Assessments and Evaluation at SaiU
In the debate between the desirability of end-semester examinations and continuous assessments, the latter has emerged a clear winner. Extensive research has proved that assignments, as part of continuous assessments, are more effective in promoting a stronger learning experience. SaiU however, opts for a blended model with assignments being the preferred mode of assessment in the Arts and Sciences, while examinations are held to assess the mathematical and computing skills of students.
Quite simply, assessment is feedback from the student to the instructor about the student’s learning whereas ‘evaluation’ uses methods and measures to judge student learning and understanding of the material for purposes of grading and reporting. Most tertiary institutions in India depend on the end-semester examinations to ascertain students’ overall success in the course of study. Examinations, as a means of evaluation, promote competition among students. Given the importance that marks and grades are accorded by educational institutions and recruiting organisations, they push students to work harder to improve their knowledge and skills.
Yet, examinations, when regarded as the only way to measure student learning, proves woefully inadequate. They, at best provide a written form of demonstration of a certain level of theoretical knowledge acquired by the student, at a particular time. The extreme anxiety and stress that examinations bring on in both the bright and weak students is too well-known to be repeated here. In the process of preparing for the all-deciding final examination, students fail to look over the content to check whether they have indeed understood it, but end up memorizing them to mindlessly regurgitate for marks.
It is for these very reasons that SaiU faculty employ a range of assignment-based assessments with the aim to encourage students to think critically, develop new perspectives, resolve problems and also ask the right questions. Self-assessment, assessment by peers or even groups allow for the students to take responsibility for their learning. Group work helps cultivate skills to interact and communicate with others to achieve a shared goal. Group presentation hones students’ public speaking skills and teaches students to create effective content together and work for the benefit of the group as a whole. Research essays, reports, case studies and reflective tasks demand the application of the theory learnt in the classes, to solve issues and problems related to the real world. They provide the opportunity to students to demonstrate that they have indeed achieved the learning goals. Assignments allow students to understand the technical and practical information about their subject that they cannot completely grasp in theory. Students become more aware of various insightful principles and perspectives through their coursework, which ultimately leads to the rational development of a framework for their chosen topic of in-depth study.
Assessments lead to a higher teaching experience too. Periodic assessments are good diagnostic tools for teachers. They enable provision of timely feedback on performance and identifying areas of improvement. Assignments are process-oriented where the relationship between assessor and assesses is reflective, as the criteria for assessment are defined internally. ‘Evaluation’ as a term that has come to signify judgments based on a set of pre-determined standards becomes irrelevant to the process.