Chapter 5 Assessment
5.4 Internal Assessment
This section presents the guiding principles that can be used as the basis for designing internal assessment and some common assessment practices for geography for use in schools. Some of these principles are common to both internal and public assessment.
5.4.1 Guiding principles
Internal assessment practices should be aligned with curriculum planning, teaching progression, student abilities and the school context. The information collected will help to motivate, promote and monitor student learning, and will also help teachers to find ways of promoting more effective learning and teaching.
(a) Alignment with the learning objectives
A wide range of assessment practices should be used to assess the achievement of different learning objectives for whole-person development. The assessment of knowledge/concepts, skills, values and attitudes should be suitably balanced; and students’ capacity to apply knowledge to real-life situations should be evaluated. The weighting given to different areas in assessment, the assessment purposes and the assessment criteria should be discussed and agreed among teachers, and then made known to students so that they can have a full understanding of what is expected of them.
(b) Catering for the range of student abilities
Assessment practices incorporating different levels of difficulty and in diverse modes should be used to cater for students with different aptitudes and abilities. This helps to ensure that the more able students are challenged to develop their full potential and the less-able ones encouraged to sustain their interest and sense of success in learning.
(c) Tracking progress over time
As internal assessment should not be a one-off exercise, schools are encouraged to use practices that can track learning progress over time (e.g. portfolios). Assessment practices of this kind allow students to set their own incremental targets and manage their own pace of learning, which will have a positive impact on their commitment to learning.
(d) Timely and encouraging feedback
Teachers should provide timely and encouraging feedback, through a variety of means such as constructive verbal comments during classroom activities and written remarks on assignments.
Such feedback helps students to sustain their momentum in learning and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
(e) Making reference to the school’s context
As learning is more meaningful when the content or process is linked to a setting which is familiar to students, schools are encouraged to design assessment tasks that make reference to the school’s own context (e.g. location, relationship with the community and missions).
(f) Making reference to the current progress in student learning
Internal assessment tasks should be designed with reference to students’ current progress in learning. This helps clear hurdles or obstacles that may have a cumulative negative impact on learning. Teachers should be mindful in particular of concepts and skills which form the bases for further development in learning.
(g) Encouraging peer assessment and self-assessment
In addition to giving feedback, teachers should also provide opportunities for peer assessment and self-assessment in student learning. The former enables students to learn among themselves, and the latter promotes reflective thinking which is vital for students’ lifelong learning.
(h) Appropriate use of assessment information to provide feedback
Continuous assessment provides a rich source of data for providing feedback on learning in a formative manner. The appropriate use of assessment results helps to provide evidence-based feedback.
(i) Stages of assessment
Assessment in Geography should be divided into several distinguishable stages and teachers should adopt different modes of assessment to evaluate different learning outcomes.
5.4.2 Internal assessment practices
A range of assessment practices – such as oral questioning, on-going marking, self-assessment and peer assessment, student portfolios and traditional tests and examinations – should be used to promote the attainment of the various learning outcomes. They should be an integral part of learning and teaching, not “add-on” activities.
(a) Oral questioning
Oral questioning need not be seen as a test used in the language subjects only – it may be helpful in other subjects. It allows teachers to discuss matters in depth with able students, to tease out the meaning of obscure statements, and to find out the reasons for conclusions. Teachers are encouraged to try using oral assessment as it can be a valuable supplement to conventional assessment methods.
Different types of question can be used in classrooms to assess different levels of learning and understanding. Teachers need to prepare questions, using guiding principles noted below.
first clarify the purposes in asking the various questions, and ensure that they are relevant to the aims of assessment;
phrase their questions carefully to ensure they are clear to students;
avoid having too many “yes-or-no” questions – it is more appropriate to ask questions which require students to give extended responses, e.g.
Questions which can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ only:
Do regions of similar latitudes have a similar climate?
Questions that required extended responses:
Why does climate vary in regions of similar latitudes?
phrase their questions carefully so that the expected answers are not contained in the questions asked, e.g.
