Assessment Problems in adolescence


In the professional life of a teacher there are so many decisions that he or she makes which actually counts on informal class room observation. For example; discussion in the class, and inquiring questions of a student, interest shown in a particular topic or a subject, leads a teacher to make a lot of decisions like; which area of study needs more time, point out the students which need special attention and specifically in which area or which method of instruction will be more appropriate in a particular situation. All such kinds of decisions depend upon the observations which are made during the teaching learning process inside and outside the class room. Such decisions need systematic gathering of data based on careful and continuous observation. Besides this information other supplementary techniques of evaluation and testing are also used to make the related information more complete and authentic.
Other aspects of the current assignment are the adolescence period, if the whole life span of a person is roughly divided into stages we find the following stages:-

1. Infancy
2. Toddler
3. Child hood
4. Adolescence
5. Adulthood

Each of these stages is unique in all respects & needs unique instructions for cognitive social and emotional development. Therefore we must also adopt special assessment procedures to evaluate any particular stage in our discussion I have focused upon adolescence.
I will try my best to explain the problems which are faced while assessing the stage of adolescence.


1. To explain the concept of assessment & adolescence.
2: To highlight the problems in assessing adolescence.


Assessment refers to the procedures used in apprising student learning. It incorporates both evaluations and measurement and is concerned with the processes involved in describing and reporting on the outcomes of learning and teaching. It can cover a broad range of learning out comes that is cognitive effective and social, from the simplest to the most complex. Assessment is defined as the collection, analysis’s, recording and communicating information about the out comes and learning and teaching (griffin and nix 1991)

Key Terms in Assessment


Gathering, interpreting recording and communicating information about student achievement

Example: Planned observation, description and reporting of a students performance on a set task

Making judgments about relative or absolute worth

Example :
Judging the quality (in terms of a standard criteria) of a sculpture submitted as part of final examination in visual arts

Testing students performance using numerical values in form of scores

Counting the number of correct answers given by a student in a test of number fact and assigning a numerical value

An assessment procedure used systematically to measure a sample of behavior

On Friday students will be required to complete 20 questions based on material covered in this weeks mathematics lessons

Types of Assessments

Since there are different aspects of human personality which can be assessed according to there own specific need. Therefore we have different types of assessment depending upon purpose and function.

1: Norm Referenced Assessment

Used to compare the performance of individuals or groups with the performance of a comparable group on the same task. A norm is the mean or average performance of a group of people.

2: Criterion Referenced Assessment

In this type of assessment the achievements of the students are compared against a specified criterion or standard

3: Curriculum Based Assessment

Here the individual students’ performance is compared with curriculum goals. Curriculum based assessment can be used to diagnose students strength and weaknesses, and to plan for future teaching program. This type of assessment is usually carried out by classroom teacher for the purpose of

· Obtain information about the level of students entry skills so as to decide where to place them with in the curriculum
· Defining and planning appropriate teaching objectives
· Determine the degree to which these objectives are met by monitoring students progress through an instructional sequence
· Evaluating and refining teaching techniques

4: Ipsative Assessment

In this type of assessment an individual current achievements are compared with the pervious achievement of the same individual.

How do we assess?

As mentioned earlier assessment depends upon the purpose and function. Therefore when an assessment programme is designed a teacher has to collect many different types of information regarding the student being assessed. These in formations may range from very informal observations to highly structured and formal achievements or aptitude tests. The following major steps are undertaken while designing an assessment programme:-

1. Gathering information.
2. Technical interpretation of information.
3. Recording and reporting assessment results.

· Gathering information:-

For any assessment model information about the students are collected from various aspects including observation recording learning directly and mapping progress through students work products that contain examples of the student’s work.
In formations are collected by various means like:-

· Direct observation.
· Portfolios
· Anecdotal records
· Checklists
· Interviews
· Sociograms

1. Direct Observations:-
Direct observation is a practical way to collect information about student’s behavior in natural settings. Information derived from direct observation can be recorded in the form of anecdotal records, diaries & checklists. This technique is used to understand what is happening in the class room focused in individual students, on a small group of students or on a specific aspect on a class room activity. When direct observation is used as part of an assessment process, is usually more structured and purposeful and any behavior observed more systematically.

