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FORMATIVE AND SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT PRACTICE OF TEACHERS AND FEEDBACK MECHANISM IN TEACHING AND LEARNING

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FORMATIVE AND SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT PRACTICE OF TEACHERS AND FEEDBACK MECHANISM IN TEACHING AND LEARNING IN EBONYI  EDUCATION ZONE 

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Nigeria, like other countries of the world, acknowledges that education is a vital tool for achieving national development. To Anikweze (2005), the aim of educating a child, in addition to intellectualism is to produce a well competent, productive and sociable citizen that is mentally alert, physically sound, politically conscious and spiritually devoted to the service of God and mankind. These qualities are hardly found in students because most teachers do not make genuine efforts to encourage such in them. Consequently, Nigeria has joined other nations in their match towards worthwhile educational investments and reforms. According to Bassey, and Idaka, (2007), the purpose of schooling is to use teachers to effect changes in children’s behaviour by exposing them to specific experiences through systematic presentation of skills, attitudes, concepts and principles.

The teacher uses various techniques to observe the characteristics and behaviour of students that could promote or hinder learning. The teacher can observe the skills exhibited during problem solving, listening to students’ answers to questions or their comments to note their difficulties and then adjust teaching accordingly, identify possible misconceptions and take care of them. During and at the end of lesson, the teacher checks whether the students have mastered the concepts taught. The outcome will tell him or her whether to slow down, change his or her method, use more instructional aids, revise previous lessons, re-teach a particular concept or move on to next topic through a process referred to as assessment.

According to Nworgu (2015), educational assessment is a systematic process of gathering data from a variety of sources in order to understand, describe and improve learning. Assessment is therefore part and parcel of the lesson. Teaching cannot be said to have succeeded until assessment proves so. Assessment is a key component to effective teaching and learning. Regular, reliable and timely assessments are keys to improving learning and enhancing quality education (Boston, 2002). It provides opportunities for independent practice thus, providing good ground for self assessment. Black and Wiliam (2009) defined assessment broadly to include all activities that teachers and students undertake to get information that can be used diagnostically to alter teaching and learning. Under this definition, assessment encompasses teacher observation, classroom discussion, and analysis of student work, including homework and tests.  Assessment covers the learning process and generates meaningful feedback in teaching and learning.

At the onset of formal education in Nigeria, a summative assessment was adopted in which pupils were assessed through a single examination administered at the end of school year. Teachers gave tests and examinations to pupils but scores obtained from these exercises were only used for purposes of promotion from one class to the other and were not part of the criteria for final certification.  This method was grossly inefficient because pupils from similar classes in different schools were tested and scored differently. No provision was made for adequate comparison of standards of performance from school to school (Nworgu, 2015). According to Bassey and Idaka, (2007), the use of one final examination at the end of term to determine students’ performance is unfair and cannot give a true representation of individual student’s ability. Bassey and Idaka observed that intervening variables like sudden ill-health, accident, inability of the home and other periodic psychological factors  such as anger, lack of interest, anxiety among other could considerably influence this one-shot assessment. In a bid to find a lasting solution to the above problems and the high rate of failure that characterized public examination in Nigeria, a new system of education, the 6-3-3-4 was introduced and with it came a new form of assessing learning outcomes known as “Continuous Assessment (Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004).

Continuous assessment was formally introduced into the Nigerian educational system in 1982. This new mode of assessment was therefore believed to take care of all aspects of students’ learning and thus, a better alternative to the former mode of assessment (Nworgu, 2015).  The continuous assessment is usually an internal test conducted by each educational institution to assess the progress of its students. It uses teacher-made-test, which assesses the three domains of the educational objectives at different periods of the year employing different assessment techniques such as tests, examinations, projects, assignments, homework, observations, discussion techniques, oral question, interviews, portfolios and sociometry. The results of these assessments are recorded and kept on a continuous basis for future use in decision making and as well for guidance purposes. Continuous Assessment can be summative or formative depending on the purposes and how the evidence gathered will be used (Wiliam, 2009).

Summative assessment contributes to the judgment of student learning for reporting and certification purposes. According to Nworgu (2015), summative assessment is that assessment carried out to determine what the students have been able to learn at the end of a given lesson, unit, programme or period of schooling. This implies that after a period of unit or course, the learners sit for a test and the teacher will score the test to take decision. Summative assessment is assessment of learning, which is given periodically to determine at a particular point in time what the students know and do not know. It is used towards and at the end of the instruction period. Summative assessments summarize what students have learned at the conclusion of an instructional segment (Nworgu, 2015). These assessments tend to be evaluative, and teachers report assessment results as a score or a grade. In summative assessment, there are various ways in which the information about student achievement at a certain time is used. It can be used internally and externally.

