Background of the Study
In every educational institution students at any level are bound to undergo one form of academic assessment or another. Educational assessment is vital in teaching and learning process as every educational system needs to measure the learners’ knowledge, skills and attributes against the predetermined standard in order to determine the extent to which the teaching learning objectives as specified in the curriculum have been achieved. According to Basavanthapa, (2003), educational assessment provides the necessary feedback required in order to maximize the end result of educational efforts of every student. Assessment of student performance also aims at providing supportive evidence necessary for the decision making on their educational performance. Academic evaluation is also a critical aspect of teaching learning process.
Educational evaluation or assessment is carried out in two major forms namely, formative or continuous assessment and summative assessment. Summative assessment entails assigning a grade for student’s achievements at the end of a term, course or instructional programs. The old method of assessing students otherwise called summative assessment is quite different from the method of continuous assessment. The difference is based on some issues such as how a student who happens to fall ill and could not write the final examination would be graded. The short comings of summative evaluation breed problems such as examination malpractice, mental and physical exhaustion and embarrassment to both the student and examination bodies; as a result educational measurement experts and policy makers have come up with the concept of continuous assessment (Onuka, 2005).
Continuous assessment which is the focus of this study refers to the ongoing or systematic assessment of student’s achievements while term courses or instructional programme is in progress. It is used to monitor learning progress during instruction and to provide continuous feedback to both students and teachers concerning learning successes and failures. The feedback to students reinforces successful learning and identifies the learning problems that need corrections. Feedback to the teacher provides information for modifying instruction. Continuous assessment is known to provide an enabling environment for both students and teachers to know how much the students have acquired in learning (Cronbach, 2000). Continuous assessment also gingers students to read ahead of time, prepare in advance for their examinations to come and have a firmer grip in the understanding of their courses. Race, (2007) 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 materials 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 examination is not placed at a disadvantage compared with the lazy student who is skillful at the “examination game” but otherwise not particularly competent.
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 practiced in schools including Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland and Scotland (Adebowale &Alao, 2008). 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 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 suggestion for a broader approach to assessment, which will be flexible and also provide valid and reliable results were made.
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 occurred and learners learnt, so as to contribute to improvement in the education system. According to Hanan (2009), this cannot happen without the right perception of continuous assessment by the students. In continuous assessment, comprehensive data are collected on students’ performance in a systematic manner through the entire period of teaching and learning and in a variety of situations with purpose of awarding a mark that reflects the typical performance of the student over period of instruction (Quansah, 2004).Furthermore, continuous assessment provides cumulative records of the students, which can be used to extrapolate for a students’ final examination-if need be in the event that the student falls sick during examination time. Again it also spreads work throughout a course and so keeps them busy rather than wait till end of year or course examinations which makes students too examination conscious (Denga, 2004).
Based on this premise the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), (2004) through the National Policy on Education stated that educational assessment at all levels 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 & 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 Nigerian Educational System. In pursuance of this policy the National University Council (NUC) allotted 30% and 70% of the total score of the university students to continuous assessment and end of semester examination respectively. In consonance with the development, the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN) also proposed the use of continuous assessment in evaluating Nursing and Midwifery students. The training of Nursing and Midwifery students is the responsibility of nurse educators: therefore Okpala, (2006) recommends that nurse educators should adopt formative more than summative evaluation. This is because it encourages teachers’ involvement and the development of good study habits in students; minimizes examination malpractice and ensures the development of cognitive and non-cognitive traits. It also improves instructional process and is more indicative of learner’s overall ability over a period of time.
The change in learning theories, several instructional innovations and alternative assessment methods found their way into educational practice. But are these innovations as successful as they promise to be? Research findings suggest that students’ perceptions of academic assessment have considerable influence on students’ approaches to learning (Struyven, Dochy & Janesens, 2002).
In all these, it is believed that most students are not very much at home when it comes to assessing how much they have been able to assimilate from their lectures and so they may have negative perception (Salsali, 2005). Moreover the attitudes of students towards continuous assessment may stem from their perception. Where their perception is negative their attitudes towards continuous assessment will not be commendable because they will not strive or pull their weight enough to achieve much from it, they may have non- chalIant attitudes towards continuous assessment. On the other hand where students perception of continuous assessment is positive, their attitudes may even cause them to go as far as having discussion group in other to excelle in their performance during continuous assessment, especially where they have a strong believe that their performance or scores in continuous assessment will go a long way to beef up their scores in the final result. Our perceptual and attitudinal frame of mind determines our scale of preferences and our choices. Students’ perceived assessment requirements seem thus to have a strong influence on the approach to learning a student adopts when tackling an academic task (Struyven, Dochy, & Gielen, 2003). Therefore, since the overall achievement and placement of the students depends to a large extent on how well the student perform on continuous assessment, the researcher of this paper is prompted to investigate the perception and attitudes of students nurses toward continuous assessment as academic evaluation in University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.
Statement of the Problem.
