Continuous Assessment (CA) is a form of marking that does not measure performance purely on the final exam results. It is at least in theory, designed to measure a student’s overall learning that may not be properly reflected in a single 2-hour exam. In Bhutan CA is used in all grades up to class 10. Unfortunately, CA can be misused or used improperly and not achieve the intended purpose.

Measuring performance is a challenge fraught with risks. It lends itself to manipulation very easily when subject teachers can assign their own marks for CA.

The class X board exam (BCSE) is supposed to be a final indicator of the levels of student learning for Bhutan’s basic education. Unfortunately, thanks at least in part to CA, the actual finding is not so clear. More students pass than actually deserve to because CA is misused by many teachers to simply give away free marks. Teachers tend to do this because they and their schools, are often assessed by the authorities and the public, on the all important ‘pass percentage’.

While the authorities figure out how to solve this obvious problem, it might be a good idea temporarily do away with CA and deal with the reality of the status of learning among the students. This will surely result in a spike in failure rates, but that is the reality. There is no point passing students who do not deserve to. The system of CA has become corrupted into a system of ‘kicking upstairs’ and this really serves no one.

Types of Continuous Assessment

Continuous assessment is more likely to be formative, process-oriented, informal, internal, learner-involved, and/or self-referenced in nature. It can take the form of daily work (e.g. essays, quizzes, presentation and participation in class), projects/term papers and practical work (e.g. laboratory work, fieldwork, clinical procedures, drawing practice).

Daily work

  • Pros
    • This is likely to be the most sustained means of assessment, and in providing relatively prompt feedback, it serves to reinforce or correct learned responses.
    • It assists in pacing learning. If a course is broken into units, each assessed on completion, students have regular feedback of what they have mastered (and what they need additional work on).
    • As the most extensive means of assessment, it has a sustained impact on and improves the quality of student learning.
  • Cons and possible solutions
    • As it is fairly labour intensive for both students and the teacher, decisions will have to be taken regarding an optimum level. Too many assignments may result in justice not being done to them all. It is probably better to have regular but smaller assignments than large-scale but infrequent ones. Experience indicates that giving students more feedback results in faster learning and less confusion.
    • Vigilance will be needed to ensure that plagiarism and other forms of cheating do not go undetected. Make clear to students that a very serious view will be taken of such offences. Point out that it is not only dishonest but short-sighted to abuse the important learning experience involved in preparing an assignment. As a countercheck, arrange for some of the assignments to be done and completed in class.

Projects/term papers

  • Pros
    They provide a measure of the student’s ability to:

    • collect, select and use data/information;
    • undertake independent study and enquiry;
    • plan and follow through a fairly large-scaled piece of work;
    • integrate theory and practice;
    • work with others, when the exercise involves teamwork.
  • Cons and possible solutions
    • It is difficult to ensure parity in the projects. Careful coordination in the setting of topics is important.
    • Project work may lead to over-involvement at the expense of other aspects of the course. Tutors/supervisors should therefore guide students in defining tasks and in being selective with regards to content.
    • It may be difficult to maintain consistency and fairness in marking across a range of projects/papers. To mitigate this, project objectives should be clearly identified and some broad criteria for assessment set. Wherever possible, two examiners should be used.
    • Students may receive unequal supervision and this may affect the quality of the completed project. Agreement should be made among tutors/supervisors to standardise the degree of direction and guidance to be given to students. Criteria for evaluation should be available to students in advance as these provide direction.
    • It may be difficult to assign individual marks to students working in a group project, but this may be resolved by orally examining each student to establish their knowledge of the subject and the degree of his/her contribution. Alternatively, have students work on projects individually.

Practical work

  • Pros
    It provides a measure of:

    • ability to relate theory to practice;
    • students’ techniques, procedures and practical skills.
  • Cons and possible solutions
    • The contribution to a student’s final grade is low in relation to the amount of work involved. To give it due value, emphasise its importance as a learning process.
    • Too much emphasis may be given to the written report without sufficient consideration to the actual process and performance. To avoid this, instructors should scrutinise practical work closely and question students about their organisation of the work and their findings.
    • The theoretical and practical aspects of the course may not be sufficiently linked. Obviously, it is important to communicate frequently with those involved in managing different parts of the course.


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