Saturday, June 14, 2008

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND ACADEMIC ASSESSMENT

Each person is different from the other. The most widely accepted definition of personality is that personality is a collection of relatively stable and enduring thoughts, feelings, and behaviour patterns that are unique to the individual. Alfred Adler believed in the unique motivations of human beings and the importance of each individual’s niche in society. Gordon Allport laid emphasis on individualism and according to him human behaviour should be studied using methods that take into account the uniqueness of each person. Howard Gardner, in his theory of Multiple Intelligences, says that each individual has their own kind of intelligence and that people may differ in their abilities from one another. According to him, if one person is strong in a particular ability it is not necessary that the other person will also have similar strengths in that ability, because the other person may be as good or better as that in some other ability.

All this indicates that each individual is different from the other and that every individual should be treated in a different manner. But, surprisingly, this well-documented fact is ignored when it comes to academic assessment. Academic assessment is done without keeping individual differences in mind.

In schools, colleges, universities, and other institutes there are a few limited methods in which students are academically assessed. The most common ones are written examinations and classroom discussions. These are the methods in which academic assessment is usually done. But, depending on the individual differences and personality of the students, each and every student may differ in their performance on these methods of assessment, irrespective of their knowledge and preparation of their subject matter. If a particular method of assessment suits the personality of the student, then he/she may perform well in it. If it does not then, it becomes difficult to be up to the mark for that student.

The written examinations, depending on the institution, are taken by the students monthly, yearly, and even weekly at some places. Many a times, a student being well prepared, well versed, and having enough knowledge in that subject matter may not perform well and thus, is not assessed properly. One of the reasons for his/her bad performance can be test anxiety. Before the examination, the student might get nervous, very anxious, and completely stressed out. Because of this, the student forgets everything that he/she has learned and does not do well in the examination. Another reason could be that the student has a slow writing speed. The student may know each and every answer, but because of his/her slow writing speed he/she does not do well in the examination. Because of the slow writing speed, the student does not get enough time and thus might either be unable to write all the answers or may not be able to write all the answers properly as he/she could have, which, ultimately, effects the performance in the examination in a negative manner. This becomes a problem for that individual, because despite being good enough, he/she is not assessed as a good student. This is inequitable from the student’s perspective. There is nothing wrong with the student. It is only that his/her personality does not suit that particular method of assessment.

On the other hand, there may be students who perform very well in written examinations, irrespective of their knowledge in the subject matter. There are times when a student, comparatively, may not be knowledgeable enough, but still he/she may perform well in it. This is because the student has the ability to write good answers. The answers written by him/her are exactly according to the requirements of the written examination. Here, again, it is only that the individual is good in writing in examinations that he/she performs well. Another student, as mentioned above, may have equal or more knowledge, but still does not perform well.

It is quite clear that performance in written examinations depends on the individual differences between students rather than knowledge and learning. A student suitable for written examinations does well in it and a student not suitable for written examinations does not do well in it, and is thus assessed as a good student and a bad student respectively. There are very few students who are both knowledgeable and good in writing in examinations. Similarly, there are very few students who are both less knowledgeable as well as do not perform well in written examinations.

The other method of assessing students academically is classroom discussions. In classroom discussions, students are given an opportunity to have discussions on a particular topic. This proves to be quite beneficial as it encourages teacher-student interaction and also an interaction among the students. The students are assessed on the basis of their performance in these classroom discussions. However, some students may not benefit from this method of assessment. It may, in fact, prove to be a hindrance for them. There are many students who might know a lot about the particular subject matter being discussed, but still may not perform well in it. Some students may not have the confidence to express their views and opinions. There are students who are shy and hesitate while speaking in a group. There may be other students who may have social anxiety, which means they get anxious in social situations. Due to this, they might hesitate to speak and thus be unable to actively participate in these discussions. Being unable to actively participate and hesitant to speak does in no way mean that they do not know anything. They may be quite intelligent and knowledgeable, but still do not perform well enough. This again leads them to be assessed as a below average student, which may not exactly be right.

But, there are also students who are very good in speaking and have very good communication skills. These students may be having a limited knowledge on the subject matter, but perform well in classroom discussions. Their good communication skills help them to perform well, despite their comparatively lesser knowledge. These individuals are assessed as good students on the basis of their performance and the fact that their personality very well suits the method of assessment. Like the written examinations, here also, there are very few students who are equally knowledgeable and good in communication skills. Likewise, there are very few students who are both less knowledgeable as well as do not perform well in group discussions.

This shows that the two most common and widely used methods of academic assessment are improper in their own right. Academic assessment should be done keeping in mind the individual differences between the students. One thing that can be done is that there should be such a method of assessment in which the individual differences do not play a part in assessing the student. Another thing that could be done is to assess each student by a different method. The method of academic assessment should be according to the personality of each student. Also, the student should be academically assessed only if he/she suits that particular method of assessment.

This may seem to be impractical and implausible, but it is definitely the right thing to do as far as academic assessment is concerned. Academic assessment is something that plays a very important role in a student’s life. The academic assessment of a student helps in motivating him/her and is also related to a student’s self-esteem. Apart from that, it also has a big part in configuring a student’s career orientation and other related goals in life.

A lot is at stake when it comes to academic assessment. Keeping this in mind, it seems to be very unfair for an individual who is assessed as a poor or below average student only because his/her personality does not suit the method of academic assessment. Each and every student has the right to be assessed in a proper manner. It is absolutely unreasonable that a student suffers only because of a drawback in a particular method of academic assessment.

5 comments:

Andrew Slominski said...

I've certainly found that getting good grades doesn't usually correlate with being intelligent. Current grading systems tend to advantage those who are best at memorization and have the best organizational skills. There's little room for ambition or opposition to common positions, which in the real world often translate to breakthrough success.

Here's an article from our site on education that discusses different programs like IB.
http://riseuprochester.org/2008/06/19/how-do-we-provide-equal-access-to-a-quality-education-for-all-students-regardless-of-their-family-background/

Also, I'd recommend reading Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto if you haven't yet.
http://www.amazon.com/Dumbing-Down-Curriculum-Compulsory-Schooling/dp/086571231X

Saif said...

@ Andrew
i agree with you to quite an extent ... i won't say that all the students who get good grades/marks are best at memorization and organizational skills, but yeah most of them definitely are ... and yes the current grading systems are more about memorization and organization rather than knowledge and academic ability ...

also, thanks for providing those links, i will surely check them out.

Anonymous said...

Oww Yea i hv slow writin speed !!! n it gives me hell ... well i guess ll jus hvta endure it !!!

but m very good at class discussions ... still dun score much ... n yea u wrote
"The method of academic assessment should be according to the personality of each student."

well dis is practically impossible ... n dis z india so ... hahahaha ... forget about it ! ... hahaha

Though it would be kinda awesome if it miraculously happens !!! :)


Divz

Saif said...

@ Divz
There can be ways of figuring out to do it ... saying that it's impossible and just leaving it as it is can never give solutions ... if educationists and psychologists think about it properly, then i'm sure that something can certainly be worked out ...

Anonymous said...

Its true that one should not be assessed solely on his/her academic achievement... Bt irrespective of what is appropriate or not, this is the something which is being followed...and despite of the fact that whether our personality suits the assessment criteria or not, we need to work hard to get good grades!

AJ

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