Formative Assessment as a Means of Improving Learner Achievement: Lessons from Selected Primary Schools of Lusaka, Zambia
Msango, Henry J
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Assessment is the systematic collection and analysis of information to improve student outcomes (Shute, 2008). Assessment takes a variety of meanings within education. It refers to the process an institution uses to grade its students’ work. It is usually in the form of some kind of standardised testing and is often compulsory. Many schools in Zambia carry out compulsory assessments usually monthly and at the end of the term as part of the processes of accountability. The reason for assessment either termly, weekly or monthely; test or mock examination is to improve institutional practices. This study was aimed at analysing classroom-based formative assessment that may identify needs and in the process shape teaching. Formative assessment contributes to learning through providing feedback. The study reviewed three primary schools in Lusaka. Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used. 90 Questionnaires were distributed to teachers, to accord them a chance to analyse their practices. In addition, in depth interviews were conducted with 12 teachers from each of the participating schools. Focus group discussions were conducted with learners. The findings demonstrated that in most cases where teachers used assessment results to improve teaching and learning, pupil performance greatly improved. However, in other cases, it was found that implementation of formative assessment was difficult due to huge class size and also a lack of educational materials. It was recommended that funding be improved in schools to enhance implementation of formative assessnment. In addition, there is need to reduce teacher pupil ratios in order to improve assessment processes.