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Self-assessment of the learners: some perspectives

By G. Balasubramanian

The National Education Policy detailing its recommendations about the role and efficacy of assessment in school education has sought to impact ‘the culture of assessment, by introducing a 360-degree regular, formative, competency-based assessment” Inculcating a newer thought architecture it has recommended the self-assessment by the learner in the course of their learning process. This is being further supported by peer assessment and the teacher-led assessment and the parental assessment to get a holistic view of the learning profile of the learner. This new suggestion of the NEP has encouraged a series of thought processes among the school educators and administrators with regard to the objectives, feasibility, processes, validity, outcomes and several other issues relating to the self-assessment. This suggestion has to be examined not in exclusion, but as an integral aspect of the entire policy which contemplates change in the structure, curriculum, pedagogy and other operational procedures, alongside the changes it recommends the pathways of learning.

If closely examined, the policy intends to make learners as ‘self-learners’ by transferring the onus of learning to them, at the same time taking all possible steps to scaffold and support their learning with teachers, peers, parents apart from other infrastructural and academic resources. In trying to make learning a joyful experience nurtured through experiential learning and with a holistic perspective of the curriculum and contents, its objective appears much larger than imparting skills for competition and active engagement with the competitive growth. The recommendations are certainly stepping in the right direction and a positive exercise in reforming assessment. As such they may, if implemented properly, bring about a directional change in the pedagogical processes to facilitate this objective. In this context, ‘self-assessment’ of the learners needs to be addressed with adequate professionalism and with facilitation of technology.

However, the important challenges associated with this new perspective are:

1. For decades, the education system has neither conceived nor practised any such model except for far and few individual experimentations by some interested groups or researchers. Hence, this new perspective has to be unleashed with a lot of clarity so that the system responds meaningfully and purposefully to meet its objectives.

2. School heads, educators and educational administrators might suffer from inadequate understanding of the procedures to be adopted in such an exercise; the paradigms and structures of this exercise of self-assessment are different from other models currently in force. Any attempt to superimpose the previous or other models of assessment in this would lead to results which will not be valid, credible and reliable. It may lead the confusion to get confounded. Further the data from such assessments will not be helpful for diagnostics.

3. Such exercises are not one-time exercises, but are to be seen and positioned as integral to learning and need to be woven into the larger universe comprising the administration of the content and pedagogies. A well-articulated interventional model has to be put in position that will facilitate diverse and authentic assessment strategies catering to different learning styles, differing learner difficulty levels, and to gravitate contextual and stress-free learner responses.

4. Design of the instruments and tools for self-assessment has to be much more professional than the kind of practices adopted currently. It should be founded on cognitive, emotional and socio-cultural context as the psyche and the geography alongside the cultural context of the learns would vary.

5. The tools applied for self-assessment should be simple and direct, so that the responses of the learners could be easily interpreted and applied in diagnostics to understand the quality and quantum of learning apart from different patterns in the learning gaps emerging out of the data for diagnostics.

In spite of all due care taken to design the tools for seeking responses, the following challenges can be expected in the final outcome

1. The triggers used in the stimuli may be improper leading to perception- based responses from different learners.

2. The syntax may be misleading and hence gravitate responses which are out of focus to the context of assessment.

3. The assessment by the learner may be based on his over-confidence of the knowledge of the subject and hence incorrect or misleading.

4. The assessment by the learner may be revealing his lack of confidence in the concept leading to under-performance.

5. Learners with peripheral knowledge may be unable to give focused responses or may give dubious responses.

6. The responses may not give adequate insight into the learning gaps or the teachers may not have adequate skills to draw inferences from the response- data distribution.

7. The responses may not help in correct diagnostics of the learning pathways.

8. In the absence of reliability of the responses, they may be deceptive and would not help in remediation.

9. The judgement of the learner response by the concerned teacher could be subjective and may not give the correct position in the learning curve, if the competency of the teacher is debatable.

10. The over-assessment by the learner might lead to lack of correlation with other types of assessments and hence it is important to have systems in place to eliminate chances of over-assessment.

Self- assessment outputs are quite important for remediation and for understanding the growth profile of the learner on the learning curve. Hence, advance planning by the school systems to address the skills needed by the teachers in this direction needs to be taken. It may be a long-drawn exercise to obtain the minimum levels of competencies in such an exhaustive exercise.

As the design of such tools would go beyond cognitive domain and encompass other domains of learning including some understanding of the psychology of learning of the individual learners and learning in a group, educators need to engage in some brain-storming in this direction. Further, these tools need to be sensitive to socio-cultural appropriacy, geographical context and the age group, and well embedded on sound technology. The sensitivities appear to be quite concerning. The change is inevitable and therefore, it is time to start learning.