Which types of factors, physical or human, are more important in influencing the agricultural characteristics of the Sahel?
What factors affect the agricultural characteristics of the Sahel?
try to anticipate students’ possible responses when planning questions, e.g.
－ What type of student’s response do I expect – a solution or an example?
－ What type(s) of answer(s) will I accept – students’ own expression or just wording from the textbook?
－ If students do not answer, what will I do? (You may need to re-phrase your question in this situation.)
－ If students give incorrect answers, what are my strategies then?
(b) On-going marking
On-going marking involves dividing the marking of an assignment into several stages.
Feedback is given to students after each part of the work is completed so that they know exactly what and how to improve. With clear and consistently applied criteria, this approach can evaluate students’ work and provide feedback to them. Also, such marking practices can help to establish a fruitful dialogue between teachers and students, who can set targets for further improvement together.
Feedback by teachers is very helpful in improving students’ learning. When giving feedback, teachers should focus on the following points:
The feedback/comments to students about their work should be given promptly and regularly.
Teachers should give constructive feedback to help students understand what the tasks require and how to improve their future work. Avoid giving critical comments that damage students’ self-esteem as this will be demotivating.
Self-assessment involves students in examining their own learning performance to find out where they have done well and in which areas they need to improve. This process can take various forms, including teacher-student interviews, self-assessment checklists, reflection logs, writing conferences and group discussions among students. Whatever the method used, the students should be given enough time to consider their work thoughtfully and evaluate their progress.
It is also important to note that the better students understand the criteria for good work, the more likely they are to meet them. Teachers should therefore make the criteria clear, and ensure that students understand what is going to be looked for before the learning and teaching activities begin.
Getting students into the habit of reflecting regularly on their learning and recording their observations will make them more conscious of their learning processes and more capable of directing their own learning.
(e) Peer assessment
Another way of involving students in the assessment processes is through peer assessment. This can be very helpful for students because, as peer assessors, they can learn from seeing how others have approached tasks and improve their own work.
Teachers may worry about the “accuracy” and “fairness” of peer assessment, but numerous overseas and local research projects have shown that its reliability and validity are acceptable if it is implemented properly.
Peer assessment, as a learning process, is worthy of teachers’ consideration, as it enables students to learn about the criteria of assessment, understand their teachers’ expectations better, and know how to make judgments and give guidance – all of which can motivate learning.
(f) Student portfolios
A student portfolio – sometimes referred to as a ‘record of learning outcomes’ (ROLO) – is a systematic and organised selection of students’ work which shows growth and progress in their knowledge, skills and attitudes over time. It may include, for example, students’ written work, photographs, audiotapes/videotapes and self-assessment records (validated by the teachers), as well as extracts from teachers’ records.
An important component in portfolios is student reflections on each learning experience, covering such questions as:
What did I learn from it?
What did I do well?
Why did I choose this item (based on the agreed teacher-student assessment criteria)?
What do I want to improve in the item?
How do I feel about my performance?
What were the problem areas?
(g) Internal tests and examinations
In preparing tests and examination papers, it is necessary to strike a balance in the types of questions asked. In addition to eliciting factual knowledge and skills, teachers should pay attention to components which involve the understanding of principles and relationships, generalisation and analysis.
Teachers are also reminded that data-response questions are particularly suitable for assessing abilities related to the interpretation and analysis of information and decision-making. It is advisable to incorporate a wide range of graphical and pictorial materials in the questions.
Finally, questions which are directly copied from workbooks or textbook activities should not be used, to avoid situations in which students can score very high marks simply by rote memorisation of the answers given.
Tests and examinations should not be used simply to rank students’ performance. Summative tests/examinations can be used in a formative way. For example, students can be encouraged to reflect on their performance, note where they have done well and what they need to improve, and then develop their own revision plans for future improvement. Another possible approach is to ask students to work collaboratively in class to re-work test/examination answers based on the criteria developed for peer assessment and self-assessment as this can help them to understand better the aims of their learning and how they can perform more effectively in the future.