Grades have always been my metric to evaluate my progress during the years of education, and I think how to take an exam is a skill to acquire: managing time, strategies to answer questions based on the question type, handling stress, etc. Especially that as a personal experience, we had to plan at least a couple of years of our secondary education for what had been described to be the most consequential exam: University Entrance Exam or Concours. We went through learning many skills and strategies for taking an exam to the extent that even if you did not have the knowledge for a question, you could utilize your skills to find the most probable answer to a question. That is why I have found exams not to be fully representative of one’s knowledge on a topic.
I believe assignments measure learning progress much better than an exam since they involve a process more than an outcome. You are given a question (in the case of my major, typically a design question), follow some instructions, go through resources, ask around, get advice or suggestion, and interview. You conduct research. These assignments encompass case-based pedagogy and draw attention to applying what is taught and familiarize one with the various aspects of the subject. Since there is usually a deadline, the student needs to plan and handle the timing, enhancing the ability to manage.
Assessment needs (at least) basic knowledge of psychology, humanity, ethics, and sociology. Since it requires one to put herself in a judge’s position, it can not be achieved without understanding individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, and the ultimate goal of the learning. There should also be a baseline to compare the learning process with, which might differ among the students. A generous attitude in any assessment is essential as there might be aspects of learning that remain uncovered by any exam or assignment, like tacit knowledge.
For me, the eagerness to learn and good grades have always been linked to how the professor has influenced me. The more I liked the professor’s behavior and attitude as a human, the more I was willing to progress and work for that course. I know that learning should be a self-motivated process. Yet, I think the teacher as a human can significantly impact this process and augment it by his/her personality, as we do not just learn a topic; we are primarily influenced by behaviors, which shape a big part of our motivation and engagement.