Using Assessment To Motivate Learners To Learn Effectively


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Assessment will always have an impact on learning and motivation, but that impact might be negative as well as positive depending on how it is conducted. Instinctively, assessment should be an enjoyable act for learners. Alas, the contrary is true. The mention of the word assessment sends a chill down majority of learners’ spines.

Think of examinations time, some learners literally spend the whole night preparing for the imminent examination. Some go to an extent of losing their sanity. This goes to show the misconception that has over time been associated with the activity. Perhaps the entrenched unethical practice of assessment, the world over, has been adopted as the modus operandi. Nonetheless, assessment stimulates a pleasant sensation on leaners as it tries to find out what and how much leaners know and how they could be helped to attain more learning.

When assessment is conducted appropriately, it will not cause anxiety to learners. The way to do it is by, prior to its conduct, delineating the purpose clearly. The purpose of assessment determines what and how to be assessed. For example, when the purpose of assessment is selection, this means that assessment has to be summative (of learning) employing a standardised test to rank-order learners to enable the selection of the best (among the best). There is no way in which assessment could be formative (either as learning or for leaning) for such purpose.

In this summative assessment, a mixture of assessment formats can be employed, including multiple choice format items, which cannot be used if purpose was different requiring deployment of formative assessment, especially as learning. Any school that conducts assessment as summative using predominantly paper-and-pencil format is destined to demotivate learners. It is difficult to stimulate learners’ interest once demotivated.

Assessment as learning applied as part of formative assessment motivates learners significantly and enhances achievement, because they are actively involved. Learners are highly engaged and greatly motivated when assessment is performance and portfolio than with paper-and-pencil assessment. Thus the use of paper-and-pencil assessment should be limited during classroom assessment, if the school regards assessment as an important aspect to improve learning hence achievement.

The purpose of classroom assessment can never be the same as that of external assessment. Classroom assessment should therefore never be designed to be a one-size fits all, like the external examinations. More often than not, for it to motivate learners, it should be individualised or personalised, although sometimes it’s practically difficult if one lacks expertise in assessment. It is these one-size fits all kind of assessments that lead to learners’ demotivation and dislike for assessment and learning in general.

Assessment generates intrinsic motivation which is more important in learning than extrinsic. Extrinsic sources of motivation such as stars, stickers, trophies, and grades, have been found to be not so effective, leading to learners to believe that learning activities are not worth doing in their own right. Worse still, extrinsic reward systems have detrimental effects on intrinsic motivation. Learners who become used to extrinsic rewards tend in future not to choose activities where these incentives are not attainable, and also favour less demanding activities.

Any school seriously engaged in improving learning should know that the starting point is to make assessment enjoyable to learners. Resources aside! Where there is a will there is a way! This argument therefore places the classroom teacher, as the agent of change, directly at the heart of the relation between assessment and school effectiveness.

For them to be effective in doing that, they have to be competent. They should therefore attend refresher courses on assessment regularly. Gone are the days when the central office was responsible for organizing such. The creation of performance office within the school was meant to champion such mind-set changes. 


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