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The Impact of Continuous Assessment Strategies in Secondary Schools in Nigeria

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Greaney (2001) defines assessment as any procedure or activity that is designed to collect information about the knowledge, attitude, or skills of the learner or group of learners. Assessment is therefore a process through which the quality of an individual’s work or performance is judged. When carried out as an ongoing process, assessment is known as Continuous Assessment (CA). CA is a formative evaluation procedure concerned with finding out, in a systematic manner, the overall gains that a student has made in terms of knowledge, attitudes, and skills after a given set of learning experiences (Ogunnyi, 1984). According to Aggarwal (1999), CA is not simply continuous testing. Continuous assessment does not solely depend on formal tests. CA is more than giving a test, it involves every decision made by the teacher in class to improve students’ achievement. CA may take different forms such as formal questions given to students during class, take-home assignments/exercises and recapitulation exercises.

Assessment is either internal or external. Internal assessment refers to school-based assessment, which includes class assignments, teacher-made tests, recap exercises, projects, field studies and all of these tools form part of the classroom continuous assessment strategies. A continuous assessment strategy refers to the different tools/procedures used in the classroom to understand the academic achievement levels of learners in terms of their knowledge, attitudes and values. Also a strategy in assessment is a purposefully conceived and determined plan of action. It is a pattern of assessment that seems to attain certain outcomes and to guard against others (Aggarwal, 1999). External assessment refers to tests that are produced by examining bodies away from school.


For example, the Nigeria Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) is a public examination offered by the Nigeria National Examination Board (UNEB) that forms part of external assessment at A Level. UNEB is an examination body in Nigeria vested with all the authority of examining and certifying learners at A level after they have sat for the final examination at the end of the two years. Students are expected to perform well in both numbers of assessments. In this study, performance is used to denote students‟ achievement based on their grades or results attained.

The education system of Nigeria is examination-oriented and this has persisted since 1960‟s up to date. All the teaching and learning is centered on passing final examinations. It is sometimes referred to as teaching to the test. This challenge is compounded even further by the fact that students‟ promotion or selection to another level is based on student’s grades. In Masaka District, teachers and students equally do a lot to prepare for the final examination.

According to Kellaghan and Greany (2003), that kind of assessment is subjective, informal, immediate, on-going, and intuitive as it interacts with learning as it occurs. For instance, teachers teaching senior six (S.6) are required to assess their students regularly using different assessment strategies so that learners could memorize the subject content taught to them during the final examinations. This is done so that students could perform highly in the final examinations.

The downside of this approach is that students are encouraged to exercise rote memorization of facts and cramming of information rather than acquiring problem-solving skills. This study was therefore conceived, designed and undertaken in order to analyze the various classroom assessment practice and find out whether there was any relationship between CA practices with students‟ performance on the final examinations which is a proxy for students‟ acquisition of functional skills and knowledge.

Webb and Briars (1990) argued that assessment must be an interaction between the teacher and students, with the teacher continually seeking to understand, what a student can do and how a student is able to do it. Yoloye (1991) also pointed out that continuous assessment is only a part of the field of educational evaluation. He further argues that continuous assessment is “a method of evaluating the progress and achievement of students in educational institutions” (Yoloye 1999). This means that continuous assessment could be used to predict future students‟ performance in the final examinations and the possible success at the workplace or on a particular job.

Indeed, in secondary schools, assessment of students‟ learning in the classroom has been an integral component of the teaching-learning process especially at „A‟ level because there is much effort by the teacher to teach a lot of content to students. However, to Kellaghan and Greany (2003), that kind of assessment is subjective, informal, immediate, ongoing, and intuitive as it interacts with learning as it occurs.

Although the main argument behind the adoption of continuous assessment is to avoid focusing all efforts, time and energy on just one exam, this is not true in Nigeria‟s „A‟ level schools. Teachers and students put their focus on final examinations called Nigeria Advanced Certificate of Education Examinations (UACE). This is because UACE results are an important determinant of future opportunities for higher education and other life chances. Since teachers‟ assessment of students‟ learning in the classroom plays a central role in the learning process of all students, it merits our serious attention.

