Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Need for Self-Evaluation by teachers in India

Self-evaluation plays an important role for every learner. It is as important as getting a feed-back from every nerve and muscle while doing a stunt! The trapeze artist needs a lot of information while doing his stunt, whether it is the wind on his face, or his sense of balance, or what his eyes tell him! Psycho-motor functions require constant feed-back whether the act includes a simple function of walking, or, perhaps even walking the tight-rope! So, then, what about higher-order learning skills? What about preparing for the board exams, shouldn’t the learner be trained in the skills of self-evaluation? What if feedback on performance and preparedness for an important exam comes from the student himself? How would it be if the student evaluates himself, judges his own capabilities? Won’t he or she be responsible for his or her own performance? The learner would at least learn how much more effort would be required to achieve the desired goal! We always blame others for giving us poor marks. Would we blame ourselves for the marks that we award to ourselves? Would we  blame ourselves for awarding ourselves poor marks  like we blame the examiner for awarding poor marks to us? We are very happy to shift blame on others for our short comings, but then what would happen if we were to evaluate ourselves? The New Testament very clearly states, cast out the beam from your eyes before removing the speck from another’s eyes! This statement very clearly speaks volumes about the need to introspect, and meditate, to identify our own weaknesses before attempting to criticise others.
If exams are meant to assess one’s grasp or understanding of important principles rules, and theorems,   then shouldn’t assessment tools include tools for self-evaluation? A recent experiment in Bhopal attempts to expose students to the concept of self evaluation. I quote below an article appearing in the Financial Express website as follows:
“Bhopal: In a novel experiment beginning Wednesday, about eight lakh
students of Class X and XII of government schools will appear for
their half-yearly examination and evaluate their own answer sheets
after few hours.
After solving the three-hour long question paper they will break for a
well-deserved lunch of 30 minutes. The next three hours will be
devoted to writing down the model answers and the evaluation scheme
that will tell them how to give numbers.
Madhya Pradesh does not boast of a good academic tradition but it has
given the state an excuse to undertake experiments like these to
improve the quality of education and students.
The latest one stems from the students’ inability to score highly,
which becomes a handicap when they compete with students from other
states. For example, very few board toppers from MP score more than 90
per cent, the cut-off benchmark set by many institutions....
“The self-evaluation experiment will make students aware where they
score less after weighing their own answers with the model ones and
knowing how the marks are given,” said P R Tiwari, the state Academic
Coordinator of Directorate of Public Instructions.
The teachers will carry home the answer sheets evaluated by students,
re-evaluate them, and share the marks with students. Of course, the
marks given by the teachers will be final. While students will have to
use red ink to give marks, teachers will use green ink.
The exercise will be repeated thrice before the board examination by
which time, the authorities hope, students would have faced their
demons about examination and conquered them.
The experiment has attracted mild criticism from the teachers’ body on
the ground that students will have to spend a long time in school on
the day of examination and will leave them with no time to...prepare
for the next paper. The experiment was not without its share of
teething troubles. The first question paper emailed to principals
across the state leaked in Jabalpur two days ago and was available in
the market for a mere Rs 40....”.
This is a novel experiment for education in India, which attempts to highlight the importance of self-evaluation. Self-evaluation helps do away with the role of an external examiner, thus doing away with the excuse of fixing the blame for poor marks on an examiner who might have been in a bad mood while assessing the answer scripts, or an examiner who might have been too strict in his or her evaluation! Today, we need effective tools for self-assessment and self –evaluation. It might be argued that these tools already exist in the form of sample question papers in refreshers and help books, the so called, ubiquitous, “Guides!” But then, often these sample question papers are not standardised, and their difficulty levels might be suspect!

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