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Mashooque Ali SamoAssessment is an integral component of teaching and learning process. It is the process of thinking about the targets and improving tools to achieve them. It also helps to decide about the position of learner and make teaching more affective time to time. According to Assessment Reforms Group (1999), “What is distinctive about assessment for learning is that information gained is used by both the learners and their teachers to help to decide where the learners are, where they need to go and how to get there” (p. 39). Assessment is a very broad term; it covers all the aspects of teaching and learning process. Thus it is more concerned with the holistic development of a child, as his or her physical, social, aesthetic, and emotional qualities. Researches show that assessment of children’s development should start before starting formal education, which provides a base for future education of the child. Baseline Assessment has a great importance in educational system. In this paper I am going to describe baseline assessment, its importance, purposes and factors affecting baseline assessment.
WHAT IS BASELINE ASSESSMENT?Learning is a life long process, which starts from child’s birth, so a child has so many experiences before joining formal education which plays a vital role in his/her learning process. Baseline assessment measures children’s knowledge, understanding, and skills before joining school. Kyriakides (1999) gives the definition of baseline assessment, “the assessment that assesses children’s knowledge, language, math, skills, and attitude before joining primary school is baseline assessment” (p.375). These are basic knowledge and skills which helps learners in building new knowledge. After going through the articles I concluded that baseline assessment is a type of assessment in which children are assessed before joining school, for understanding and assessing their current performance to improve their future performance. Cleave and Brown (1991) point out to the importance of assessment of children before their joining schools, they say, “…children come into school with a wide range of experiences and abilities …the children should be assessed on admission to school” (p. 119). I agree with their point of view, that children have so many experiences and information about their surroundings which they get from their culture, language, and context. Their pervious knowledge help them in building new knowledge, so teachers need to know children’s existing position and baseline line assessment does this.
WHAT TO ASSESS IN BASELINE ASSESSMENT?According to Samson and Smees (1998), “baseline assessment clearly provides opportunities to identify individual pupils’ strengths and weaknesses” (p. 402). In addition, they suggest that baseline assessment should be in writing, mathematics, sounds and drawing. I think these are the important areas for baseline assessment but some more areas should be included, as Kyriakides (1999) adds some areas such as skills, and attitude. I feel that information about these areas of children development help teachers in facilitating the teaching and learning process better. Kyriakides (2002, p.811) focuses on mathematics, and gave an example of baseline assessment of Cyprus curriculum, in which the following content area of mathematics is covered 1. Pre-Mathematical concepts 2. Enumeration and number sense 4. Pattern sense 5. Geometrical reasoning 6. Measurement He includes some challenging concepts for assessing children’s mathematical understanding. I do not agree with the concepts of math provided by Kyriakides (2002) for baseline assessment because of some concerns such as it can not be applicable in all contexts especially in Pakistani context. It is very difficult for most of the parents to give their children understanding about these concepts at home because of illiteracy and other social problems. Further more, challenging questions can generate fear of assessment among children at their early stage of schooling. Simple and basic mathematical concepts should be assessed at this stage. HOW TO ASSESS IN BASELINE ASSESSMENT Baseline Assessment can take through, test, check list, and discussion. Educational Research Unit (1998) suggested that any assessment frame work is likely to be child development criteria, such as general, cognitive, personal and social development. The same research suggests that in baseline assessment children should be assessed against the similar broad range of curriculum criteria (p. 4). Further they recommended that assessor should focus on following questions: q What children do? q What children say? q Children interaction with others? q How children respond to others? q The context in which children learn. q New achievements These are very good questions and can be considered when preparing questions to assess children’s understanding. PURPOSES OF BASELINE ASSESSMENT Educational Research Unit (1996) identify some main purposes of Baseline Assessment as it helps to record aspects of children’s assessment, it diagnoses learning difficulties, and identifies children’s special needs. Samson and Smees (1998) give some purposes for the Baseline Assessment, which also show its importance, they gave four main purposes of Baseline Assessment 1. To assist schools in identifying pupils ‘at risk’ so that action can be taken early to address needs. 2. To enable the authorities to distribute a proportion of school funding of the basic needs. 3. To allow for over all monitoring of pupil progress in schools. 4. If desired to provide a baseline against which future performance can be judged (p. 390). From these purposes I conclude that baseline assessment is actually very important for both students as well as for teachers. It helps students in their future formal education, and teachers can get opportunity to understand the students and their style of learning. By using this information teachers can facilitate students in their conceptual understanding and they can reduce their learning problems.
