Importance of Alternative Assessment in Education

Why alternative assessment

While we have mostly familiar with the traditional methods of assessment in education, alternative assessments have slowly and steadily made headway. It is essential to understand the why or what of alternative assessments if we are to make sure that they are implemented well.

Most traditional assessments in education are based on a student’s capability to recall what they have learned in their classrooms using traditional teaching methods. It was observed that this form of assessment does not encourage a student to think or innovate. Nor did it prompt students to apply what they have learnt to a particular situation and come up with solutions.

In other words, students’ thinking capabilities did not get challenged and they did not bring out their best in terms of applying a learnt knowledge. This is what has led educationists and researchers to come up with alternative assessments. This is also the reason why alternative assessments have become important in today’s context of education.

Understanding alternative assessments

Alternative assessments are designed to understand what a student can do rather than what he or she knows. They are termed as authentic assessments that measure their proficiencies linked to their knowledge application. It brings out the proficiencies of students through designated projects, portfolios and activities. In many ways, alternative assessments are also said to be more inclusive.

Students are requested to do the following during the alternative assessments:

  • Complete an assigned task that is meaningful
  • Prove their proficiency through demonstrations
  • Bring out the knowledge gained

Pros of alternative assessment

What benefits do the students, educationists and the education system overall stand to gain through alternative assessments? The below list provides some insight into this question.

  • Students get an opportunity to apply the knowledge that they have learned and demonstrate it in a constructive way’ possible to come up with a solution to a problem.
  • They are encouraged to think, analyze, innovate and apply and their sense of reasoning stands to gain.
  • The students also improve on their communication abilities as they need to also explain their solutions and the logic behind it to the evaluators.
  • These tests are more realistic and bring in an understanding and the importance of the knowledge gained.
  • A student’s skills are also measured along with the knowledge making it more complete and correct.
  • Provides educators with a real time understanding on how teaching methods can be improved. This is so because they get to see how students have imbibed what they have learned and bring it out productively.
  • It is easier to grade a student overall like this rather than just scoring marks through shallow recalls.
  • It is much more transparent and fair as all students are given an equal opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in a way they find fit rather than constraining them.

Cons of alternative assessment

While the benefits are numerous, there are also a few disadvantages that need to be taken into account. They are:

  • The alternative assessments can prove to be time taking, costly, and involve a far more elaborate process than the traditional ones.
  • If not understood and implemented correctly, these can also become disastrous and disturb a child’s morale.
  • There is no scope to be objective in alternative assessments as there are no predefines answers and solutions against which to match and score. Subjective assessments can tend to be biased at times.

The disadvantages can be easily overcome if the objective of alternative assessments is understood and implemented in the right spirit. It is important to ensure that education systems are fair, inclusive, and transparent and also encourage open thinking. This is the reason why alternative assessments are here to stay and will continue to evolve.