The CBSE's new grading and assessment system — Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation system — started by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry last year provides a holistic profile of the student and helps to identify the latent talents, says this expert.

Assessment is an integral part of a learning process. A teacher needs to know where his/her learners stand in terms of their learning. Till late, assessment to most of us meant learners being marked on test papers, and then branded by results that stuck with them. But this process often acted as a barrier to participation in future progress or learning. Learning, which should be an exciting, creative journey of discovery and internalisation of knowledge, is reduced to an unhealthy competitive race where the interest on marks was obsessive.

But all this changed on September 6, 2009, when the Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal announced the new grading system. He spoke of continuous comprehensive evaluation (CCE). This refers to a system of school-based assessment that covers all aspects of students' development.

It provides a holistic profile of the learner through assessment of both scholastic and co-scholastic aspects of education spread over the total span of instructional time in schools. The process helps to identify latent talents or positive attributes of the learner, which are not usually assessed during the year-end examinations.

Let us first take a look at academic assessment. Under CCE, the method of assessment is continuous. It does not mean that tests and assignments have to be conducted frequently. On the contrary, CCE discourages mechanical testing.

It employs various tools and techniques for assessment in informal and formal settings. This makes it more interesting, relevant and meaningful, and helps in improving greater learner participation.

The techniques used for evaluation are both summative and formative. The terms formative and summative evaluation were coined by Michael Scriven (1967) who used them to define their differences both in terms of the goals of the information they seek and how the information is used.

Formative assessment is largely diagnostic. It provides feedback to both teacher and learner about how the course is going and how learning can be improved during the course. Are the learners doing what they need to do? If not, do the teaching and learning strategies chosen by the teacher or trainer need modification? As opposed to this, summative assessment is designed to make judgments about student performance and allocate grades. Formative assessment is, thus, assessment for learning. It is often informal: that is to say, it is carried out by teachers while teaching in the classroom.

An essential part of formative assessment is peer and self-evaluation. Students are allowed to mark their own work and encouraged to raise questions about the assessment and the material covered by the assessment. To encourage this process, adequate feed-forward and feed-back must be provided to the students so that they are partners in their learning process.

Results of formative assessments are produced 'on the spot.' Teachers and students get them immediately and teachers can plan remedial measures to give students additional experiences in areas where they performed poorly.

Formative assessment involves classroom tools like:

Observation of students by the teacher to assess various aspects of personality development in individuals as well as groups during varying time periods to create a comprehensive picture/view of the child.

Assignments designed to allow the child to plan, compose and report about a unit of learning. These can be completed as class work and/or homework.

Projects are a useful tool of formative assessment as they provide opportunities to explore, work with one's hands, observe, collect data, analyse, generalise and interpret data and draw generalisations. Projects could be assigned to groups and could be multi-discipline or holistic.

The portfolio is a collection of the learner's work over a period of time providing a cumulative record of the learner's progress. In doing so the learner becomes an active participant in learning and assessment.

Checklists are a list of criteria that the teacher determines are important to observe in a child at a particular time.

Anecdotal records or narrative records of significant incidents in a child's life recorded by the teacher on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, summative assessment is assessment of learning. It is a pen-and-paper test carried out at the end of a course of learning. It measures or ‘sums-up' how much a student has learned from the course. It is usually a graded test, i.e., it is marked according to a scale or set of grades.

Summative evaluation is typically quantitative, using numeric scores or grades to assess learner achievement. Summative assessment invariably leads to the award of qualifications: grades, diplomas and certificates.

The second term comprehensive means that evaluation is concerned not just with assessment of knowledge but it also takes into account the factors that are inherent in students' growth such as skills, understanding, appreciation, interest, attitude and habits. In other words, evaluation covers all the learning experiences of the learner in curricular as well as non-cognitive and co- scholastic aspects of students' growth and development.

It seeks to explore the learner's latent talents in fields other than academic and records the learner's abilities, attitudes and aptitudes that manifest in forms other then the written word.

(The author has written an ELT school series published by Tata McGraw-Hill. Email: renooanand@yahoo.co.uk)

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