Internal uses include using regular grading for recordkeeping, informing decisions about courses to follow where there are options within the school, and reporting to parents and to the students themselves. Teachers’ judgments, often informed by teacher-made tests or examinations, are commonly used in these ways. External uses include certification by examination bodies or for vocational qualifications, selection for employment or for further education, monitoring the school’s performance and school accountability, often based on the results of externally created tests or examinations (Stiggin, 2006).  Although, this mode of assessment which a child is promoted to the next class in his/her educational career based on examination has received wide criticisms especially from experts. The criticism according to Daniel (2005) included; (a) examination misconduct and irregularities (b) long delay in release of results and certificates (c) unwarranted seizure of results. The summative assessment techniques include assignment, home work, portfolio, quiz, examination, project work, and many others. Summative assessment is characterized as assessment of learning and is contrasted with formative assessment which is assessment for learning.

Formative assessment is the assessment that takes place when learning is ongoing by which both the teacher and the learner use the feedback to improve learning. Formative assessment according to Black and Wiliam (2009) is all those activities which teachers and learners use information about students’ achievement during teaching and learning to improve their achievements. Formative assessment can be assessment for learning (AFL) and assessment as learning (AAL). AFL is a planned process in which assessment elicited evidence of students is used by teachers to adjust their teaching in order to improve learning while AAL is a planned process in which assessment elicited evidence of students is used by students to adjust their current learning tactics (Nworgu, 2015).  According to Nicol and Macfarlane (2006), formative assessment aids learning by generating feedback that is of benefit to the students and teachers. Nicol Macfarlane revealed that feedback on performance or assignments enables students to restructure their understanding/ skills and build more powerful ideas and capabilities. An example of formative assessment is when a teacher ask question during teaching to ascertain what the students have achieved and use the students’ response to improve learning.

Formative assessment guides students and teachers to know what is important to learn; it impact positively on students’ motivation, self-perceptions and competence. It structures the students’ focus of study; it makes learning more concise and consolidated and it fosters good learning strategies and skills (Carless, 2011). It is therefore important to ensure that teachers are competent in the use of appropriate formative assessment techniques. Stiggins (2006) is of the opinion that policy makers, school leaders, and the measurement community have neglected formative assessment. This neglect has limited the teachers’ practice of formative assessment and contributed to the poor achievement of the students in high stakes examinations. Nigeria, just like many countries in the world uses “high-stakes” examination information to make educational decisions such as placement of students in higher education. To Stiggins (2006), through their formative assessment practices, teachers play a major role in helping students attain their educational potential by making sure that students are prepared for the “high stakes” examinations.

Ruiz-Primo and Furtak (2006) design teacher Elicits, Student responds, teacher Recognizes, teacher Uses known as an ESRU model of informal formative assessment method. The model proposes a framework based on the  idea that informal formative assessment can take place at any level of student-teacher interaction in the course of daily classroom talk, whether whole class, small group, or one-on-one and can help teachers continuously acquire information about their students` level of understanding. The term assessment conversation was adopted to refer to daily instructional dialogues that embbed assessment into an activity already occurring in the classroom. In formative assessment, there is need for teachers to engage in frequent assessment practice so as to gather information about the students’ learning. Frequency of assessment is considered important in facilitating retention of material learnt.

Shirvani (2009) observed that the frequency of assessment has a mediating effect on student engagement in learning. Research by Marcell (2008) showed that when the frequency of testing is increased, there is increased student involvement in responding to questions and in discussing the subject matter. Other scholars maintained that frequent testing helps students to monitor their learning and reinforces their engagement with the course as a result of immediate feedback provided (Haigh, 2007). For formative assessment to be effective, there is need for teachers to use variety of formative assessment techniques during the teaching process. However, use of multiple assessment techniques is recommended due to its potentiality in yielding valuable information regarding students’ strengths and area of improvement in their learning (Gonzales & Fuggan, 2012). Ndalichako (2004) observed that most school teachers prefer to use only tests and examinations to evaluate students’ learning which cannot assess all the three educational domains thereby reducing the efficacy of assessment practice. The formative assessment techniques are observation techniques, discussion techniques, conferencing, presentation, peers assessment and self assessment. Such techniques offer rich information about teaching and learning and provide effective feedback to improve students’ performance.