2. Portfolios:-
A portfolio is a collection of samples of a student’s work that can be used to assess student’s progress over a term or year by comparing after the fact, samples of work taken from different stages throughout the given period. They are often used for self assessment, parent teacher conferences & parent teacher child conferences.

Student’s performance:-
The progress of a student engaged in complex tasks like music, drama, physical education & design cannot be assessed through traditional methods. These areas of student’s performance can only be assessed through performance assessment involving on the spot evaluation of student’s demonstrating their mastery of a task.

3. Anecdotal records:-
Anecdotal records are objective description of behavior at a particular time & place recorded as soon as possible after the behavior has occurred. Teachers often find it helpful to keep brief notes about any unusual or significant occurrence during the school day. Such notes can be useful in documenting the actions of a particular child whose behavior is causing concern, intervention, report writing or discussion with parents.
Anecdotal records are most often used in early childhood settings & in situations involving children who are having social emotional or behavioral problems.

4. Checklists:-
Checklists are often used by teachers to collect information about easily observed behavior such as motor skills. Checklist comprises a list of description of specific behavior that can be systematically identified and tailed by observers as they occur during a specified time period.

Rating scale:-
Rating scales are similar to checklists but they have the added advantage of including a quantitative component in the resulting judgment. Instead of simply recording the occurrence of specified behavior (yes/ no), a value judgment is also made about the behavior as the record is compiled usually on a scale of 1-10.

5. Interviews:-
An interview is a form of observational assessment. Interviews maybe formal or informal, structured or unstructured. A formal or a structured interview using a defined procedure and a prepared set of questions is used in many intelligence tests where respondents are given precise instructions about the procedure to be followed. An informal or unstructured interview has no set procedures or questions and the interviewer is free to interact with the interviewee in a natural, conversational way. Informal interview technique is used to collect information about the way people think and solve problems.

6. Sociograms:-
Sociograms are used by teachers to assess a class group’s social structure. It is a graphical depiction of the pattern of interactions among group members. For example; children can be asked to write down the name of their best friends or the child they would like to sit next to, work with, play with or asked to a birthday party. These choices can be depicted graphically in the form of sociograms.

· Technical interpretation of information:-

In this step of the assessment design it is important to know that the type of assessment to be used and the way in which data is collected, one needs to be aware of the technical aspects of the assessment model which is applied. One needs to ensure that the procedure used should be reliable valid and fair.

Reliability refers to the consistency of measurement that is how consistent test scores or other assessment results are from one measurement to another. Reliability can be defined as “as the extent to which a test or measuring device obtains the same result when used on successive occasions.”
Reliability refers to the results obtained with an evaluation instrument and not to the instrument itself. Any particular instrument may have a number of different reliabilities depending upon the group involved and the situation in which it is used. Thus it is more appropriate to speak of the reliability of the “test scores” then of the “test or instrument”.

Validity refers to the appropriateness of the interpretations made from test scores and other evaluation results with regard to a particular use. Validity is always concerned with the specific use of the results and the soundness of our proposed interpretations. Validity can e defined as “the extent to which a test or measurement device measures what is intends to measure”. For example if a test is used to describe a pupil achievement we should like to be able to interpret the scores as a relevant and representative sample of the achievement domain to be measured. If the results are to be used to predict pupil’s success in some future activity, we should like put interpretations to be based on as accurate an estimate of future success as possible.

· Recording and reporting assessment results:-

Having decided what should be assessed and how this information will be collected, the next step is to decide how the results of assessments should be recorded and then reported to students, parents and other interested stake holders. This step involves two activities:-

1. Recording
2. Reporting.

1. Recording:-
Once data on the student’s performance have been collected, decision must be made about the way in which this information is recorded so it can be easily retrieved and used at a later date.
The type of information collected for assessment purposes maybe statistical. For example marks, grades, records of attendance & standardized test scores etc. Informal notes, other information including reports from previous teachers, students self assessment. The different types of information is collected at different time of the school year so a time table may be setup for the completion of specific tasks, so decisions have to be made about who will complete which task and how data will be recorded. Relevant material maybe assembled in a portfolio or a record of achievement can be created containing detailed information about all aspects of student’s life at school.

