Testing, Testing, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we’ll start to wrap up our series of posts about testing and assessment with a brief description of some alternative assessment strategies I’ve been using with my face-to-face students this year. Several of these are “old favorites” that I’ve used for years – and a few are really old favorites that I used years ago but had stopped using for various reasons. Collectively, their purpose is to build the Joy, the Community, and the sense of Ownership in my classes while also giving me (and my students) a good sense of how they’re doing with the Knowledge, Skills, and Understandings we’ve been working on together.

The longer I work with students, the more convinced I am that the primary customer of assessment results ought to be the students themselves. After all, it’s their learning at stake, not mine; their high-school transcripts, not mine; their future plans, not mine. Doesn’t it make sense that they, not I should be most interested in the results of any assessments I use with them? After all, if I’ve done my job at all, I probably have a pretty good sense of how my students will perform on a given measure even before I give that measure to them – but depending on their maturity level and how well they’ve developed their ability to self-assess, they probably don’t know … or at least they probably don’t know as well as I do.

And yet I know so many teachers who want to keep students’ overall grades – and even their individual test scores – secret from the students who have, presumably, done the work that earned those grades. What’s up with that? Those same colleagues, when they go to the doctor for a medical test, would be outraged if the doctor refused to tell them the results – after all, they’d say, it’s my body and my health! So tell me the results! And they’d be quite right … but yet they wouldn’t see any contradiction in returning to school the next day and not answering a student’s question about how he/she was doing in their class!

Unlike those inconsistent colleagues of mine, I’m firmly convinced that my students need to know how they’re doing – and they really need to have Ownership of how they’re doing as well as of what they’ve been learning. So I’ve gradually been redesigning my system of assessments – and the ways I give feedback on assessments – to put the focus more squarely on students’ Ownership of the results. Here are a few of the critical elements of the new system … and if you’re a long-time lēctor fidēlissimus (or fidēlissima), I’m sure you’ll see obvious connections with the assessments we’ve developed for the Tres Columnae Project.

One of the biggest changes I’ve made is the incorporation of a lot more self-assessment by students. Sometimes this is very informal (on a scale from 1-5, where 5 is “quite well,” hold up the number of fingers that represents how well you understand the new concept), and sometimes it’s more formal. The more I use self-assessment, the better my students tend to do … so I’ve become a big believer in it. If you’ve looked at the assessment components of the Tres Columnae Project, and especially at the items on display in the Instructure Demo Course for Lectiō Prīma, you’ve probably seen how much self-assessment we ask our participants to do. In a perfect world, I think I’d ask for a self-assessment after each explanation and each practice exercise, and we’ve come pretty close to that … but not so close that self-assessment becomes a tedious chore!

In addition to the informal self-assessments, I also ask my face-to-face students to do a more formal, journal-type self-assessment after they take each “formal” test but before they see their scores. Part of this “Self-Assessment of Preparation” is a chart where my students rate their comfort level with each new (or familiar) concept or skill, using a similar scale to the five-finger one I described above, but part is a series of open-ended prompts:

  • My greatest strength as a Latin student is ….
  • My area of greatest concern is ….
  • My area of greatest improvement over the past few weeks has been ….
  • I need to ….
  • My group needs to ….
  • I would like Mr. S. to ….

That last question has been extraordinarily helpful, and extraordinarily humbling, for me as a teacher. Sometimes I get really good, specific suggestions (“practice vocabulary with us,” for example, or “re-explain how verbs work,” which I’ll be doing as you read this post today); sometimes I get silly suggestions; and sometimes I’m asked to “continue what he is doing” or “change nothing.” Either way, I find that my students do take increasing amounts of Ownership of the whole learning process when they have these chances not only to assess their own performance, but to give feedback to me and (anonymously) to their classmates.

In the interest of time, I think I’ll save the other items on my list of assessments for tomorrow’s post.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What forms of assessment work well in your face-to-face teaching and learning situation?
  • Are there forms that used to work well but have stopped being effective?
  • Have you been experimenting with anything new and different?
  • What role for technology in the assessment process do you see?
  • Are there any technological pitfalls you’d like to avoid?
  • And what forms of assessment would you like to see – or not see – in Version Beta of the Tres Columnae Project and beyond?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at some other assessments on my list and finish wrapping up this series of posts about Testing. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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