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In order to train entrepreneurs who will be job creators versus Job seekers, professional universities must embrace a system of student assessment that is beyond the traditional Standardized Tests system or faculty-made tests. In addition, students of the 21st Century, an “information age” need a kind of higher – order thinking skills in terms of critical thinking, creativity, thinking for Understanding and Transfer and problem solving which Standardized Tests alone cannot totally capture. CUIB in the academic year 2013/2014 adopted a balanced approach to students’ assessment by allocating 50 % of the scores to Standardized tests at the end of the semester and 50 % to authentic assessment as advocated by John Dewey and other progressives in the 21st century. This approach is an improvement of the former which placed more emphasis on Standardized tests (60%) in theory but actually 80% in practice and 40 % in hands on assessment in theory but actually 20%. Such a system of evaluation cannot carry students to the Level that is required for authentic and effective professionals and entrepreneurs. In life almost everything we do requires using knowledge in some way, not just knowing it.
Fundamentally, authentic assessment is a way of capturing and somewhat formalizing the myriad of things that perceptive teachers and lecturers have always considered about what is happening to their students. In authentic assessment, the tasks students undertake are more practical, realistic, and challenging than traditional paper-and-pen tests. Students are engaged in more meaningful, context-bound activities, focusing their energies on “challenging, performance-oriented tasks that require analysis, integration of knowledge and invention. A number of scholars link authentic assessment with constructivism, a theory that views knowledge as something constructed by individual human beings, not merely discovered. Based on this theory, constructive teachers, the CUIB way or approach, are teachers who assist their students in resolving their cognitive conflicts and in exploring ideas and concepts in order to create knowledge. In CUIB for instance, dictating notes in class is prohibited and seminars have been organized to help faculty adopt the constructive approach to teaching, learning and assessment.
One of the positive aspects of authentic assessment is that it focuses on the tasks that students will encounter in the world outside of the university and also how students go about solving problems as well as the solutions they formulate. This paradigm shift in assessment is critical if we as a nation are to produce a new breed of Cameroonians who shall be able not only to achieve vision 2035 but shall remain relevant in an “information age” and in challenging the global socio-economic environment. Amongst the techniques that CUIB has highlighted in assessing students, two are worth noting: performance tasks and portfolios of student work.
In the first place, performance tasks are planned parts of regular classroom instruction. They are specific, concrete tasks that students perform as part of their course work. This involves designing and presenting projects, technical papers, reports, individual and group projects, field trips, problem-solving tasks, journals, computer simulations, role playing, reports based on reflective/critical thinking and team interviewing just to mention a few.
Another technique of assessing students that is central to the movement for authentic assessment is the use of Portfolios. The idea of a portfolio is derived from the world of art. Artists create collections of their work and display much about them both professionally and personally. Applied to education in general and to CUIB in particular, the creation of Portfolios suggests that what the student has learned is most authentically demonstrated by what the student creates over a period of time, not by tests given at specific times during the semester. The merits of Portfolios lie in the fact that they require the student to take responsibility for what he or she has learned. Given the responsibility that students must take for their own learning, it become incumbent upon them to demonstrate what they have learned and not simply wait for their lecturers to discover for themselves. Therefore, the use of student –initiated projects is an integral part of authentic assessment, and portfolios of student work are perhaps the most telling form of demonstration.
Portfolios can include finished work of students, essays, team or group activities, experiments, Teacher comments, Research notes, drafts, demonstration of skills, preliminary models and plans, logs and other records, written work, audiotapes, videotapes, photographs and other artifacts. It is important that students decide what to create and what to include in their portfolios taking into consideration what they have learned in the course. Lecturers are then called upon to assess not only the final product but the processes which students have followed in producing that product. In CUIB, Portfolios of Student Work and Presentation carry 10 marks of the total course score. In addition, a special week is assigned for students to present their Portfolios to the course instructor. Below is an overview of CUIB’s comprehensive system of assessment which includes: Class attendance and participation; 2 Quizzes per each semester; Base Group work and Presentation; Portfolio of Student Work and Presentation and end of Semester organized Standardized examination.