Feedback is the means by which teachers enable students to ‘close the gap’ in order to take learning forward and improve their performance. According to Hattie and Timperley, (2007) Feedback is defined as information provided by an agent (e.g., teacher, peer, book, parent, self, experience) regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding. A teacher or parent can provide corrective information, a peer can provide an alternative strategy, a book can provide information to clarify ideas, a parent can provide encouragement, and a learner can look up the answer to evaluate the correctness of a response. Feedback thus is a “consequence” of performance. For feedback to be effective, students need to know how to take action on it. All teachers provide feedback to students, which can either be oral, written, or in more practical subjects feedback through demonstration. Feedback can include teacher to student, student to student, or student to teacher (Ramsden, 2003).

Effective feedback is about finding the best way of communicating to learners what they have achieved and what they need to work on next. Feedback on what needs to be done can encourage all students to believe that they can improve. Hattie and Timperley (2007) considered feedback to be information that aims to reduce the gap between what is now and what should or could be. Effective feedback can be provided in many ways such as descriptive feedback, evaluative feedback, oral feedback, written feedback, etc. which may occur before, during and/or after a learning activity. According to Krause (2005), feedback can potentially be found in every aspect of a well-designed curriculum through self-reflection in lessons, group discussions in classroom, guided readings, interaction with staff, and, of course, assessment. In fact, it is impossible to talk about feedback without talking about assessment. A fundamental aspect of well-designed assessment is the provision of appropriate, timely feedback to help the student reflect on their learning, identify areas in need of improvement, and begin to make that improvement.

Assessment today is expected to be more sophisticated than it was in the past. Unfortunately its implementation has been criticized as a result of many problems that mar the operation of assessment which include the following: lack of commitment by the teachers owing to their present condition of poor remuneration and delay in their salaries payment, lack of experienced teachers to effectively handle students’ assessment in all the domains, lack of in-service training, problem of large number of students, limited time, inadequate fund among others (Nworgu, 2015). However, previous research by Schafer and Lissirz, (2001) has shown that there are many problems associated with teachers’ assessment practices. These include lack of an adequate knowledge regarding the basic testing and measurement concepts, limited teacher training in assessment and failure of teachers to employ and adhere to measurement guidelines they learned in measurement courses (Campbell & Evans, 2000). In order to understand what students know or do not know, teachers need to apply both formative and summative assessment practice and use the feedback to improve teaching and learning. Research by Stiggins (2006) does confirm that teachers’ classroom assessment practices have been taken for granted.

Educators place more focus on research meant to improve the use and quality of standardized examinations and have placed minimal attention on the quality of formative assessments. Measurement professionals are more interested on issues related to test development and the technical quality of standardized measures than in classroom assessment and grading practices (Smith, 2003). This state of affairs leads to many arguments regarding how educators view teachers’ assessment practices. Barsdale-Ladd and Thomas (2000) conducted a study with in-service teachers and they indentified some essential aspects of classroom assessment competencies that teachers should possess as they assess students. They indicate that teachers should: (a) provide students with feedback for purposes of improving students’ learning, (b) take assessment as part of a student’s work, (c) exercise some level of flexibility in assessment so as to ensure that assessment does not dominate the curriculum, (d) ensure that assessment informs instruction to improve teachers’ instructional methods, and (e) use multiple assessment techniques to evaluate students’ learning. If teachers have a clear understanding of these principles; they can have an informed framework of using assessment results to make better informed decisions. But when teachers misunderstand these principles, their assessment practices are more likely to generate worthless information.

According to Bassey and Idaka (2007), our assessment practice is characterized by poor assessment/non-use of the affective and psychomotor domains in promotion and certification. This has resulted in the production of “witty criminals and corrupt intellectuals with attendant risk of further producing their type by genetic multiplication”. The end is national under-development, a dreaded disaster (Bassey and Idaka, 2007). Chukwuneke and Nwachukwu, (2007) outlined reasons that hindered the practice of continuous assessment to include; laziness on the part of teachers resulting in non marking of assignments and projects and lack of feedback by the teachers etc. Some teachers with debased character abuse their positions by subjectively awarding undue marks during tests as part of continuous assessment to their favoured students to ensure that they ultimately excel and emerge as winners of class prizes. Other students who are in their “red book” are denied their merited marks. Expectedly such ignoble development seem to introduce corrupt practices in the school system as students direct their efforts at gaining favours from their teachers, rather than making genuine efforts to learn. This creates the problems of comparability of standards even among class teachers in the same school (Anikweze, 2005).

