Effects of continuous assessment on students motivation and achievement in basic science learning

Chapter One/Introduction

 Background to the problem

Examinations and assessment are an integral component of our educational structure. They are conducted both formally and informally, at practically all levels of education and serve a variety of different functions. In the narrow sense, examinations and assessments may be thought of as having predominantly educational purposes. They may be used in order to:-

  • Assess students’ attainment at the end of a course or study programme.
  • Evaluate diagnostically students’ academic achievement, progress and/or learning
  • Evaluate students’ aptitude, possibly for the purpose of assigning them to different courses or teaching
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of an educational programme or curriculum. (Richard, 1999)

Most of the examinations and assessments regularly conducted by teachers and schools on an ‘internal’ basis tend to fulfill one or more of these educational functions. Other examinations for example, those conducted ‘externally’ by the recognized examining boards and certain professional associations, likewise have a primary educational purpose: to assess the attainment of a student at the end of a course of study. The primary assignment of any school is to ensure effective teaching and learning of which assessment and examination a form of evaluation, plays a significant role especially in decision making about school programme (Ijaya, 2002). Assessment in education in general is essential and is an on going process. It is the basis for all educational activities. Assessment information is a vital tool in the hands of the professional teacher. It directs guides and protects both the teacher and the learner at every stage of academics (Okwudire, 2005).

Continuous Assessment process is an important component of the National Policy on Education (FME, 2004). This system of assessment and evaluation is an innovation in the Nigerian educational system which has its genesis from the first national curriculum conference held in Ibadan in 1969. The outcome of that historic conference were published, a high powered committee consisting of educationist, university academics, civil servants, industrialist and intellectuals from various works of life was set up to study the report in depth and present recommendations based on its formulation into a new National Policy on Education (FME, 1977).

In 1977, an implementation task force was set up to prepare a blue print for the implementation of the new policy. Input into the Federal Task came from various state task forces set up for the purpose. The Federal Government White Paper on the implementation task force came out in 1979 and constitutes the basis of what is now the new National Policy on Education (FME, 1998). One of the distinct features of the new National Policy on Education is its emphasis on Continuous Assessment. According to an extract from the National Policy on Education (FME, 1998) “Educational assessment and evaluation will be liberalized by basing them in whole or in parts on Continuous Assessment of the progress of the individual.” The clearest statement as to how the desired ‘liberalization’ was to be achieved was stated in the National Policy on Education. And the type of education that will bring about self realization, better human relationship, national consciousness and technological progress in Nigeria (FME, 1998).

The new National Policy on Education in Nigeria has directed that Continuous Assessment should be used at all educational levels for the evaluation of student achievement. This means that every teacher from primary school to university should understand and practice it. Before the implementation of Continuous Assessment, the summative system of assessment was used where students will be assessed at the end of the term without including any other form of assessment, and this form of assessment is used to evaluate students achievement for placement and promotions to upper class. Mock examination was conducted prior to WAEC examinations. This result was often used to determine those students that qualify to write the final examination (WAEC) and also to secure provisional admission into higher institution before the release of WAEC result (Ango,1997). Carew(1985), stated that irrespective of how well a student’s performance is during his/her years of schooling, if his/her performance in the summative type of examination is not good, he/she is considered incapable of advancing further in education.

Dodo (1985) maintained that “there are even few cases of suicide from failure in final examination”. In view of the above reasons, schools and colleges adopted the Continuous Assessment system. The Federal Government of Nigeria stressed the need and importance of Continuous Assessment in relation to examination. It was stated in the National Policy on Education (FME, 1998) that there is the need for Continuous Assessment for the integration of all types of evaluations. Continuous Assessment therefore, represents a continuing awareness of the development of the pupil over a period of time and the general building of cumulative judgment. Continuous Assessment also referred to as “process evaluation” does not only measure advancement but also indicates the progress towards it. In science, especially chemistry, assessments should seek to measure the particular qualities that a curriculum or course seeks to foster in students. In the context of science (chemistry), such qualities may be divided into three broad categories outlined below according to Richard (1999):-

  1. Intellectual abilities and skills that include the student’s ability to recall, apply, evaluate scientific information and to plan and device experimental investigations for the solution of scientific problems Abilities of this nature are referred to as cognitive abilities.
  2. Manipulative skills and abilities that include skills in the handling and manipulation of materials and apparatus in the context of scientific investigations, as well as ability to follow instructions and to make accurate Generally these and related skills are referred to as psychomotor skills.
  3. Qualities that concerns students attitude and interest in science and the study of science and science related beliefs and values, as well as ethical judgments and interpersonal Qualities of this nature are generally referred to as affective characteristics: The influence of gender on the learning ability, interest and achievement of students cannot be overemphasized. Results of several researches conducted over the years revealed that there is significant difference in students’ choice of subject as well as their performance in science and non-science subjects. Olarewaju (2004) reported a significant difference between boys and girls achievement in the knowledge of biology concepts. Boys in this report were found to achieve better than girls. Dahiru (2004) also conducted a research to determine if gender is a factor in the selection of science subjects in Katsina Local Government Area. His result revealed that gender is not a factor in the selection of science subject in Katsina local government.

Adeqive (2000) attributes difference in learning ability of boys and girls to socialization process as girls are denied out of school and pre-school experience in problem solving especially those involving visual activity behaviour that inhibits the development of mathematics and science capability in girls. This research therefore, intends to provide equal opportunities for both boys and girls in the teaching and conduct of Continuous Assessment.

Academic achievement in science is viewed in different ways by different authors; depending on the context in which it is viewed. Generally, achievements means accomplishment or exhibition of proficiency in a given skill or body of knowledge. Amuset (1994) viewed academic achievement as the knowledge obtained or skill developed in the school subject usually designated by test score or by means assigned by the teacher.

However, Okebukola and Jegede (1986) subdivided achievement into three categories. These are:

  1. High achievers (top 75%)
  2. Medium achievers (middle 55%)
  3. Low achievers (bottom 25%)

Academic achievement, according to Musa (2000), refers to the quality of results produced by students as reflected in the quality of their examination scores. If more C.A is given, it means more motivation on the part of the students and it is hoped that the achievement will increase. Continuous Assessment is often used to motivate students to learn. According to Beard and Seniour (1980), motivation is understood by the teacher as “the urge to work independently either applying one self to his work, interest in ones task or course he has chosen, the desire for a good qualification and good employment, determination to pass examination or a defined goal which one has set for himself and sustenance of enthusiasm”.

This study therefore, intends to find out if students given more number of Continuous Assessment per semester will perform better in the final examination than those who are not given. The study also investigates whether there is any difference in the achievements of male and female students exposed to Continuous Assessment. And finally, the study intends to finds out theEffects of continuous assessment on students motivation and achievement in basic science learning

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