Question from SingTeach: If your school has an opportunity to omit testing and examinations, how can assessment (not testing) be practiced in ways that are useful and effective? Share your idea(s).
The opportunity to omit testing and examinations landed in our laps in September 2018 when Minister Ong announced, at the Schools Work Plan Seminar, the immediate removal of weighted assessments at lower primary and specific levels. Not a decision of our choosing, the announcement naturally caught many primary schools off-guard. The specificity of the policy demands that schools re-examine our assessment design. This creates an opportunity us to return to the original intent of assessment as spelled out in the PERI recommendations:
“the school-based assessment system should be balanced to place greater emphasis on skills development and to provide constructive feedback which enables more meaningful learning in support of both academic and non-academic aspects of a pupil’s development …” (Ministry of Education, 2009, p. 35)
Besides being balanced between formative and summative purposes, the assessment plan must be coherent, allowing students to link their learning from one episode of assessment to the next to form a deeper and more integrated understanding (Tay, 2017). The plan should include the assessment activities that facilitate the progression of skills in a continuum, eventually leading to the high stakes national examinations at the end of their primary education.
Patchwork Assessment can offer a framework to primary schools to guide coherent assessment design. Patchwork Assessment “entails a series of tasks for students to complete over a period of time and culminates in a final task that requires them to synthesize what they had learned in the previous tasks” (Tan & Chong, 2011). Patchwork Assessment essentially is “a form of assessment for learning, since the series of patches requires students to accumulate knowledge, adding new knowledge or perspective in each patch, as they head towards an integrated and comprehensive understanding of a topic” (Trevelyan & Wilson, 2011).
Patchwork Assessment offers the following benefits to students’ learning:
- Focus on subject mastery: Pacing the learning of students over a time span reduces the stress caused by one-off summative assessments, allowing them to focus more on mastery of the subjects rather than one-off assessment performance in the learning process.
- Deep learning: Quality feedback is given throughout the assessment process to facilitate and prompt students to think of ways to close the gap between their current and the expected standards of learning. Students’ learning then becomes not just the mere acquisition of surface knowledge, but they engage in higher level cognitive activities like meaning construction and negotiating multiple perspectives.
- Integrated understanding of a topic: Learning can be seen as a continuum, as opposed to the traditional segmented approach. Students are encouraged to understand and appreciate the connections of the subject syllabus outcomes and see how learning of different subjects can support each other.
- Metacognitive self-reflection: Peer and self-assessment practices are prevalent in a Patchwork Assessment. These processes help elevate students’ role in the assessment process, building the skills to think about their own learning and become self-regulated learners in the future.
To implement Patchwork Assessment, schools might want to consider the following:
- It will be useful if teachers are competent in executing different formative assessment techniques to elicit evidences of learning. This will help cater to the different learning needs of the students and sustain students’ interest throughout the process of the Patchwork Assessment.
- The effectiveness of the Patchwork Assessment depends heavily on the quality of feedback given. Feedback supports students’ independent learning and prompts forward action to the next level of learning. Teachers must be the experts at providing feedback, at the same time guide students to give effective feedback to peers and self.
- Schools can consider adopting the SOLO taxonomy or Bloom’s taxonomy to progressively structure the student learning outcomes in a Patchwork Assessment. This will facilitate the linear acquisition of knowledge and skills in increasing complexity.
Ultimately, for any assessment reform to be successful, it must always be predicated by teachers’ sound assessment beliefs that will drive effective assessment practices. School leaders and middle managers must also adopt an open mind-set to embrace the ever-changing contexts and demands, seeing them as opportunities to re-examine our long-held practices, renew our own beliefs and reinvent our craft.
Ultimately, for any assessment reform to be successful, it must always be predicated by teachers’ sound assessment beliefs that will drive effective assessment practices.
Ministry of Education. (2009, March). Report of the Primary Education Review and Implementation PERI Committee. Retrieved from http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/en/2009/report-primary-education-review-and-implementation-peri-committee-5141
Tan, K., & Chong, S. (2011). Synthesis of Learning in the Patchwork Text – Patchwork Assessment or Patched Work Assessment? In J. Hassaskhah, Educational Theory (pp. 1–12). Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Tay, H. (2017). The Role of Heads of Departments in Assessments. In K. H. Tan, M. A. Heng, & C. Ratnam-Lim, Curriculum Leadership by Middle Leaders: Theory, Design and Practice (pp. 73–87). New York: Routledge.
Trevelyan, R., & Wilson, A. (2011). Using patchwork texts in assessment: clarifying and categorising choices in their use. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1–12.