2. Reporting:-
How assessment information is reported is influenced by the reports purpose and the audience. The main consumer of information about students achievements are teachers, parents, students and administration. The New South Wales department of school education “identified three ways reporting” as a useful strategy for reviewing student achievement. Such reporting maybe in the form of student’s take home examples of their work that has already been assessed and commented on by the teacher and student. Parent can then respond in turn with their own comments on the child’s work.


The word adolescence comes from the Latin word “adolescere”meaning to grow up or to grow into maturity.
(Muuss, 1982, page 4)
As it is generally used today adolescence refers to the period of life between child hood and adulthood, roughly corresponding to the teen age years. However the meaning of adolescence and the age at which it begins and ends differ from one part of the world to another.

Beginning of adolescence tends to be defined primarily, by the individual’s biological age. Secondly the ending of adolescence is most readily defined by the person’s social age. (Schlegel & Barry, 191, page 10)

Beginning of the adolescence:
The indicator used to determine the beginning of adolescence is the “biological age” which is measured by biological science like skeletal maturity development of pubic hair, breast development or genital growth which are closely related to hormonal changes or more accurate markers of beginning of adolescence.

Ending of adolescence:
The indicator used to determine the ending of adolescence is the “social age” which is measured by social indicators such as “right to vote” & “be tried as an adult for criminal offence.” This indicator represents the beginning of adulthood and end of adolescence.
The concept of adolescence can be easily understood through the idea of “transition” during the human life span. In the most general sense, the concept of transition refers to a period of change, growth and disequilibrium that serves as a kind of bridge between one relatively stable point in life and another relatively stable, but different point. In that sense adolescence represents the transition between the physical, social and sexual immaturity of childhood to the physical, social and sexual maturity of adult hood. Thus adolescence is a period of change growth and disequilibrium in terms of physical social and sexual maturity. In addition, the concept of transition implies that the period of life is defined in the culture as an in between period: one is not a child, but is also not an adult. But a “marginal” person “they are people who belong neither here nor there standing between the groups” (Kurt Lewin, 1948, page 179)

Another additional distinction between these transitions is “on time and off time transitions”. All types of physical changes can occur either on time or off time but their effects will be different depending upon their occurrence on time or off time.

Specific tasks of adolescence:
Each individual has to perform a series of developmental tasks at various points in the life cycle. These tasks might be related to specific knowledge, skills, attitudes or functions that individuals are expected to acquire at a particular age. Education plays a very important role in helping a person to achieve these tasks. Most significantly at the “teachable moment” when the person is developmentally ready for the task. It is argued that each task needed to be accomplished in sequence and so each task depends on the successful achievement of the earlier tasks. If a task is not achieved at the appropriate time it maybe difficult or impossible to master it later or to progress on successfully to subsequent tasks.
(Havighurst, 1972, page 45-75)

Specified eight tasks during adolescent period:

1. Achieving new and more mature relations with age mates of both sexes
2. Achieving a masculine or feminine social role.
3. Accepting ones physique
4. Achieving emotional independence
5. Preparing for marriage and family life
6. Preparing for an economic career.
7. Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide to behavior ( developing and ideology)
8. Desiring and achieving socially responsible behavior.

Cognitive development in adolescence:
Major characteristics that mark the difference between the thinking of adolescents and younger children are:-

1. Thinking about possibilities.
2. Thinking through hypothesis.
3. Thinking ahead.
4. Thinking about thoughts.
5. Thinking beyond old limits.
6. Thinking based on experience.