Lack of knowledge of the techniques of implementing continuous assessment militates against its success. This conclusion was reached by Nwaogwugwu (2000) who found that test was the main instrument of assessment known to and used by teachers because they know very little of other techniques. Connected to this is the problem of questionable integrity of head teachers, teachers and other school functionaries on whose shoulders lies the responsibilities of implementing continuous assessment. Some head teachers see continuous assessment as a means of enabling even lazy students to pass examinations. Hence they persuade teachers to inflate continuous assessment scores of weak pupils. Anikweze (2005) links this to the unfair policy of using students’ performance in internal and external examinations to promote teachers or rate schools by some state ministries of education. Assessment requires that the overall ability of every student should be assessed in terms of the students’ cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains which can be achieved with the help of experience teachers (Nworgu 2015).

Experience teachers are those teachers that have taught for duration of 6 years and above. Teachers and administrators might define experienced teachers as those who have taught for many years, are able to motivate students and hold their attention, know how to manage their classroom effectively, and can change course in the middle of a lesson to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities to enhance student learning. According to Bastick (2002), definition of experienced teachers seems to hinge principally on the number of years taught; time-related criteria can range from 5 years or 6 years to 9 years or more. Novice teachers are relatively easily defined as those with little or no classroom experience. They are often student teachers or teachers who have less than 2 years of teaching experience (Gatbonton, 2008). Many novice teachers do not have sufficient knowledge of test construction mechanism, yet they are required to make several tests every week or month. Such teachers will surely make poor tests, which will not be in the interest of continuous assessment. Even where standardized instruments are available, there is no guarantee that all the teachers possess the skill required for the administration and scoring of such instruments.

The assigning of teachers to specific classes to teach all the subjects is another problem. It will definitely be burdensome for one teacher to do all the setting and marking of the expected continuous assessment testing papers, in addition to construction of teaching and assessment aids, observe all the students, record and collate the results. Added to this is the problem of large classes. Hence, marking of tests, assignments and class exercises becomes an arduous task. This has led even dedicated teachers to such practices as arbitrary assigning of scores, use of examination scores to obtain continuous assessment (Ifelunni 2005, Israel, 2007).

Many teachers lack facilities to enable them carry out continuous assessment effectively. This is due to inadequate funding by the appropriate authorities. Hence necessary materials like diaries, notebooks, textbooks, computers, registers, libraries, standardized tests, flash drives, and report booklets are lacking and consequently records of students’ cumulative performance are not well kept. Another unintended negative side effect of mandated testing includes changes in how teachers actually teach.

Many novice teachers spend more time focusing on and preparing students for high stakes examinations, and less time on the content students should learn. Finally, lack of incentives, in-service training, and workshops by teachers can account for teachers’ lack of dedication and commitment in the implementation of assessment. If assessment is properly practiced on a frequent basis, it would help students to refine and deepen their understanding of what they learn, as failure to do this may lead to inaccurate assessment of students’ learning and may ultimately prevent students from reaching their full academic potential (Stiggins, 2006). It is against this background that the researcher sought to investigate teachers’ practice of formative and summative assessments and feedback mechanism in Obollo Education Zone of Enugu State.

Statement of the Problem

An evidence of the teachers’ poor assessment practice in teaching and students’ failure as a result of faulty assessment techniques are found in most parts of Nigerian secondary schools. Many teachers misconceive formative assessment to imply continuous or repeated testing of learners. Thus, test is the only technique used by teachers to assess students in order to ascertain their current level of knowledge and identify problem they maybe encountering and failed to provide an immediate feedback that will enable the teacher to improve students’ learning. The current assessment practice in most Nigerian secondary schools especially in Obollo Education Zone is a far cry from what continuous assessment is meant to achieve, hence its impact is yet to be felt. One major reform process is to use formative assessment all through the learning process so as to provide students and teachers access to feedback which will help to improve learning. It is however regrettable that most teachers still practice the traditional method of assessing students in the summative mode only. In using traditional method of assessment, teachers and learners have the impression that the purpose of education is to pass test and examinations. Teachers therefore, do not make genuine effort to ensure meaningfulness and understanding in their teaching. Very little concern is shown for higher mental tasks, thinking and application skills such as ability to apply the knowledge to real life problems. Thus the focus of this study is to investigate the teachers’ practice of formative and summative assessment and feedback mechanism in Obollo Education Zone

