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Background to the Study

Academic assessment is vital in teaching and learning process and it provides the necessary feedback required in order to evaluate effectively the outcome of educational efforts and objectives.  The assessment of learning outcomes provides objective evidences necessary in the decision-making process in education. As correctly pointed out in Bassavanthappa (2009), good measurement resulting in accurate data is the foundation of sound decision making.  There is little doubt among educational practitioners about the special value of educational assessment as a basic condition for effective learning and decision making.  In the classroom, assessment aims at determining the extent of students’ mastery or competence over a body of knowledge and skills in a subject (Airasian, 2006).


Assessment can be defined as the process of gathering data and fashioning them into interpretable form for decision – making. It involves collecting data with a view to making value judgement about the quality of a person, object, group or event. (Ajuonuma, 2007).  Educational assessment may generally be used for formative or summative purposes. Formative assessment (continuous assessment) is designed to help the teacher make effective teaching and learning decisions throughout the period of teaching.  It provides continuous information or feedback to the teacher as well as to the student about their relative performance in teaching and learning.  The information is then used for improving the quality of instruction (Clarance, 2009).  The summative type of assessment involves an overall assessment of learning outcomes for certification, placement, promotion or decision concerning the worth of an educational programme.


The concept of continuous assessment is not new in education in developed countries where continuous assessment is in-built into the teaching and learning as posited by Izard (2007).  Moreover, previous studies on the subject have revealed that in the international scenarios, formative assessment had already been practised in schools including Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland and Scotland (Adebowale & Alao, 2008).

The continuous assessment grading system requires the assessment of the change in behaviours, in terms of cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. The students are evaluated from one stage to the other through tests, assignments, projects and other school activities. At the end of the term or year these tests are used for determining the performance or achievement of the students in a particular course of study or subject.


Race (2007) equally stressed that continuous assessment is more useful to the students, since it provides them with on-going feedback on their performance, helps them to become more self-critical, and encourages them to attempt to master material as they actually work through a course or course unit rather than leaving the real learning process to the very end.  It is also much fairer, in that it allows students to demonstrate their ability and development on an on-going basis, so that the student who works steadily and consistently well but is not very good at sitting for examinations is not placed at a disadvantage compared with the lazy student who does the minimum amount of work needed to pass such examinations, or the student who is skilful at the “examination game” but otherwise not particularly competent.

However, for several years, the educational systems of many African nations were dominated by the one-short summative type of assessment, (Alausa, 2005).

The examination system, up to the time of the introduction of continuous assessment was also based purely on the single summative assessment (Fafunwa, 2004). Students, teachers, parents and even textbooks were focused more on the single examination. Students were coached to pass examinations so as to move up the education ladder.  It was to counter the problems of the single summative examination that suggestions for a broader approach to assessment, which would be flexible and also provide valid and reliable results, were made.

According to Ball (2004), an understanding of intentions embedded in policy is a factor for its effective implementation.  The extent to which teachers assess and deal with strength and weaknesses manifested by learners when responding to assessment tasks reveal their understanding of what continuous assessment is all about.

Reineke (2007) asserts that the aim of continuous assessment is no longer to improve test scores, but to find ways in which assessment impacts on the way teaching occured and learners learnt, so as to contribute to improvement in the education system.  According to Cochran-Smith (2004), this cannot happen without teachers’ knowledge of continuous assessment. It is when people know about innovation they are to adopt that they are motivated to embrace its practices.


Through the National Policy on Education (NPE), the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN, 2004) stated that educational assessment at all levels of education would be liberalized by basing them in whole or part on continuous assessment. This recommendation was based on some deficiencies identified in the nation’s way of assessing students.  The traditional system of assessment concentrated only on the cognitive domain, with little or no attempt made to assess the affective and psychomotor domains. This system encourages students to study only during the period of examination. This is done by the memorization of facts, which are forgotten after the examination (FGN, 2004 and Obe, 2005).  It was based on these reasons and more that the committee set for National Policy on Education in 1971, recommended the use of continuous assessment in Nigeria Educational System.  In pursuance of this policy statement, National University Commission (NUC) allotted 30% and 70% of the total score of the university students to continuous assessment and end of semester examination respectively.


The Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria also approved the practice of Continuous Assessment as one of the general method of evaluation of student nurses (Okafor and Iweze, 2012).  The continuous assessment shall constitute 30% of the total marks obtained by the student during the programme while the final examination shall constitute 70%.