According to Obanya (1985), assessment involves the systematic collection of data on all aspects of an educational endeavor. This means that the data collected about students‟ academic achievement is used on a continuous basis in a systematic way, to take meaningful decisions on what should happen. Graume and Naidoo (2004) have also indicated that, “in a global economy, assessment of students achievement is changing mainly because in an ever-changing knowledge based society, students would not only be required to learn and understand the basics but also to think critically, to analyze, and to make inference for making decisions.” It is therefore critical that CAs could utilize strategies that are able to measure the changing students‟ abilities and attitudes, and this is why this study was undertaken to find out the different continuous assessment strategies teachers used in Alevel secondary schools.

According to Onuka (2006), there is a need to use a variety of instruments to effectively measure the students‟ traits and their results are used to assist the students to improve themselves. In addition, Lewin (2001) recorded that, over the years, various attempts have been made in many countries to improve the quality of examinations through the continuous assessment provisions. For example, in Tanzania, the National Examination Council for Tanzania (NECTA) in the late 1970‟s established continuous assessment programs to monitor students‟ academic progress in the whole education cycle from lower classes to higher classes. Ezeudu (2005) quotes Shintoho et al (1989) that in Nigeria continuous assessment was used in geography and out of the 30 geography teachers interviewed, 28 percent of them used oral test, 100 percent used written test while 97 percent used assignments and 100 percent also used examinations as their mode of assessment.

Like Tanzania and Nigeria, continuous assessment is being practiced in many Nigerian secondary schools. It is not uncommon for teachers to carry out day to day testing of learners. In many schools, regular testing takes place on weekly, fortnightly, monthly, mid-termly, termly and yearly basis. This is further evidenced with what Etienne (2007:2) noted in Mauritius that, only for purely organizational reasons, some teachers might be brought to do continuous assessment during the beginning of first term. This is similar to Nigeria’s Beginning of Term (BOT) tests in secondary schools. Besides testing, assignments and recap exercises, projects are other forms of continuous assessment strategies sometimes used in secondary schools.

According to Farrant (1997), continuous assessment is being used increasingly as a strategy to prepare students for terminal examinations. For instance, the results obtained from continuous assessment can be used to identify the students’‟ weak areas so that teachers can give them special support in those areas. Continuous assessment results can also inform decision-making in terms of determining as to whether students should be promoted from one class to another. Continuous assessment or schools-based assessment should test the total growth of the pupils in the non-scholastic areas and therefore should be built into the teaching-learning process” (Graume& Naidoo, 2004). This implies that helping students acquire the needed knowledge and skills would require changes in the public examination system and assessment techniques at the school and classroom levels.

In Nepal, Continuous Assessment (CA) is used in the promotion process or as an indicator of school quality (Carnoy, 1999). Continuous assessment is also used to provide teachers with feedback about students‟ performance and achievement. In Nigeria, excellence in the national external examination has also become the top priority of teachers and school administrators. Therefore, teachers have had to rely on continuous assessment in order to monitor their students‟ academic progress and performance. This is what Webb and Brairs (1990) argued that assessment must be an interaction between the teachers and the students, with teachers continually seeking to understand what a student can do and how a student is able to do it and then using this information to guide instruction.

However, despite the central role of continuous assessment in enhancing the teaching-learning process, we do not know a great deal about how teachers continuously assess their students in „A‟ level classes of Masaka District. Yet, Kellaghan, T and Greany, V (2003) further suggested that, there is evidence that the quality of those practices may be deficient in many ways. This might also be one of the reasons why students‟ performance in „A‟ level secondary schools of Masaka has continued to deteriorate. This study attempted to find out what continuous assessment strategies were being used in “A” level secondary schools of Masaka District. In addition, the study was intended also to examine whether there was any relationship between the continuous assessment strategies being used with students‟ academic performance in those schools.

