The article attempts to present food for thought on how the assessment and examinations could be improved in the colleges and universities that requires training lecturers on examination practices as part of continuous professional development rather than assuming they know what they are supposed to do and to increase quality.
In line of the above, it is felt that, There appear to be some assortment and similarities in the review exercise in the different colleges and universities. For example, there is diversity in the weighting of viva voce grading from 20% to 100%. In one instance it is not clear what the weighting of the viva voce is but is significant for one to pass it for the award of a higher degree. There are differences in the composition of the viva voce panels. In some institutions there is oral defence for the viva voce but in others that is not the practice. There are also differences is the structure of the graduate programme in three patterns: Semesters for coursework and examinations including the project work are 1, 2, 3, and 4; Semesters for coursework and examinations are 1, 2, and 3, but the project work is done in semester 4; in post graduation and Semesters for coursework and examinations are 1, 2, but the project work is done in semesters 3, and 4. There first pattern seems to give higher completion rates and better quality of the project works. There are variations in the marking styles by the different internal examiners.
The similarities in institutions are based on the laxity of internal examiners with the students. The majority of the internal examiners are not trained examiners and so examine the way they were examined in their school days. The assessment results are not used to inform practice, but mainly for grading. One can safely say that all colleges and universities, without exception, unfortunately, take grading as the most important function of assessment and examinations. Subsequently, evaluating learning and examinations are often regarded as bedfellows. There is much concentration on the assessment of cognitive knowledge and often much concentration of testing the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy categories (Bloom, 1956).
The view of one senior professor is that in most institutions we have resorted to “certifying illiterates” who are neither able to write scientific papers nor able to make presentations using modern technology and are divorced from academic work and are allergic to reading books. Our systems have continued to produce non seasoned Masters Graduates who proceed to do their PhDs and later become lecturers in the same inbreeding system.
In all the universities the pattern of examination involves a combination of University Written Examinations, Continuous assignment Assessment, Project works, and Viva voce examination. In the different programmes such as the diploma, bachelors, masters and doctoral programmes there are different weights.There are differences in the modes of assessment and examination of students at the different colleges and universities. For example, in one university assessment is on the ratio of 50% written examination and 50% course work assessment and in others it is a 60% written examinations and 40% course work ratio.
- Bachelor’s Programmes: Most of the assessment and examinations in autonomous colleges use the ratio of 70% written examination and 30% course work assessment, while others use 60% written examination and 40% course work assessment ratio.
- Master’s Programmes: In any university the Master’s programme consists of 64 taught subjects and Course work, project work for full time students; where the second year is fully devoted to the preparation of a Project work; or under exceptional circumstances a report only may be taken either on full time or part-time basis. Assessment is on the ratio of 50% written examination and 50% course work assessment. Other universities use the ratio of 70% written examination and 30% course work assessment, while use 60% written examination and 40% course work assessment. Postgraduate programmes combine university examinations, coursework and research.
Doctoral degrees are awarded in two formats: The Postgraduate programmes combine university examinations, coursework and research in a taught format. The other format is an award by research only.
Having discussed the current examination practices in higher education, an attempt was made to examine various attributes of tests and exams.
Characteristics of Good Tests and Examinations
Quality examination and assessment practice require that the tests and examinations that are used posses the following characteristics (1) validity, (2) reliability, (3) discrimination, (4) comparability, and (5) backwash effect.
Validity refers to the extent to which the test measures what it is intended to measure. Does the test measure what it is supposed to measure? The content validity is a measure of the degree to which the assessment includes a representative sample of what was taught based on the objectives of the course.
The validity of a test can be improved by aligning the assessment with the course objectives, the course content and the teaching approaches. Strict administration of the assessment to avoid malpractices and the use of just scoring approach improves on the reliability of the examination.
Reliability or consistency measure the ability of the test to provide similar results for a group of students when given at different times, or if marked by one or more examiners on one or more occasions in other words it is a measure of consistency of the test across examiners, administrations and students. Does the test produce consistent results? Reliability is affected by some controllable factors such as the test items, the marking scheme and the examination administration conditions. It can also be affected by uncontrollable factors such as the candidate’s state of health, the candidate’s disposition and the examiner’s frame of mind during marking. Thus the level of reliability of a test is dependent on the test format, the quality of the test administration and the process of marking of the scripts.
“A test can not be valid unless it is reliable but it can be reliable but not valid” An un-reliable assessment cannot be valid.
There are factors controllable such as examination conditions, the marking guide and the test items that can affect reliability. However, there are also some uncontrollable factors such as the student’s state of health, the examiner’s frame of mind while marking and the student’s disposition.
The reliability of the assessment can be improved suitable instructions and clarity of the questions and appropriate timing of the examinations. There should be a marking guide of high quality that is objective and using trained examiners
A discriminating test gives marks that are normally distributed but not positively or negatively skewed. The questions must not be too easy or too hard.
The comparability of tests is the ability for the tests to accurately differentiate between students in terms of their individual differences.
These are the good and bad effects of the examinations on the curriculum, the teachers and the students and on learning. Students often prioritise and learn what they think they will be examined on. Subsequently assessment should be aligned to what students should learn such that the curriculum is reflected in the assessment. Examinations are capable of producing both good and bad consequences upon the institution, its teachers and its students referred to as backwash effect, as outlined briefly in the following Table. Unfortunately, the impact of examinations upon the institutional development is an issue upon with too little scholarship has been devoted to.
Dr.R.SRINIVASAN is a Post graduate in commerce and Management. He received his doctoral degree from Alagappa University in 1997. He is now Working as an ASSOCIATE PROFESSORin Post graduate and Research Department of Corporate Secretaryship at Bharathidasan Government College for Women (Autonomous), Pondicherry University, Puducherry.He currently teaches Accounting ,financial management and Research Methodology Subjects. Before Joining BGCW, he was teaching in SNR College, Coimbatore, Sindhi college, Chennai& T.S.Narayanasamy College, Chennai for eight years. He was with the industry for a short term at Salzar Electronics Pvt. Ltd, Coimbatore. He has about 20 years of teaching experience and having research experience of 15 years. His interests are in Accounting and finance, Capital Market, Quantitative Methods. He underwent the Faculty Development Programme at Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad during 2000-01. He has presented 20 papers in national and international conferences and has published twenty papers in the areas of Finance and Human resource Management in National Journals. Co-authored a book titled, ‘Investors Protection, published by Raj Publications, New Delhi He has delivered lectures in contemporary finance topics at Pondicherry University. He is involved in consultancy projects for Godrej Saralee, Chennai in the areas of Statistical Applications. He has supervised a number of research projects in the area of corporate finance and Human Resource Management. He is the Board of examiner in corporate Secretaryship and Management for the past two decades.