1. Thinking about possibilities:
The adolescents are able to think about ideas and things that are not concretely present, can form connections between various possible alternatives and can even think about the impossible. Thus reality becomes only one example of all possible situations. Examples of such thinking might include; in physics a particle that has infinite mass and no size “a black hole”, in mathematics square root of minus 1 “ an imaginary number i”, in philosophy the concept that consciousness precedes self consciousness & in psychology the idea that an individual’s personality can have many facets. Of course adolescents do not always think abstractly, the point is that adolescents are able to think about possibilities in a way that younger children typically do not. This ability to think about possibilities affect many areas of the adolescents life like thinking about ones self, one’s sense of identity, political ideas and moral issues. It also affects relation with parents, peers ad vocational choice.

2. Thinking through hypothesis:
Closely related to thinking about possibilities is the ability to develop hypothesis and to test them. However hypothesis is possibilities that may turn out to be impossibilities. Testing hypothesis is the basis of scientific method. To conduct an experiment one must hypothesize not only what will confirm one’s predictions but also what will disconfirm them & then design an experiment to test the predictions. This cognitive skill involves discarding hypothesis that turn out to be incorrect, accepting hypothesis, that are confirm, and developing additional hypothesis to be tested. It provides adolescents with the ability to make predictions act on those predictions and modify their expectations based on empirical evidence. Of course this does not imply that adolescents actually do function this way but the point is that their cognitive abilities allow them the possibility of applying these skills in a wide variety of areas in their lives.

3. Thinking ahead:
Children begin tasks without first considering what the out come will be and without systematically developing a strategy for achieving the tasks successfully. Planning involves the cognitive ability to think about all of the steps that are required in sequence in the abstract before beginning the task. This ability to plan is important to understand a wide range of adolescent behavior.

4. Thinking about thoughts:
The abiltity to think about thinking also characterizes adolescent cognitive skills. For example “introspection” is frequently noted among adolescents. Activities such as keeping a diary, writing poetry, spending time alone thinking about one’s self and “long deep” discussions with friends all indicate the fascination that adolescents find in thinking about thoughts. Another aspect of this ability to think about thoughts is the adolescents growing skill in finding ways to improve study skills, memory & problem solving ability. This Meta cognition or the ability to think about cognition and awareness of knowledge, increases with age during adolescence and becomes more sophisticated.
Piaget defined this stage of cognitive development as the ability to perform operations on operations. This process involves using logic to analyze logic, formulating rules about rules, and comparing and contrasting ideas using more abstract, higher order ideas.

5. Thinking beyond old limits:
Once the adolescent thinking ability is free from concrete reality and able to consider all manner of abstract possibilities, its scope increases greatly in the breadth of topics that are thought about. Adolescent can question reality and the way social physical and emotional issues have been seen before. Thus political questions religious beliefs moral issues and personal relationships maybe evaluated, questioned and debated. The act of challenging old ideas can be stimulating and occasionally enjoyed for the newness of the skill itself. This ability may provide an important source of intellectual ferment and even political change as young people think about important social issues.

6. Thinking based on experience:
As a result of greater experience and skill in selected domains, adolescents are able to solve problems similar to those they have dealt with in these domains previously. Consider also the cognitive skill of mapping that involves recognizing a relation ship between objects or events for example children are cable of inference but not of mapping until about the fourth grade. The ability to perform higher order mapping that involves recognizing a functional relationship between a relationship and an object or event is the characteristic of an adolescent.

Now at this stage of our discussion when we have build some idea about the assessment procedures the difference among assessment evaluation and measurement and understanding of the unique nature of the adolescence period we come to the problems associated with the assessment of this unique life stage; “the adolescence”.

Problems in assessing adolescence:
Basically there are three main problems:
1. Procedural problems
2. Age related problems
3. Adaptation problems of assessment procedures in adolescence period

Procedural problems:
While assessing the adolescents teachers face the following procedural problems:
1. Concept clarification problems
2. Model selection problems
3. Data collection problems
4. Problems involving technical interpretation
5. Recording and reporting problems
6. Implementation problems

Age related problems:
1. Special needs of adolescents
2. Social sphere related problems
3. Behavioral problems
4. Problems related to cognition in adolescents
5. Maturity problems

Adaptation problems of assessment procedures in adolescence period:

1. Lack of specialized teachers.
2. Selection of more appropriate selection model
3. Modifications in the selected model to meet the special needs
4. Misunderstanding the adolescent
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