Continuous Assessment

Continuous assessment is being suggested as an alternative/addition to the current exam-only Leaving Cert. Putting aside the obvious problems with plagiarism, collaboration, etc. here are a few thoughts…

(i) Continuous assessment covers a multitude of possibilities, ranging from lots of small tests/quizzes to projects. Lots of small tests might simply add to student stress but I suspect that when people advocate CA, they mean project work.

(ii) Marking of project work tends to be much more subjective than the marking of exams – there is no ‘model answer’ to a project. Second level students, their parents and the whole industry surrounding the Leaving Cert won’t like this. People are now accustomed to predictable exams with completely transparent marking schemes. I sympathise with teachers who do not want to get bogged down in this minefield.

(iii) In third level, the distribution of marks in CA modules tends to be much narrower than in modules examined by an end-of-semester exam. Whether this represents a convergence of abilities or simply a marking policy is not clear. I’m not sure it is a good idea to ultimately allocate college places on the basis of some very fine differences in marks. Mind you, the Leaving Cert should be about more than simply being a means to select people for University courses.


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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