Changing assessment practices in Pakistani schools : A case of AKU-EB middle school assessment framework
Assessment is inevitably linked with the processes of teaching and learning. Assessment for learning (AFL), the focus of this paper, is germane to students’ learning in that the purpose of AFL is to help students improve their learning in light of the feedback they receive on the quality of their work. Educational research indicats that AFL is a viable alternative to traditional examination system at school level, and in case of high stake public examinations, it helps students perform better at summative examinations, especially when both formative and summative assessments are used in tandem (Assessment Reform Group, various papers; The State of Queensland, Department of Education, (n.d, online); Klenowski, 2002; Elwood and Klenowski (2000).
The Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) has introduced AFL in its Middle School Assessment Framework (MSAF, grades VI to VIII through two modes of assessment: Progress tests and project portfolio. Being formative, these are offered as diagnostic tools to support students in their educational processes so that they are better prepared for their current and future learning. The focus of this paper is on project portfolios and their assessment. Adopting a multi-disciplinary inquiry approach, students are engaged in collaborative as well as independent learning and reflection. Assessment, therefore, is built in as a continuous process. The emphasis is on the process of learning leading to a final product and reported in the form of competencies achieved in a ‘personal achievement record’, based on a number of assessment processes.
The paper presents a critique of conventional school assessment based on marks and grades and suggests that portfolio assessment is a viable alternative to be used in schools in Pakistan at least up to Middle school level, based on descriptive remarks, feedback, and peer and self-assessment in developing critical competencies in students. Since the framework has only been introduced last year, its results are not yet available to gauge its impact on learning.