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate teachers’ practice of formative and summative assessment and feedback mechanism in teaching and learning. The study specifically intends to:

  1. determine the formative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers based on their teaching experience
  2. determine the summative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers based on their teaching experience
  3. determine the types of feedback mechanisms SS2 teachers provide to students based on their teaching experience.
  4. ascertain how teachers use the information generated from formative assessment in classroom instruction to improve learning.
  5. determine how teachers use the information generated from summative assessment in classroom instruction to improve learning.
  6. find out the problems teachers encounter in the course of implementing formative and summative assessment.
  7. ascertain the kind of supports provided by school administration in implementing formative and summative assessment

Significance of the Study

The findings of the study have both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, Classical test theory assumes that each person has a true score T, that would be obtained if there were no errors in measurement. A person’s true score is defined as the expected number-correct score over an infinite number of independent administrations of the test. Unfortunately, test users never observe a person’s true score, only an observed score, X. It is assumed that observed score = true score plus some error: Errors can occur through mistakes within the process of testing, as well as everyday malfunctions such as being tired and hungry but if a standard error can be found then it becomes easier to factor this out of the equation. The findings of this study will conform to the Classic Test Theory as it will increase the reliability of test administration.

Practically, the following people will benefit from the findings of this study if carried out successfully; teachers, learners, parents, school administrators, curriculum planner and researchers. Teachers use assessment to make decisions about the kind of instruction and the instructional methodology to be applied for effective teaching and learning. This will help the teacher to make necessary adjustment, such as using alternative assessment techniques especially when the feedback is not encouraging. This research study will explore teachers’ assessment practice by encouraging them to use both formative and summative assessment to improve learning.

Students on their own part will benefit from this study by knowing the needs for self-assessments which help them to improve in their study habit.  Feedback gathered through formative assessment assists the students in determining gaps between “what they know and what they need to know” and guides the students through necessary learning actions to achieve success especially in Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE).

Parents use information provided by teachers to set expectation, plan educational resources, establish home learning environments and assist in provision of instructional material based on their understanding of the achievement of their children. Parents also will know the capability of their children and as well support their children to improve in the area of their weaknesses through this study.

For schools administrators, the study will reveal to them the immediate problems teachers encounter in the course of implementing assessment, so as to apply device measure for coping with those problems, through organizing workshops and seminars to acquaint teachers with the principles and guidelines involved in assessment practice. This study will expose School administrators on proper ways of carrying out assessment and this will help them to encourage teachers in order to implement all the necessary techniques that will enhance effective learning.

This study will help curriculum planners to include curriculum embedded assessment that will elicit students` thinking during curriculum reform exercise. This study will also serves as reference material to other researchers who want to conduct studies on related areas. Academically, findings of this study will serve as platform for other research works and add to knowledge of scholars/academicians especially to those who want to write an article in this field of study. It may be of immense help to any researcher who may wish to further research in this area. These beneficiaries can gain access to the useful findings of this study through publications, consultation with educational administrators and through conferences and seminars.

Scope of the Study

The study was limited to all the senior secondary school two (SSS II) teachers in the Education Zone because it is at this level that proper assessments of students are necessary to prepare the students for Mock and other external examinations. The content scope will focus on the formative and summative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers base on their experience, the kind of feedback mechanism they provide to the students base on their experience, the use of information gathered from formative and summative assessment, the major problems teachers encounters in the course of implementing formative and summative assessment and kinds of support provided by school administration in implementing formative and summative assessment.

Research Questions

The study was guided by the following research questions:

  1. what are the formative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers base on their teaching experience?
  2. what are the summative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers base on their teaching experience?
  3. what are the types of feedback mechanisms SS2 teachers provide to students base on their teaching experience?
  4. what are the mean responses of teachers on the use of the information generated from formative assessment in classroom instruction to improve learning?
  5. what are the mean responses of teachers on the use of the information generated from summative assessment in classroom instruction to improve learning?
  6. what are the problems SS2 teachers encountered in the course of implementing formative and summative assessment?
  7. what kinds of supports are provided by school administration in implementing formative and summative assessment?

Research Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study and tested at 0.05 level of significance:

HO1: The formative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers do not differ significantly based on their experience

HO2: The summative assessment techniques that are being used by SS2 teachers do not differ significantly based on their experience

HO3:       The types of feedback mechanisms SS2 teachers provide to students do not differ significantly based on their experience

Ho4:     The mean responses of teachers on the use of the information generated from summative and formative assessment in classroom instruction to improve learning does not differ significantly

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