The study sought to identify the relationship between the perception of mathematics teachers about assessment and their assessment practices. Descriptive survey was adopted as a design for the study. Questionnaires were administered to a sample of 63 teachers in the Binduri District after which their lessons were observed to gather data for the study. A multi-stage sampling technique was used to get the sample for the study. Data was analysed based on the research questions and hypotheses that guided the study. The descriptive statistics and inferential statistics were used to present results for the study. From the study, although the perception of teachers about assessment in mathematics is not generally in line with the current thinking of assessment, teachers generally had positive perceptions about what should be assessed, how it should be assessed and the feedback to give to students. This implies that teachers generally have inadequate training in assessment. It was also found that, teachers generally perceive and profess positive assessment practices but their practice is not generally positive. It was also found that, there was a significant difference between the professed assessment practices of teachers and their actual assessment practices. It is therefore recommended the Ghana Education Service should organise In-Service Training and Education course on current trends in assessment in mathematics. It is further recommended that heads of schools should conduct regular needs assessment and provide adequate support to enable teachers practice what they professed.

Background to the Study
Education is perceived across the world as perhaps the most vital public service of all. As Asare (2011) succinctly puts it, “A sound education structure leads to an enlightened society and manpower development, which is able to lead a crusade for social transformation and economic progress” (p. 43). To indicate the importance of education, Tefera (2014) also asserted that the main objective of education is to cultivate the individual capacity for problem-solving and adaptability to the environment by developing the necessary knowledge, ability and attitude. The implication of these statements is that, education is at the forefront as far as the development of a nation is concerned. This probably accounts for nations and parents worldwide investing huge sums of money and other resources into the education of its citizenry and wards respectively.

One important discipline in education is undoubtedly mathematics. Mathematics is a household name to many students and other stakeholders in education and nation building. It manifests itself in our immediate and remote environment. To Mereku (2000), mathematics is a science of patterns that involve problem solving, search for relationships, imaginings, creativity, and critical and logical thinking. This explains the usefulness of mathematics to our everyday living as it is seen as a problem solving tool. Mathematics forms the basis of all subjects and possibly all professions. As a vital tool for the understanding and application of science and technology, mathematics serves as a precursor to the much needed technological development which is the pursuit of every nation including Ghana. Mathematics has had an influence on man’s life that it has now become everyman’s everyday concern. The importance of mathematics is so immeasurable that it is a prerequisite subject in most levels of Ghanaian education.

The importance of mathematics to every nation is so glaring that Legner (2013) argues that, it is very hard to come up with an area of mathematics which has no application in life. Legner argues that we regularly use mathematics in our everyday life: from measuring distances and weights to reading timetables, estimating how much money we spent while shopping and interpreting percentages in newspapers. Many of these skills are taught at the basic school level including Ghana. Mefor, (2014) cited in Sa’ad, Adamu

Sadiq (2014) summarized it all by saying that mathematics relates to everything in the universe from the smallest to the largest. Sa’ad, Adamu & Sadiq (2014) further asserted that mathematics is intimately connected to daily

life and everybody’s life-long planning. Therefore, mathematics is a subject that education and human life cannot function effectively without it. This justifies the compulsion of the study of the subject by all students who go through basic and secondary education in most countries including Ghana. Mathematics undoubtedly plays a vital role in the development of individuals and nations.

Indeed, the potential success in the world today and in the future can be realized if mathematics education is effective and is well understood by its learners. It is no wonder that a strong foundation in mathematics is a prerequisite for professions and careers in today’s changing world. This claim is supported by a report by the Ministry of Education (2001) which claimed that, strong Mathematical competencies development at the Junior High School level is a necessary requirement for study in Mathematics, Science, Commerce, Industry and a variety of other professions and vocations.

In Plato’s view (2000), mathematics has a philosophical importance. Mathematics is a tool that helps and trains the mind to think. This process of thinking will then help the mind to understand and acquire the idea of good, which is the ultimate aim of philosophy. Plato did not deny the important applications of mathematics in people’s daily life. But, to Plato, the philosophical importance of mathematics is more important and more rewarding as it may affect one’s understanding of his being.

Mathematics is also linked with power. Since mathematics is behind most of society’s inventions, it tends to give those who succeed in it access to wealth and power. It thus acts as a gatekeeper studies around the world of which a large part of the world’s population is denied access to its ‘power’ (Ernest, Greer, & Sriraman, 2009; Secada, 1995). While power and wealth may not seem to be of immediate concern to pupils at the basic level, the foundations of mathematical proficiency are established during these years.

Umameh (2011) in Tshabalala and Ncube, (2013) was of the view that mathematics is the bedrock and an indispensable tool for scientific, technological and economic advancement of any nation. Adetunde (2009) also asserted that, Mathematics is a tool for science and technology. The rich and more advanced countries of the world have attained their affluence through the advancement which they made in mathematics which links sciences and technology. This implies that mathematics education is a very important input in the scientific and technological development of any society. It is therefore not out of place if more efforts are put in place by interest groups including researchers to make mathematics teaching and learning easier and more meaningful.