Scope of Continuous Assessment

According to Omoifo (2006), what is termed “assessment in many schools today is summative, final, administrative, rigorous and content-driven rather than formative, diagnostic, private, suggestive and goal oriented, as such can be regarded as grading.” Summative assessment entails the focus on final examinations by teachers, parents and students. Surprisingly, formative assessment is geared towards the consolidation of students‟ performance in the final examinations rather than inculcating students with problem-solving, critical thinking, and life skills.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998) has categorized the purpose of assessment into internal and external purposes. The internal purposes for assessment include conveying to students expectations about what is important to learn, providing information to students and parents about students‟ progress, helping students to judge their own learning, guiding and improving instruction, and classifying and selecting students. The external purpose was to inform the education donors including parents, education departments and ministry about what happened in schools. Performance is defined in terms of results (Madaus 2000:98). In addition, Kellaghan and Greany (2003:16)

noted that, “when continuous assessment has important consequences attached to performance, they are likely to impact directly on teaching and learning and so merit consideration as a mechanism for improving student achievements”. Onuka (2006:11) also found out that in Nigeria there was a comprehensive implementation of continuous assessment and feedback for the improvement of the education system for the accomplishment of learning objectives effectively according to students. This concurred with the finding of Onuka and Oludipe(2005) that there was a significant remediation for poor performance as a result of the application of the feedback mechanism resulting from the formative evaluation of learners.

Furthermore, Etienne (2007:2) contended that, the protest against final examinations by students in France in May 1968 was the perfect opportunity for students to point at the unfair and risky final assessment in their schools. They made it clear that such examinations merely represented the performance of the moment and not the efforts made throughout the year. Students insisted on the risk that even the best-prepared student could have a problem on the day of the examination and came out in favor of continuous assessment in order to reduce the risks though some difficulties are likely to occur during the implementation of the recap exercises as well.

Graume and Naidoo (2004:) also noted that up to high school level, the assessment of students is done through terminal, half-yearly and annual examinations at the schools. Carnoy (1999) contends that, when continuous assessment tools are applied over a period of time, they give an indication of whether improvement is taking place or not. Furthermore, Ogunnyi (1984) noted that CA is cumulative in that any decision made at any time about any student takes cognizance of the previous decision made about him. Continuous assessment also provides the student with maximum opportunities to learn and to demonstrate from time to time the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they have during the teaching-learning process.

  1. Ethical and unethical Practices in Assessment

Achio, Ameko, Kutsanedzie, Alhassan and Ganaa (2012) asserted that the most common form of examination malpractice before the examination is leakage. This means that the teachers may be influenced into revealing the questions or the marking scheme. At times, the leakage could come from the administrative staff, family members, and principal officers of the university as well as colleagues. This group of people influences the teachers’ disposition to leaking his papers; both the questions and the marking scheme.

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In the observation of Ajibola (2011), examination malpractice could take place before, during and after the examinations; by either the candidates or by officials assigned with administrative duties. Achio, Ameko, Kutsanedzie, Alhassan and Ganaa (2012) asserted that the most common form of examination malpractice before the examination is leakage.

This means that the teachers may be influenced into revealing the questions or the marking scheme. At times, the leakage could come from the administrative staff, family members, and principal officers of the university as well as colleagues. This group of people influences the teachers’ disposition to leaking his papers; both the questions and the marking scheme. Most times the leakage may not come from the teachers themselves but through the paper-preparation activities like the test development, typing, photocopying, storing and in a case where the paper is stored online it could be assessed by students who engage in hacking.

The Impact of Continuous Assessment Strategies in Secondary Schools in Nigeria


Drawing on teachers’ and students’ perceptions, there were very many continuous assessment strategies used and these were found to have a positive relationship to students‟ performance in the final examinations. This is because through CA, teachers tend to realize their own weaknesses in teaching and those of their students and strive to ameliorate them.

Good application of CA using different strategies would help in moving towards accomplishing learning objectives and restoring greater confidence in the class and school systems. Enhanced performance of students would culminate in the reduction of the incidences of examination malpractices, as students would have been well prepared for the certificates examinations through CA. However, the contribution should not only be looked at as improving student performance but also as determining students‟ current level of knowledge, skills, or understanding of content.


  • Government should promote continuous assessment program under federal and state levels and centers for developing assessment techniques in our existing educational environment should be developed at district level.
  • In-service teachers should be given training in developing and using continuous assessments through refresher courses. It is the need of the day to develop a new culture for enhancing continuous assessment in teaching.
  • Parents should be aware of different assessment techniques and help their children in this respect.
  • Further research should be conducted to investigate the effectiveness of continuous assessment in teaching different subjects at different levels of education.


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The Impact of Continuous Assessment Strategies in Secondary Schools in Nigeria

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The Impact of Continuous Assessment Strategies in Secondary Schools in Nigeria

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