How does the teacher assess student learning? Identify specific instances of informal and formal, formative and summative assessment and explain the types of assessments (e.g., self-assessment, portfolio, project, performance, etc.) that are used. How valid, reliable, biased, and practical are these assessments?
I am beginning my field experience hours in the first week of February, so this post is a reflection on the English Methods II class I completed last semester here at UVU. Future posts will draw examples from my field experience at a local high school.
The professor would sometimes begin class by prefacing what we were doing next, and then asking us to explain what we already knew about the project. Then he used this feedback from us to modify instruction and give us any additional background information we would need to successfully complete the project. Once he discovered that we already had a good foundation, so he moved on to the next topic. Another time he found our background knowledge was lacking, so we spent time learning important information that we would need to move forward.
The biggest project of the class was spread out over the semester, so every couple of weeks we would turn in a different phase of the project. This allowed us to immediately apply what we learned in class, and get quicker feedback on the project. When we got the assignments back, we were able to make revisions before turning in the final project, so the final product was more cohesive and polished.
We used self-assessment also as formative assessment. In one instance, we first learned about types of discussion questions and the principles of leading effective classroom discussions. Then, independently, we crafted discussion questions based on a central scene in our novel. In class, we reviewed our own questions to determine if they were higher-order or lower-order questions, and if they were divergent or convergent questions. This self-assessment helped us look closely at our questions and evaluate them in terms of what we had learned the previous class session about good questions. Finally, we revised our questions based on our own self-assessment before turning them in for feedback from the professor.
The professor used a variety of summative assessments. The final project was an authentic performance assessment where we created unit materials and lesson plans as if we were actually teaching the novel that we’d read. This project was more like a portfolio of teaching materials, lesson plans, and unit plans that we’d assembled over the course of the semester. It was also a criterion-referenced assessment, as each student was graded on how well their work compared to the standards for effective lesson plans and teaching materials.
The presentation/research assignment was also an authentic assessment, as we researched and read trade and pedagogy books and then presented findings as if we were at a conference such as the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference.
The teaching day was an authentic performance assessment, and its purpose was twofold: we received a grade based on the experience, so in that sense it was a summative assessment. However, its other purposes were to expose us to a junior high classroom and to get on-the-spot feedback about our teaching styles, lesson planning, etc. The professor worked with us on this project to align our lessons with the teacher’s curriculum. So it was also formative, because we worked with the professor rather than independently, and we were able to use that experience as a barometer of our teaching style and incorporate the feedback into our other projects and lesson plans for the class. The feedback I received from this project was aligned with the strategies for giving good feedback, as Reynolds explains in her article from 2013. The feedback was timely, both verbal and written, and listed enough–but not too many–points of improvement. This allowed me to focus on improving a few key elements of my teaching and planning, rather than feeling overwhelmed at everything that needed to be improved.
I believe the summative assessments were valid because they were aligned to the objectives of the class. If a class is about methods to teach reading, a valid assessment would be to have students design their own methods to teach reading, which is exactly what we did with the final project/portfolio assignment. The teaching day was also valid because we were able to demonstrate teaching ability.
I believe the summative assessments were fairly reliable. Grading performance assessments like projects and portfolios is inherently more difficult than grading traditional assessments like tests, so they may not have been as reliable in the grading, especially since no rubric was provided with the assignment description or with the feedback we received. The presentation/research assignment was reliable in the research phase—we turned in blog posts about our research 4 times throughout the semester, so the assessment took place in small phases over a long period of time, providing a more reliable assessment of our research and writing ability.
The summative assessments were fair for a college setting. The teaching day assessment was biased towards students with any prior teaching experience, as students who had interacted with 8th graders before were at an advantage to do well because of their experience, while students who had no prior experience with 8th graders would not have done as well because it would have been their first time in the classroom. The project/portfolio and presentation/research assignments were fair, as all students had access to the same resources. The assessments were not biased toward any particular culture or gender.
The formative assessments were practical for the students, because it is easier to turn in projects in pieces than all at once. The formative assessments were less practical for the professor because grading and giving good feedback on so many lesson plans and teaching materials is pretty time consuming, and he was juggling many responsibilities so some students didn’t get feedback on some of their materials. The teaching day was also very valid and reliable, but less practical, because it required the cooperation of a local teacher, and shifting schedules of the students, teacher, and professor to get everyone where they needed to be. It was also impractical in that we were not familiar with the curriculum in the classroom we visited, so we had to take more time to catch up to where they were.