In addition, Davies and Hersh, (2012) see mathematics as an important subject not only from the point of view of getting an academic qualification at school or college, but also is a subject that prepares the students for the future irrespective of which work of life they choose to be a part of. This explains that, mathematics gives its learner(s) not only job opportunities but also fine-tune their skills in order to succeed in other areas of work. In Ghana, Mathematics has become one of the prerequisite subjects for students to pass to progress from one stage of the academic ladder to the next. To a greater extent, failure in mathematics results in failure to get access to a tertiary institution which prepares the individual to the world of work. Competencies in mathematics also expose the individual child to myriad and varied job opportunities including becoming teachers, engineers and statisticians.

Having established the fact that mathematics plays a key role in the development of the learner and a nation at large, it stand to reason that a country that does not attach importance to educating most of its citizenry in mathematics risks lagging behind as far as development is concerned. Rightly so in Ghana, mathematics has been given the premium it deserves in education. Mathematics like other subjects contributes partly to the realization of our national aspirations and goals. The main rationale for the mathematics curriculum in Ghana is focused on attaining one crucial goal: to enable all

Ghanaian young people acquire the mathematical skills, insights, attitudes and values that they will need to be successful in their chosen careers and daily lives (Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, 2007). At the basic level in Ghana, mathematics aims at developing the numeracy skills of the students. It is as a result of this aim that the mathematics syllabus is based on the notion that an appropriate mathematics curriculum results from a series of critical decisions about three inseparable linked components: content, instruction and assessment. This means that the content, instruction and assessment work in tandem to ensure the desired outcome. If one fails to work properly, then the entire system will be faulty and the aspirations of the nation in terms of mathematics will suffer. It is assessment that determines whether the aims of mathematics is been achieved or not. Invariably, assessment tells whether the content was properly taught and learnt or not. To Tefera (2014), just as education and development never separate from each other, quality education also go in line with assessment.

Assessment is very vital in helping the learners and teachers become effective and efficient. Assessment denotes the collection of different information to produce effective and competent teachers and learners. Without assessment it is difficult to identify the students’ achievements or their failure to achieve their learning. To this end, Airasian (2001) sees assessment as a process of collecting, interpreting and synthesizing information to help teachers understand their students, plan and monitor instructions and establish a conducive classroom atmosphere. In effect, assessment is essential to allow individuals to get the educational support they need to succeed, to see the effectiveness of different educational methods, and to ensure that education budgets are being spent effectively. Inevitably, assessment mirrors the successes and failures of teachers, learners, the institutions and educational policies or programmes.

Classroom assessment has been found to be a critical factor in promoting quality education and as such has become the pivot of various educational improvement efforts (Oduro, 2015). This is because assessment results provide information on pupils’ achievement, identify learning problems, and indicate the remedial actions that need to be taken (Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, and Wiliam, 2004). To ensure that the national aims of mathematics are achieved, the syllabus provides an assessment procedure through which what is taught and learnt can be determined and the appropriate action taken to remedy any unrealized aim. It is expected that if these procedures are followed to the latter, then it should reflect in the performance of students even in standardized examinations and the general application of mathematical ideas in the daily activities of the basic school graduate. As to whether these procedures of assessment are being followed by teachers is an issue that needs further studies.

It is worthy to note that, assessment score in itself is not enough to validate the performance of a pupil in mathematics but the assessment procedure adopted by assessor also counts. Teachers adopt several assessment practices that can positively or negatively affect the performance of pupils. Some assessment methods are sometimes more emphasized than others. These practices if appropriate will help validate the performance of pupils otherwise we cannot interpret any performance as the actual performance of the said pupil. However, since mathematics is crucial to the development of the country, the need to provide a valid picture of progress of pupils is necessary and the assessment practices of classroom teachers plays a key role in this respect. After all, it is the assessment of these instructional goals that contributes to the appropriate assessment of the ultimate aim of the mathematics curriculum and by extension the effectiveness of the entire educational system.

Assessment practices denote what teachers do to monitor and improve teaching and learning in the classroom. Several studies on teachers’ assessment practices in the classroom have been carried in different parts of the globe with divergent findings. Zhang and Burry-Stock (2003) reported that teachers differ in their assessment practices due to the nature of classroom assessment delineated by teaching levels. While secondary teachers rely mostly on paper-pencil tests and were concerned about the quality of assessment, elementary teachers often use performance assessment as an alternative. Suurtamm, Koch and Arden (2010) also found that Canadian mathematics teachers use variety forms of assessment to improve student learning with emphasis on the use of test, homework and classroom exercise to elicit pupils understanding as well as journals, observation, questioning, self-assessment and unique forms of ‘quizzes’. In Ghana, teachers tend to use traditional methods of assessment (test, class exercise and home work) rather than alternative assessments (oral presentation, observation and project work) (Nabie, Akayuure and Sofo, 2013) and mainly asked facts-eliciting questions that demanded students to make simple logical mathematical deductions from procedures and not that which challenged them to investigate (Hattori and Saba, 2008).

It must be noted that the assessment procedures practiced by teachers in the classroom is informed by several factors. One of such factors is the how the teacher perceives assessment (Brown, 2004). Chester and Quilter (1998) believed that studying teachers’ perceptions of assessment is important in the sense that it provides an indication of how different forms of assessment are being used or misused and what could be done to improve the situation.

From the above, it can be elicited that, teachers’ assessment practices represents what teachers do in the classroom as far as assessment is concerned whereas the perception of teachers indicates what teachers think assessment is all about. The question then is whether teachers really put into action what they think should be done in assessment to ensure improved teaching and learning especially in the Ghanaian context. The answer to this question needs further research.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Topic  |  Size: 139 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
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