PredictionBaseline Assessment helps to predict students’ performance as Schagen, Sainsbury, and Strand (1999) point out, “the main purpose of the baseline assessment is predicting performance at later educational stage” (p.348). Furthermore, they believe that baseline assessment system gives accurate prediction of later performance. I agree with their statement because prediction about students’ future development plays a vital role in planning and policy making. Kyriakides (2002), also gives some important results about the prediction as he says that, “schools may decide to have a strategy for finding out about pupils on entry not only for identifying what pupils entering the primary school know and what they do not know but also for establishing a basis for measuring future Progress” (p. 808). Baseline Assessment for Effective Teaching Baseline Assessment provides teachers a lot of information about pupil, which leads teachers to an effective teaching. Lindsay, Lews (2003) investigated that Baseline Assessment is used for range of purposes as reporting to parents, planning, teaching, and identifying students’ needs. Effective teaching needs information about all aspects, which help teachers to understand pupils thus they can make a better plan for teaching and learning process. Kyriakides (2002) also indicates the uses of Baseline Assessment for Effective teaching. He says “there is a broad consensus that fair indicators of school performance need to measure the contribution of teaching to progress made by pupils at school” (p.809). I assume it as an important purpose of Baseline Assessment. By applying the outcome of baseline assessment teachers can make a good and learning friendly environment by giving preference to students’ needs indicated by the results of baseline assessment. Baseline Assessment Provide Information about Pupils’ Knowledge and Skill Baseline assessment produce information about what children know and what they do not know in order to help teachers to decide, how to identify and meet children’s learning needs and how to use teaching time and their resources effectively. Further more, it can use for selection (summative purpose) and teacher can identify pupils with learning difficulties (Kyriakides 1999, p. 358). The main purpose of baseline assessment is to know the knowledge and skill of pupils before entering schools. For example Kyriakides (1999) in his research ‘the skill and knowledge of Mathematics of Cypriot pupils’ found “More than 75% of the pupils entering primary school were familiar with the meaning of early mathematics concepts, more than 80% recognize and named the colors. This information helps teachers to know about the knowledge, skills and needs of pupils, to take actions for future planning. For example Kyriakides (2002) concluded his research, which conducted in groups; he compares the result of two groups and found that the first group successfully completed activities while other group did not achieve the aims which had to do with reading and writing numbers and with the names of shapes. He found that the pupils of first group had experiences in relation to more formal aspects of mathematics curriculum (e.g. Knowledge and writing symbols) where as the pupils of second group had achieved the aims which had to do with the development of mathematical skill. For this reason he calls pupils of the first group “Need skills development” and pupils of second group “Needing formal Knowledge” (p. 817).
