Assessment to me is a very effective self reflection tool. But the key is it is more for reflection. The idea behind assessment is to help perform a self-check on how much you have been able to grasp and refine your understanding incrementally. Two characteristics of humans have helped to create “The Grading Monster”. I am not against assessment per se because it is a reality check tool but the idea of attaching excessive importance to something.
Let me try to present my perspective on how we created the monster. Humans have the unique gift of “measuring” and somehow we love to flaunt it no matter how imperfect the measurement is. Secondly our brains are optimized to take the easiest route possible because we do not like excess work. Now combine the above two, and we have created a system where we try to measure what a student has “learned” (with all its imperfections) and because of our inherent laziness we (corporations / other schools) use the measurement for selection.
So how do we undo this scenario? To me the key lies in reducing the importance to grades. So how do they ensure that they are selecting the appropriate students? Well isnt that for them to figure out? I understand we need to create systems which are interoperable but if these systems end up shifting the focus they need to be overhauled.
Hmmm sounds too romantic ….So what are the options? Some people take longer to grasp a new concept in a particular area. It does not mean that they cannot learn or are inferior. Slow learning has it’s advantages of retention over longer periods. (I do not have reference to cite here and I do not wish to cite either firstly because it would make this look like a research paper and secondly from personal experience, in classes that I have failed, I remember the course contents vividly :D) So instead of having a “judgement day”, what we could have is students keep assessing themselves over the course multiple times till they have acquired a fair degree of proficiency in what they are expected to learn. That should be able to fix one part of the problem which is trying to learn something. Should this score be published ? I think if some potential employer or school wants to review it they can, but here the control has shifted more to the student because he has had multiple attempts to improve his learning.
Secondly, for each course students could create a course portfolio which is an outward expression of what they learned. What they would like to display as a part of this portfolio should be left completely to the individual. To me this challenges the student to think laterally and fires his artistic faculties. In a way it is very similar to how all living beings operate where they have unique strategies to demonstrate their skills and attract attention.
Will this work ? Unless we try we will never know !