Disclaimer: My article does not purport to offend sensibilities. In fact, it is my aim to avoid giving offense, as far as possible. Rest assured that any hurt this article might cause to anyone is purely unintended. I would also like to point out that I am not generalizing. I am merely sharing my observations about the teaching methods and habits of SOME teachers…
Juan: Teacher, teacher! What is assessment???
Teacher: What?! Aahhh…. Ehhh… Sit down Juan and memorize your book!
I believe that there are less and less teachers who are still confused about the value of their vocation and their worth in the community. If they would only reflect and realize that the classroom is more than “iskul bukol” or a place to sell tocino” and that grades are not a means for gaining favors and presents from overly-expectant parents, then assessment can be a very powerful tool in the learning process.
Assessments will only work for the good of all if the teachers who prepare them know what they are doing in the first place. I remember what one UPOU official said during the orientation for new students last May. He said, “Do not ask your classmates for help if they also do not know about the topic. For how can a blind person guide another blind person? Ask your FIC.” I chuckled because what he said was both funny and true. In our case, teachers who prepare assessments should be knowledgeable. Imagine teachers preparing a test paper when they themselves do not understand the what, why and how of assessment.
I would like to share with you a story about Juan and Juana. They were best friends in college and were the top two students in class.
One day, Juan saw Juana crying. She failed in her chemistry class. Juan accompanied his friend to their teacher. Juana said while crying, “Sir please do not give me a failing mark. I am a Dean’s Lister. I will be removed from the honor roll if you do.” She cried and cried. When Recognition Day came, Juana was still in the Dean’s List. Nadaan sa iyak ang maawaing guro. The teacher pitied her and changed her grade.
Months later, Juan met a vehicular accident. He was not able to attend class from Midterms until Finals. He only came back on the last week of the school term and took both Midterm and Final Exams at the same time. However, despite all his efforts, he was only able to make it to First Honorable Mention. Juana, on the other hand, graduated Magna cum Laude.
What happened to Juan? After his long absence from school, some of his teachers told him that he could not make up for the long absence. Though he got perfect scores in all his tests, he was not given a grade in classroom recitations, they said. Some teachers asked Juan for “donations” in exchange for his grades. Juan was shocked to hear some of his teachers speaking explicitly about gifts in exchange for grades. He did not give them what they were asking for.
The result? He got grades that pulled down his general average; depriving him of his wish to graduate at the top of his class. But Juan was still happy. Because he knew that he did not succumb to the corruption of some of his teachers. He did not owe anyone anything for his accomplishments. From then on, he realized that neither grades nor awards can measure what a person has truly learned.
Ethics, professionalism and fairness, among others, are also important factors in assessment. Assessing student learning is such an arduous task because we try to measure and quantify learning – something that is so complex and is not even tangible. Moreover, assessment results are so fragile that they can easily be altered by a simple hocus pocus and sleight of the hand.
Yes, assessment is indeed important to learning. But equally important is the knowledge, the values and the perceptions of the teachers who prepare and use the assessment tools.