Days, months, decades gone, generations have seen, and are still experiencing the most non-productive, redundant and erroneous methods of academic assessments. In this era where sharing of research findings and discoveries is no longer matter of hours but minutes, the teaching community’s assessments of pupils should not be causing anxiety or fear.

Fossilised practices exist primarily because a number of institutions have been perpetually implementing curricula that make their teachers focus on the limited input and lower-order competencies. A large section of academicians are either willingly ignorant of, or complacent towards the techniques of innovative, learner-friendly assessments.

We as parents, teachers, or in any other adult role, experience the alert thinking process of children on a regular basis. These young minds observe, comprehend, analyse and share their evaluative comments, complemented with new ideas based on (taught/untaught) conceptual understanding. Consequently they are being noticed and appreciated by even those adults who themselves may not have gotten the chance of being properly educated. These include parents, who could be placed lowest on the literacy scale, and even they enthusiastically share that their kindergarten kids put up most knowledgeable questions. These young minds do not only amaze us with their curiosity and intelligent inquisitiveness also by their diverse mode of expressions. Without being exposed to any formal training or proper education some students can design and create wonderful visuals or performing art works, while others may surprise us by their poetic expressions. This proves the well-developed grasping capacity of young exploring minds.

Despite such concrete examples, the rigid mind-set only accepts stereotypical examinations, and finds it difficult to digest an academic environment promoting a text-books free curriculum or paper-pencil free assessments. Proponents of traditional assessment methods criticise such initiatives as academic gimmicks. Strongly fossilised ideas negate the concept of teaching/learning as fun and therefore for them it is unbelievable to comprehend the assessment process through playful tasks. Non-traditional assessments tasks such as panel discussions, role playing, mathematical concepts through music or art, science games, conducting surveys and making questionnaires cannot be used as assessment tools according to the prevalent understanding. Nevertheless all aforementioned tasks could be effectively used to assess students, provided teachers have been trained to develop appropriate criteria and rubrics. The process becomes more effective when learners are being trained to contribute in criteria and rubrics development.

Many academicians are found to be rigidly unconvinced for approving such strategies and procedures. Possible reasons of this denial could be mindsets, lack of exposure and professional development opportunities, desire to remain in a comfort zone and disbelief on innovative strategies.

It is paradoxical when as a parent or teacher are convinced that our children/students have curious minds gifted with rich intelligence making them inquire, explore, report, narrate, sketch, dance and much more. As reflective adults we need to ponder on some questions. Why do we opt for systems that curb all these intelligences, limiting thinking minds to reproduce the regurgitated input again and again? Why not effectively utilise children’s observations and curiosity by making these skills as assessments for learning processes? Why not make students enjoy assessment as they enjoy play? Why not design assessments to assess the conceptual understanding rather than sheer memory? Why not effectively use the developed higher order competencies; analysis, synthesis, evaluation which usually remain under-used as compared to overly assessed lower order competencies; memory and comprehension

Curricula based on theme based, transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary parameters provides frameworks for the inclusion of diagnostic, formative and summative assessments. All three forms of assessment provide data for the applied teaching/learning strategies. For each individual student, such data needs to be carried forward as she/he progresses from primary to high school, as it can provide beneficial understanding of pupils’ strengths and areas of improvement to the concerned teachers.

Diagnostic assessment needs to be designed as a pre-teaching assessment with objectives to give knowledge about students’ prior knowledge for the concepts to be taught.

Logical, well-thought planning and designing of these assessments tools can yield productive outcomes. At the same time, these could be effectively used for making all stake holders; parents, teachers and learners contribute to the conceptual learning process. Assessments designed to assess learners’ learning and teachers’ teaching processes are usually anxiety free, fun-filled, focused more on learning outcomes rather than quantitative grades, qualitatively analysed helping learners and parents understand the significance of commentary made on strengths and areas of improvement and cause reflections by learners, teachers and parents on the ongoing performance

In contrast, traditional assessments have always been anxiety-packed as the ultimate focus of all stake holders are ‘grades’. It’s a usual scenario that as soon as the exam schedule is announced parents, teachers, students get stressed and this stress keeps on increasing with each passing day. It continues till the day result are declared. During the process students encounter innumerable nightmarish episodes because of the unavoidable pressure of getting ‘As and just As’. Parents’ and teachers’ expectations make learners experience a number of health and psychological problems to the extent that some even find themselves at the verge or self-harm or suicide.

The differences between the two types of assessments, graded and non –graded is that while the “grades” system makes the student worry about scores, the “no-grades” vocabulary makes them ask, “what did I learn?”. While the former makes teacher tell students “this is wrong”, the latter makes teachers suggest new ways to learn. While the former presents a problem to solve answered with judgement and criticism, the latter presents an opportunity or challenge met with teacher feedback.

If our teachers can make learners familiar with the “no-grades” vocabulary in regular classroom discourse, it may help them develop into lifelong learners rather than those who rely on short-cuts only. This can be conveniently done but with the consent and cooperation of all stakeholders.

The actual challenge for school management is to inculcate the culture of effective collaboration among teachers, parents and students. Parents should not be alien to their children classrooms, they need to be regularly invited, becoming part of the learning process of their children. The parent community can contribute to the teaching-learning process fulfilling a twofold objective; their knowledge enhancement about the child’s learning and confidence to perform in his/her parent’s presence. Parents can contribute in different roles such as team teachers, observers or resource persons. Their spontaneous feedback could certainly be taken as genuine assessment data of the applied teaching practices.

The innovative assessment strategies and inquiry based teaching methods make learners thinkers and explorers. Proper stimuli and scenarios activate the thinking process of inquisitive minds leading to logical questioning. Consequently, learners put more questions than teachers, which should be the prime objective of each teacher- to make learners question and challenge the input.

Learners need to be trained and encouraged to write and share their reflective notes as this helps to develop the skills of self-assessment.

We belong to an era of instant occurrences, momentous discoveries, while students remain entangled in a quagmire of repetition and reproduction, obstructing conceptual and thinking processes. We need to expose our pupils to opportunities to challenge our statements, through research and evaluation. For that they need open spaces to explore, analyse and express, rather being shackled in chains and cuffs of ranks, grades and meaningless scores.