Baseline Assessment and Policy MakingEducational policies play a vital role in teaching and learning process. Polices are made on the basis of assessment and research. The results of Baseline Assessment help policy makers to make a good policy and curriculum. Wilkson et. al (2001) gave some purposes of base line assessment in his research and says that “baseline assessment provide information for schools and local authorities for management purposes to inform policy makers at raising level of achievements, school improvement and school effectiveness” (p. 172). As we know Baseline Assessment provides information about the needs of the children so policy maker can know about the needs of children through it and make policies to meet these needs. FACTORS, THAT AFFECT BASELINE ASSESSMENT Research shows that there are so many factors affecting Baseline Assessment Kyriakides (2002), and Tyms, Merrell, and Henderson (2000) found some important and key factors which affect Baseline Assessment for example age, sex, pre-school experience, and language. Children’s Age: children’s age affect Baseline Assessment. It is reported by Tymm et al. (2000), that older students get more marks than younger children (p. 117). Schagen, Sainsbury and Strand (1999) also found the affect of age on Baseline Assessment. Tyms, Merrell, and Henderson (2000) investigate, “older pupils consistently higher than younger pupils on all assessment as would be expected” (p. 123). I have the same opinion and experience. I think older pupils have more experience than younger children before joining the school. But in my own context the situation is slightly different because mostly students experiences depends upon the home environment such as literate or illiterate family back ground, and social and economical position of their parents, so results will be affected due to these factors. Furthermore the researchers did not clarify that whether they made same task for both type of students or they made some challenging tasks for older pupils. If they made same tasks for both categories then what is the validity/reliability of the findings? Gender Difference: sex factor is also found in the researches which affect on Baseline Assessment Tyms, Merrell, and Henderson (2000) investigated gender difference issue which affect on Baseline Assessment, he says “Sex factor especially in mathematics hardly differed the mathematics test but for reading the girls seemed to be higher rated than boys” (p. 125). Wikinson et al. (2001) also investigated the gender difference and reported that though there was a tendency for the girls to be more highly rated than boys for most aspects, he also found that boys scored more in mathematics than girls. It is also observed in my own context that boys are seen more interested in math while girls have lack of interest in math. In our context most of the female prefer biology or chemistry rather then math as their career. Time factor: timing of the assessment is also an important factor, which affect Baseline Assessment. Lindsey and Lewis (2003) interviewed many teachers about the timing of baseline assessment, he found that “the majority of teachers felt that assessment should begin as soon as possible after children start schools some teachers argued that it was more appropriate to wait for two or three weeks in order to allow the child to settle into school routines” (p. 163) I agree with their statement because majority of the younger children feel hesitation in replying to any new or strange person. So it is good to let them have some time to familiarize with the environment and settle down before baseline assessment. Parents Involvement: Parents’ involvement is also reported by the researchers to have effect Baseline Assessment as, Lindsay and Lews (2003, p.126) indicate parents involvement in baseline assessment process. They also took interviews of parents about baseline assessment and reported that “33% of parents felt that baseline assessment a had made it more difficult for children to settle in school and 28% felt that baseline assessment had put undue pressure on child which may suggest that perception are improving” (p. 163). BASELINE ASSESSMENT IN PAKISTAN There is no formal Baseline Assessment for checking children’s understanding, knowledge and attitude before joining formal education in educational system in Pakistan. We can see an informal assessment in some private schools. Researchers indicate that there is a great importance of baseline assessment not only in teaching and learning process, but also it has a great influence in the policy making especially in pre-primary and primary education. Kyriakides (1999) also supports this idea by saying “baseline assessment may help to evaluate pre-primary education” (p. 809). Recently Government of Pakistan has started pre-primary education in Government primary schools. So for effective preprimary education baseline assessment should be developed because we have different cultures, and social classes in Pakistan thus children’s needs are different from one context to the other. The needs can be discovered by Baseline Assessment. I made the following