Sometimes it is difficult for parents, teachers, including the students themselves to predict beforehand what the final performance of the students may be (Osuji, 2006).According to work by Struyven et al (2002) on student’s perceptions about assessment in higher education, it was reported that some students may believe that they are equal to the task of facing an examination on particular course successfully without realizing how unprepared they are. It is also difficult to predict how ready students are to face examination in their various courses without continuous assessment.
The researcher during her undergraduate studies observed that despite the importance of continuous assessment many students still do not take them seriously. Some of these students fail to do their assignments, or any tasks outside examinations, some would not even do the assignments while others would like others to write for them not minding quality of work that is done, some would copy a fellow students’ work and submit. This made the researcher to wonder if the students have the right perception of continuous assessment and if the students have the right perception of the value of continuous assessment as part of their academic evaluation.
Griffiths, (2005) captures another area of disparity which relates to teacher involvement. He opines that the teachers in continuous assessment may not be fair because different teachers may understand their involvement differently. Disparity also exists in terms of how assessment are marked, some lecturers or institutions include marks allotted to class attendance or some other areas that they consider relevant while some do not and base their scores on actual scores earned from the continuous assessment. The foregoing leaves the researcher with some questions thus: How do the undergraduate nursing students view continuous assessment? What is their attitude towards continuous assessment? Do they understand the contributions of continuous assessment to their overall academic performance? And How do undergraduate nursing students see continuous assessment as part of academic evaluation?
The present study will try to answer these questions. There is dearth of knowledge regarding a study of this nature in the nursing literature in Nigeria. The findings of the present study will fill the gap in knowledge and serve as a baseline studies for further researches or interventions.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to investigate undergraduate nursing students’ perceptions and attitudes towards continuous assessment in academic evaluation.
Objectives of study
The specific objectives for the study are to:
- Determine undergraduate nurses’ perception about continuous assessment in academic evaluation.
- Determine undergraduate nurses’ perception of the methods/techniques used in continuous assessment.
- Elicit undergraduate nurses’ awareness of the benefits of continuous assessment.
- Identify challenges faced by undergraduate student nurses in carrying out continuous assessment.
- Determine undergraduate student nurses’ attitudes towards continuous assessment.
- Determine students’ preferred method of continuous assessment.
- There will be no significant relationship between the students’ views of continuous assessment and their attitudes towards continuous assessment.
- There will be no significant differences in the view/perceptions of continuous assessment among students in different class levels.
- There will be no significant gender difference in the perception of continuous assessment.
- There will be no significant difference in the attitudes towards continuous assessment between male and female students.
- There will be no significant relationship in the preferred method of continuous assessment among male and female students.
Significance of the study
The findings of the present study will help to assess how nursing students understand, view and value continuous assessment as indispensable tool in evaluating their academic performance. The findings of this study will also reveal the students’ views of the methods of continuous assessment, as well as their opinion concerning these various methods of continuous assessment used on them, as weaknesses of the methods may be identified and the result utilized for future planning of evaluation to improve learning.
The findings of the study will hopefully provide educators with an important source of information, namely; students’ perception about continuous assessment and its influence on learning, which can be an important guide in their reflective search to improve their teaching and evaluation practices gearing towards achieving a higher quality of learning and education. Furthermore, the result of the study has provided practical suggestions on how to improve on continuous assessment as a tool for academic evaluation as it will help the teachers and administrators to judge the extent to which the objectives of the school have been achieved.
Undoubtedly the study findings will help teachers, curriculum planners and other educators to decide on their retention of the continuous assessment method of evaluating students or making appropriate changes. It is also hoped that findings of this study will expose other areas or aspects of continuous assessment that will require further research work thereby creating room for more improvement in this field of study.
Scope of the Study
This research work was delimited to undergraduate nursing student in the department of Nursing Sciences, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. The students as respondent included both the males and females in their various levels of the programme, excluding the first years that are yet to get a firm grip of the university education programme.
Operational Definition of Terms
Students’ perceptions of continuous assessment: students’ views, feelings and opinions about continuous assessment, their opinions on the, methods/techniques, benefit and challenges of continuous assessment.
Continuous Assessment: This has to do with finding out how much a student has been able to grasp in the teaching-learning process. In this study continuous assessment means monitoring of the student nurses’ 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.
Attitudes towards continuous assessment: This refers to the way students feel or think about continuous assessment reflected on their behaviour towards continuous assessment which may be positive or negative.
Academic Evaluation: Academic evaluation in this study is based on determining the extent to which an objective is being attained, the effectiveness of the learning experience provided in the lecture room, and how well the goals of education have been accomplished based on learning from a lot of academic and studying of books rather than on practical or technical experience.
Nursing students: They are a set of people in the university environment who are undergoing a BNSC programme in the department of Nursing Sciences University of Nigeria. They include registered nurses with diploma certificate who are undergoing their B.Sc Nursing and the Generic Nursing students.