story writing is taught through varied activities . They are developing story from a poem, writing a scene, lottery story-writing focusing mainly on character sketch by drawing lots, collaborative dialogue writing, completing a given story, sketching a captivating scene, developing conflicts – both internal and external etc. Well trained on all the aspects of story-writing, the student is expected to create an original story. Marks are awarded based on Plot structure, characterization, technical aspects, language and theme.
For non-fiction the assessment is based on content, organization, language and methodology.
This portfolio pattern, which practically includes everything done by a student from beginning till the end, trains youngsters to remain well-organized.
Any method adopted by teachers in any classroom for comprehensive continuous assessment also has obstacles like classroom size, workload for the teacher and other responsibilities shouldered by the teachers in the institute. The support and encouragement rendered by the institution to the teachers and the receptivity of the students to the initiatives are some other factors that affect the success of the process. An institution may have the best infrastructure and curriculum but the ultimate success lies in the hand of the teacher and the learner specially on their attitude towards teaching and learning.
To conclude, the success of any innovation in the academic circle rests on two factors. On the one hand, the larger picture matters and on the other the connectivity enjoyed between the teacher and the taught.
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