Comments have been made on continuous assessment since its introduction in Nigerian schools in 1977, (Adebowale & Alao, 2008).  Ekwuonye and Ezeoke (2005), observed that problems exist in the practice of continuous assessment in all subject areas in Nigeria.  Ekwonye (2005) specifically mentioned that teachers do not possess the required competencies for implementation of continuous assessment. Obe (2005), concurred that teachers’ general lack of skill in objective test construction and incompetencies in observational techniques for assessing behaviour contributes to the poor practice of continuous assessment in Nigerian schools.  Kanno (2006), reported that teachers focused their greatest attention on measuring cognitive attainment rather than affective and psychomotor behaviours.

Therefore, since the overall achievement and placement of the student depends on how well teachers carry out continuous assessment, the researcher of this paper is prompted to investigate the knowledge and use of continuous assessment among teachers in basic nursing schools in southeast zone Nigeria.








Statement of the Problem

Kanno (2006) stated that many teachers appeared to be lacking in knowledge and understanding of continuous assessment. What is practiced in many schools in Nigeria is “continuous testing” where teachers administer tests on students on a fortnightly or monthly basis. Some schools set-aside specific days in the month for what is referred to as “continuous assessment”. Test scores are computed as Continuous assessment scores for the term or semester of school year. This approach does not differ from the old system of assessment. The mode of interpretation does not take into account other factors that may affect the students and the learning process. Some schools also give a test in the middle or toward end of a course and use the scores as continuous assessment.


The researcher being a nurse educator observed that some schools of nursing visited for hospital final qualifying examinations did not have a continuous assessment records, which would have been used to rectify problems identified when evaluating some students who had academic problems, thus making decisions at that particular point difficult.  This observation prompted the researcher to examine whether teachers in schools of nursing in southeast zone know, practice and use continuous assessment data of the students and also to identify the challenges teachers encounter while doing so.

Evidence from literature review shows that there is a dearth of literature on this topic in Nigeria and even abroad to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, hence the desire to carry out the study to fill the gap in knowledge and also to provide a baseline study upon which other studies may be anchored.




Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to determine the knowledge and use of continuous assessment among teachers in basic schools of nursing in southeast zone, Nigeria in student’s assessment


Objectives of the Study

The specific objectives set for this study are to:

  1. ascertain what the teachers level of know about Continuous Assessment.
  2. determine the teachers’ Continuous Assessment practices in the basic schools of Nursing under study.
  3. determine what purpose Continuous Assessment serves in these basic schools of Nursing.
  4. determine challenges teachers encounter in carrying out continuous assessment.



  1. There is no significant relationship between the teachers’ level of knowledge and practice of continuous assessment.  
  2. There is no significant difference in the practice of continuous assessment between male and female teachers.
  3. There is no significant difference in the practice of continuous assessment between teachers with diploma and those with university degree.
  4. There is no significant difference in the practice of continuous assessment as regards years of work experience of the teachers.
  5. There is no significant difference in the use of continuous assessment as regards years of work experience of the teachers.


The Scope of the Study

This study will be delimited to determining whether teachers know and practice continuous assessment, how teachers use continuous assessment data and the challenges teachers encounter with continuous assessment.


Significance of the Study

As the importance of evaluation cannot be over emphasized in the teaching- learning process, the findings of this study will reveal whether teachers actually understand what continuous assessment means, carry out continuous assessment and also to what use they put the continuous assessment data. This will help in academic decisions and review of teaching and learning process where necessary. Through the findings of this study, students academic progress will be enhanced where continuous assessment is used by schools in academic decision making.

When presented to the nursing and midwifery council, the findings of this study will sensitize them to see the need for mandating all training schools in Nigeria to carry out continuous assessment and have well recorded evidence. This in turn could be used when crucial decision concerning a student is to be made especially one who at one point of his/her training have a set back.


To the authorities especially school administrators, it will serve as a guide to design appropriate in service training programmes. This will help to update teachers’ skills in assessment. To the stakeholders, it will give them insight on the activities of schools in terms of assessment in schools.  Finally, it will provide a fertile ground for further research.

Operational Definition of Terms

  • Knowledge of continuous assessment

This refers to teachers ability to identify correctly the domains, the techniques and characteristics of continuous assessment.  In this study, knowledge is measured by items 7-21 in the knowledge subscale of continuous assessment questionnaire (KCAQ).

  • Practice of continuous assessment

Practice of CA in this study refers to use of various tasks and techniques such as quiz, class presentations, seminars, projects ,observation, practical etc to elicit learning in the three domains on an on-going basis.

  • Use of continuous assessment

In this study means taking academic decisions based on continuous assessment data. For example were the data used for certification, placement, promotion based on the continuous assessment result of the learners and for remedial purposes.

  • Continuous assessment

In this context means monitoring of learners’ progress in an on-going basis while the students are actually working their way through a course or major unit taking into cognizance all the domains of learning.