Monday, December 8, 2008

The Critical Key of Curriculum Assessment: The Assessor

As educators, we all know that one of the most difficult areas in curriculum design is assessment. Relying on assessment tools alone cannot justify that the assessment is just. The last decision still resides on the assessor. Furthermore, the assessment tool has its own limit. The bottom line, the assessment tool cannot assess everything, or in other words only some parts of the whole that can be assessed. In the era of holistic approach in education, assessing only some parts will only lead to partial judgment. The thing is, when an educator assesses often the final judgment is interpreted as representing the whole.

The traditional model of education often only assesses the mind. Moreover, only certain functions of the mind, which according to Howard Gardner, only the logico-mathematic, analytic, and language intelligences that are assessed. This partial assessment is being challenged today although its roots have been so deep in our educational system. Assessing only some parts of the mind and producing a judgment of the whole is unjust. Furthermore, the authority of assessment is given only to the teacher. The teacher as the sole assessor is definitely violating the code of justice, in which a testimony of one is not valid. We haven’t touched the subjectivity vs. objectivity part in this matter. Isn’t it obvious that students, children especially, are extremely vulnerable to being mistreated? Isn’t partial judgment that misrepresents itself as holistic judgment is a kind of injustice to students? Isn’t invalid testimony of the assessor that is considered as valid assessment also an injustice? In light of this understanding, perhaps we need to have a better assessment system than what the traditional has to offer.

Problem-Based Learning model offers yet quite a different approach on assessment. PBL divides the authority of assessment to three assessors: the teacher, the peer, and the self. It is an important improvement from the traditional approach. The assessment in PBL provides check and balance of the assessment given by the three assessors. Thus, this approach makes room for further investigation in case there is imbalance in the assessment. The spirit is to find out the truth. Truth is essential for the development of a learner as truth is essential for learning. If this approach is used properly and not only some parts of the mind that are assessed and then considered a valid assessment of the whole person, then the final assessment will be way better than the traditional one. However, there is one other matter that many have neglected, which is the assessor’s qualification to make sound judgment.

Obviously, to prepare and equip those that will become assessor is another hard work. Let me focus on the teacher first. Now, does teacher’s college teach their students on how to be an assessor? If the teacher is going to assess the students’ characters, then isn’t it imperative that the teacher possesses good characters? If the teacher is going to assess the students’ scholarly attitude, then isn’t it imperative that the teacher is an excellent scholar? Unless of course the assessment is only focused on the possession of information or ability to do a certain task, then teachers as assessors only need to master the information and the skills. However, as Rousseau has declared, the noble goal of education is to educate humans to be human, therefore education cannot focus only on the accumulation of information or the mastering of certain skills. In Rousseau’s mind, to be human does not mean any kind of human, but a certain kind, which is good human. If the teacher is going to assess how the student becomes human, then isn’t it imperative that the teacher has already lived as one?

Therefore, to create a good curriculum assessment system, one cannot neglect the task to prepare and equip the assessor. Reducing the role of the assessor to just assessing the accumulation of information and the mastery of some set of skills is reducing the importance of education in educating humans to be human. Whoever designs a curriculum assessment system must have holistic education in mind or we are reducing ourselves to be less than human.

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