recommendations to make Baseline Assessment scheme in Pakistan: q Baseline Assessment policy should be developed for knowing students needs. For this purpose the assessment criteria should be designed in such a way that children’s needs should be detected. q The scheme should cover all curriculum areas because the curriculum developers can get information to plan better. q Government should arrange trainings for the assessors so we can get good out comes. q Parents should be informed about their children’s outcomes. IMPLICATIONS · Children usually start their formal education in the age of 5 years in primary school. They spend five very important years of their age without formal schooling. In first five years they learnt a lot from their parents, relatives, nature, and surroundings. They come to school having many ideas, knowledge and skills about the world around them. As teachers we shall elicit children’s prior knowledge and understanding before formal teaching and learning. · Effective teaching enhances students learning and understanding, assessment plays a vital role in effective teaching. Baseline assessment provides all required information about student, which helps us teachers in effective teaching and good planning. · Individual needs are key characteristics in learning and understanding; pupil’s individual needs can be investigated through the baseline assessment, which helps teachers and policy makers in developing plan. The collected information also helps in their later assessment and performances. · Parents have a great influence in students learning process. Sharing the results of baseline assessment with parents, will help them to know the needs of their child so they can help their children in their learning. · Summative assessment does not give complete information about children’s progress. Baseline assessment is a formative assessment so it gives awareness about the importance of on going assessment in teaching and learning process. CONCLUSION In Baseline Assessment assessor assesses children’s knowledge, skills, attitude, language, math, and drawing before joining formal education. Further more, Baseline Assessment provides information about children’s individual needs such as their learning style, and their interest. Baseline Assessment is used for so many purposes. Through this assessment teachers can refine their teaching, policy makers can make better polices, and it helps parents in order to know their children to help them in their education. The main purpose of Baseline Assessment is to provide base for later assessment of the child’s performance. There are so many factors affecting Baseline Assessment such as age, gender, parental involvement, and timing. This importance of the Baseline Assessment, made many countries to develop related polices in their educational system. Pakistan is a developing country and spends a lot of money on education sector. So for the betterment of primary education, the government of Pakistan should start working on and adopting the Baseline Assessment. REFERENCES Assessment Reforms Group (1999).Assessment for learning: 10 principles. Cambridge: University of Cambridge faculty of education. Cleave, S and Brown, S (1991). What do We Know about Teaching Young Children? Retrieved on December 22, 2004 from www.bera.ac.uk/publicatiopn Educational Research Unit.(1998).Baseline Assessment Literature Review and Pre school, Recording Keeping in Scotland (ISSN 0969- 613X).Scotland: Author. Kyriakides,L.(2002). A research-based model for the development of policy on baseline assessment. British Educational Research Journal, 28 (6) Kyriakides.L.(1999), Research on Baseline Assessment in Mathematics. Retrieved on December 22, 2003 from http://juno.ingentaselect.com/vl=6311319/cl=85/nw=1/fm=docpdf/rpsv/cw/carfax/0969594x/v6n3/s4/p357 Lindsay, G., Lewis, A.(2003). An evaluation of the use of Accredited Baseline Assessment Schemes in England. Retrieved on December 12, 2003, from http://nwefirstsearch.oclc.org/WebZ/FTFETCH?sessionid=sp04sw05-42905-dq322- Peter. T., Christine. M., Brian. H. (2000). Baseline Assessment and Progress during the First Three Years at School. Educational Research and Evaluation 6, no. 2 (2000): 105-129 Sammons, P. & Smees, R. (1998).Measuring pupils progress at Key Stage 1: using baseline assessment to investigate value added. School Leader ship & Management 18(3) pp.389-407 Schagen,I., Sainsbury, M., & Strand, S. (1999).Statistical Aspects of Baseline Assessment and its Relationships to key stage 1 assessment. Retrieved on December 12, 2003, from http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org/web/Ftfetch?Sessionid+sp04sw05-dqj6q322- Tymms, P., Merrell, C., & Henderson, B. (2000).Baseline assessment and progress during the first three years at school. Retrieved on December 12, 2003, from http://newfirstsearch.colc.org/WebZ/FTFETCH?asessionid=sp04s05-42905-dqj6q322- Wilkinson,J.E.,Johnson.S., Watt,J.,Napuk,A.,& Normand,B. (2001).Baseline Assessment in Scotland: Analysis of Pilate data. Retrieved on December 12, 2003,from http://newfirst search.oclc.org/WbBZ/FTEFTCH?
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