Pupils would not benefit much from a system of education unless
there was some form of evaluation aimed at determining pupil
performance levels at different stages in their school career.
If such assessment did not take place one of the purposes for
which schools exist would be defeated. In this unit we review
various aspects of the evaluation of pupil performance levels
through examinations, testing and record-keeping.
Although examinations, testing and record-keeping are three
distinct activities, they are mutually interdependent. Without
the presence of each the whole process would be invalidated.
Examinations and testing provide one objective measurement
of pupil attainment. Qualities other than academic performance
must also be developed in each pupil and assessed.
Without a well maintained system of record-keeping for pupil
examination and test performance there would be nothing to
build on; examinations/testing would take place in a vacuum
and efforts to provide for effective teaching and learning
would be frustrated. Records provide a long term profile of
achievement for each pupil.
Individual study time: 3 hours
Principles and constraints of assessment procedures
By the end of this unit you should be able:
differentiate between the purposes of examinations
identify other ways of assessing the all-round capabilities
understand the conditions necessary to maintain validity
and reliability in examination and test scores at the school
devise ways of keeping records of the levels of attainment
of each pupil
present and interpret pupil records for the benefit
of pupils, parents and employers.
(1) You have decided to explain to parents at the next meeting
of the PTA the main principles upon which exams, tests and records
are based. Identify these.
(2) At the same time you want to explain to them some of the
constraints under which you, your staff and your pupils operate
to provide a completely fair and comprehensive system of assessment.
Some of the principles you may have identified might be as
1 Any form of assessment must be pupil-centred and discriminative.
2 Examinations should be syllabus guided.
3 Pupil records should be up-to-date and as comprehensive
4 All efforts must be made to create satisfactory conditions
for examinations. An invigilators' manual with guidelines
for standard procedures should be available.
5 All internal tests and examinations should contain a diagnostic
component to reveal the learning needs of the pupils.
6 Tests, where possible, should be standardised and given
under similar conditions of invigilation, time and venue,
to all the pupils concerned.
Some of the constraints you may have identified might
1 It is very difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce similar
conditions for school examinations and tests across a year
group in terms, for example, of time, nature of invigilation,
distractions and noise level, unless the whole group sits
the examination at the same time in the same room.
2 Pupil environmental differences, for example, deprivation
in early childhood, home conditions, family size, income level,
and variables in previous experience and practice, affect
3 The atmosphere of an examination room affects pupils differently,
for example, into conditions of overstimulation or fear. For
many pupils examinations are written under duress.
4 There may be a lack of adequate and secure storage space
for pupil assessment records.
5 Teacher skills and knowledge in examination and test setting
and marking, and in record-keeping may be inadequate.
Examinations and tests
(1) This activity should help you to differentiate between examinations
and tests. Which of the factors listed in Fig 10 would apply
to examinations, to tests or to both?
(2) In your own words provide an explanation which differentiates
between examinations and tests.
Fig 10 Differences between examinations and tests
|1 Set by an individual teacher for:
- his/her own pupils
- other pupils
2 Taken by the whole year group at the same time
3 Set as a departmental exercise
4 Subject to formal supervision
5 Moderated by external personnel
6 Assesses performance over the whole syllabus
7 Pupil results are often on a synthesis of practical
work projects and written
8 Correct answers are provided
immediately by the teacher on completion
9 Used to reinforce acquired skills
10 Provides immediate feedback to pupils
11 Facilitates progression from one stage of learning
to the next
Add further factors that occur to you.
Reasons for internal school examinations
Tests provide a means for pupils and teachers to take a regular
measure of the extent to which understanding and skills are
being achieved and a means of diagnosing problems both in
the learning and teaching which may then be given additional
attention. Exams provide a much more formal and public means
of measuring the level of achievement of each pupil in respect
of the objectives of a course of study available to everyone
within a system. By providing a common 'currency' the abilities
and qualities of each pupil may be described. We need to distinguish
between internal, school examinations and external, public
Identify at least six reasons for holding internal school examinations.
The validity of a test or examination
Check whether your responses included the following reasons
for holding examinations:
to check the learning progress of each pupil in order
to report to parents, teachers and the school managers
to describe the performance of pupils preparing for
certification, through public examinations
to diagnose any learning difficulties so that appropriate
remedial actions can be taken by the teachers
to provide feedback for pupils about their performance
and thereby motivate them to improve
to identify pupils with the abilities and interests
for specialised subjects or courses
where appropriate, to have informed instructional-decision
making and planning by the teachers, for example, on where
to begin teaching a topic for a teacher new to a class
to assess the mastery of a topic, unit or course by
a class of pupils
to provide data for the pupil record of attainment.
Identify ways in which the effectiveness or reliability of examinations
across classes in the school may be compromised.
