Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The middle of the course....

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up."
- Bible: Ecclesiastes

I cannot believe that we have just come to the middle of our fantastic course. The time is running so fast whether we admit it or not. In this week we have many new challenges. The first thing I am going to write about will be assessing learning/alternative assessment. At the very beginning, I want to say that the assessment and tracking of our students’ progress are very important parts in learning because in this way we can see the strengths and weaknesses of our students in the language performance. As I used some of the assessment practices, I have always wondered whether if there is any other way to assess my students' learning. In the weekly assignment, one of the tasks was to read about the Rubric/Assessment tools which can be used in our everyday teaching and learning. The first article, I read, is available at  http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/assessing/alternative.htm. I prefer four features that are mentioned in the article:
  • Assessment is based on authentic tasks that demonstrate learners' ability to accomplish communication goals
  • Instructor and learners focus on communication, not on right and wrong answers
  • Learners help to set the criteria for successful completion of communication tasks
  • Learners have opportunities to assess themselves and their peers 
In my opinion, this is so motivating way for students to actively participate. In this way, students can benefit a lot because they can learn from each other and they can make better interactive communication between themselves. I say this because it is common to have a bad interactive communication within the class

The assessment tools can be used for different types of lessons where the instructor (a teacher) can evaluate individually or students can evaluate their own tasks or their peers’ activities. I especially like setting and designing of criteria which is also important for assessment. In this article, I also found useful criteria which can be used in almost every class:
  • They are built around topics or issues of interest to the students
  • They replicate real-world communication contexts and situations
  • They involve multi-stage tasks and real problems that require creative use of language rather than simple repetition
  • They require learners to produce a quality product or performance
  • Their evaluation criteria and standards are known to the student
  • They involve interaction between assessor (instructor, peers, self) and person assessed
  • They allow for self-evaluation and self-correction as they proceed
In the criteria, every step is clear and defined well, so students can actively participate and they can evaluate themselves as well as their peers. Students do not need to remember every step clearly, but they can keep it in their minds and they can share it with their classmates, too.
As there are methods how to assess something, the checklists and rubrics are commonly used. At first, I like checklists because they can be used to track students’ progress and work over time. Checklists are also rewarding because they can be easily constructed and they in conjunction with a certain task.
On the other hand, there are four kinds of rubrics. There are:

  • Holistic rubrics
  • Analytic rubrics
  • Primary trait rubrics
  • Multi-trait rubrics
The three rubrics I like the most are analytic, primary trait and multi-trait rubrics. In the analytic rubrics, there are the categories which can be assessed, e.g. content, organization, vocabulary and grammar. So, students can see their weakness and I think that they will be encouraged to overcome the obstacles and the weaknesses will become the strengths. Simply, they can see where they make common mistakes. 

Considering the primary trait rubrics, the advantage of this rubric is that allows teachers and students to focus on one aspect of language performance. This is rewarding for assessing the skills of writing and speaking. These rubrics can also help students to boost their skills of writing and speaking. The last multi-trait rubrics are also constructive. What I like about these rubrics is that they allow rating performances on three or four dimensions (e.g. description, fluency, language control).

All in all, the assessment tools are very rewarding because they help both teachers and students to track the progress jointly. It also helps students to develop their independent learning and to build their cognitive thinking.  

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