Alternative Assessment

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By Godfred, Kwame Abledu - Koforidua Polytechnic Introduction The purpose and scope of formal education have undergone various changes over the years since the time of the Castle schools. Consequently, assessment has also

undergone a massive reform. This has led to a wider range of assessment now than there was twenty-five years ago (Gipps, 1994). Evidence has shown that educational systems have undergone assessment reforms, which are coincident with curriculum reforms (Nitko, 1995). A number of assessment methods have been applied in the Ghanaian educational system since the introduction of schooling in the country (MOE, 1987). The educational reform in Ghana began with the hope that learning was to be more practical and examinations should be based on practical oriented syllabus. What had emerged was that the cost and difficulties involved in assessing students’ practical work and the unreliability of teachers’ assessment had resulted in a return to the status quo, that is pen and paper tests. Currently, Ghanaian teachers tend to monitor students’ understanding through pen-and-paper tests and exercises in class, and move through the syllabus and textbook with little or no attempt to use new instructional strategies if students do not understand the material. The use of pen-and-paper tests has been used almost exclusively by schools to monitor students’ achievement. These tools have also dominated examination for the


professional certification of teacher and college admission. These strategies of assessing students have come under severe criticism by many educators (Wolf, 19891). The perception that much of what gets tested is not relevant or has not been taught to students has been a source of concern to many educators and parents. Such concerns have made educators direct their attention to a new approach to testing variously described as “performance assessment”, “authentic assessment”, portfolio assessment”, and “alternative assessment” (Winzer, 1992). The Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1989) call for significant change in the way mathematics is taught. In conjunction with this demand for change in mathematics instruction, a change format for assessing students is needed. To document these new expressions of teaching and learning, alternative assessments have emerged as the vehicle by which students and teachers can organise, manage and analyse life inside and outside the school. One of the most exciting and liberating things about the current interest in assessment is the recognition that numerous assessment tools are available to schools, districts, and states that are developing new assessment systems. These tools range from standardized fixed-response tests to alternatives such as performance assessment, exhibitions, portfolios, and observation scales. However, in Ghana, alternative assessment is relatively an unknown concept and only few researches have been conducted in this area. Each type of assessment brings with it different strengths and weaknesses to the problem of fair and equitable assessment. Recognizing the complexity of understanding performance or success for individuals, it is virtually impossible that any single tool will 2

do the job of fairly assessing student performance. Instead, the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (1996) suggests that an assessment system made up of multiple assessments (including norm-referenced or criterion-referenced assessments, alternative assessments, and classroom assessments) can produce "comprehensive, credible, dependable information upon which important decisions can be made about students, schools, districts, or states." Since the influence of testing on curriculum and instruction is now widely acknowledged, educators, policymakers, and...
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