Did you identify any factors other than :
having different lengths of time for the same paper
given to different classes
giving different test-taking instructions
having different tests on the same topic in the same
Administration of external examinations
In what chronological order would you implement each of the
activities in Fig 11?
The administration of external examinations always has to
be undertaken efficiently.
Fig 11 Administration of external examinations
| Ensure invigilators thoroughly instruct
pupils on the correct way of recording answers on the
| Return corrected school entry lists
in accordance with the time scale laid down by the examination
| Send off all answer scripts to the
| Return pupils' entry forms to the
Examination Board promptly.
| Check that the school adheres to
the prescribed examination administration procedures.
| Appoint a Chief invigilator from
| Make sure that school invigilators
are fully aware of external regulations and comply with
| Follow exactly the security arrangements
as laid down by the examination authority.
Influence of external examinations on teaching
In this case we have not included an answer. You may check
your answer against the guidelines for examiners you should
already have in your school. If you don't have any guidelines,
then your answer could provide a basis for a discussion with
your senior staff as to what actions need to be included and
in what order.
Identify some of the ways in which examinations can affect both
adversely and positively the nature and quality of teaching
in your school.
There is no doubt that external examinations have a direct
and considerable influence on curricula and teaching methods
because of the importance of such examinations to the careers
and lives of the school's pupils, and the competition for
places at higher levels.
For example, in many countries there are three such examinations,
Primary School Leaving Certificate: necessary for entry
into junior schools.
Junior Certificate of Education: a sufficiently high
pass is needed to enter senior secondary school.
School Certificate: the quality of results determines
successful entrance to tertiary education.
In other countries specific examination systems may be different
but the principles remain the same.
Schools cannot risk failure, therefore teaching tends to
rehearse pupils for these examinations with strict concentration
on syllabi and set books, with teaching methods based on formal
expositions, dictated notes, memorisation, rote learning and
reproduction. Examination pressure intensifies the tendency
to concentrate on the interests of the abler pupils and forget
On the other hand, examinations do help to concentrate the
minds of both pupils and teachers towards meeting the curricula
Pupil assessment records
Keeping up-to-date records of all pupil test and examination
scores is important but other related records are equally
valuable. The overall objective of the school is to have as
complete a record of the growth and progress of each pupil
as an individual as possible. For this purpose continuous
assessment records, non-academic appointments, termly class
reports, special incident accounts and the normal data found
in the pupil's file all contribute significantly.
The most compact way to present such information, facilitating
access and updating, is usually as a form or chart.
Consider the form shown in Fig 12. It is used in Botswana
to present pre-reading, writing and number activities in Setswana
for reception class pupils in their first 4-5 weeks in school.
Fig 12 Criteria of assessment
A Can see similarities and differences in size
B Can pick one name from others
C Can see and remember
D Can pick a different item given five
E Can sort for kind
F Can sort number dots and remember symbols
G Can sort pictures
H Can sort pictures and words
1 Moeng Kwena
2 Kehano Kgaka
3 More Bonang
4 Mphang Weni
5 Nabo Nae
This chart is capable of producing diagnostic information.
A tick means success, a blank means no success.
(1) Can you suggest ways in which you could improve the chart?
(2) Design a form or charts for one of the following:
- assessment marks for each pupil for the duration of a course;
- a termly report for parents showing test marks, non-academic
achievements, general behaviour, and other areas you think appropriate;
- marks, averages or medians for each pupil in a class as required
by local regulations;
- character and behaviour assessment for each pupil to be updated
at regular intervals during his/her school career;
- record special incidents of good/bad behaviour or non-academic
- to present a testimonial/reference/school leaving certificate
which will be derived from the above records.
Filing pupil records
(1) Do you have a filing system in your school which gives immediate
access to each pupil's record?
(2) Who is assigned responsibility for maintaining the records?
(3) Who enters information?
(4) Where are pupil records kept?
(5) Who has access?
(6) How is that access accomplished?
It is very important to have a clear, well managed system
of keeping pupil records. First, you need to check that you
have the right type of record books and documents on which
to record information about each pupil. You may need to design
and produce suitable material. Second, you need to assign
duties to each member of staff so that they know very clearly
what information is required, by whom and when. Third, you
need to have secure places for keeping the records which should
be confidential. Last, as school head you will need to manage
the system, ensuring everyone is doing the work well and reviewing
procedures to find ways for improvement.
Although examinations and tests serve different purposes,
both are important professionally within the school and should
therefore be organised and managed responsibly. The school
head must appreciate the need for good arrangements and tight
security in local and external examinations. She must, however,
be aware that such examinations form only part of the assessment
of the innate abilities of his/her pupils, and must recognise
the need for a comprehensive system of record-keeping which
will benefit pupil, teacher and parents in giving a full profile
of each child.
Fig 13 summarises the functions of examinations, tests and