Assessment is an integral component of students’ education. We need to gather information about students’ performance and use it to guide them in their learning process. However, we need to remember that the only purpose of academic assessment is to foster learning, not to label students based on their performance or grades.
The question is how to establish an effective assessment process. There has been an ongoing debate on the current grading system, and whether it is appropriate or not. Personally, I do believe that the current grading system is not perfect and there is a lot of room for improvement. However, building an ideal assessment system, in which all students are assessed based on their own learning styles is not easy. One thing that I would suggest to help us take into account the differences in students’ backgrounds and learning styles in our assessment system is to offer a variety of options (such as exams, projects, homework, labs and extra credit opportunities) to assess the understanding of course content. In general, I prefer open ended projects and homework rather than tests with a limited amount of time, because they give students more chance to think out of box, and foster their critical thinking, while for most tests, students are taught to think and solve questions in a specific format to obtain a full credit.
Finally, we need to remember that it is learning that matters, not getting good grades or becoming successful in all exams!