Subjective and Objective Student Assessment- A Thought Experiment on Student Learning

What assessment is fair to every student?

Imagine for a moment – you are a student, learning in a subject that you find to be difficult. Consider a time that you struggled to grasp the content; but, you ‘failed’ the mid-term exam. Can you remember a time in your life or the experience of your students that the ‘failure’ to learn at the mid-term actually motivated a positive growth in learning. What would be in the best interests of the student?

  • How would positive based assessment impact a student?
    • Why mark down incorrect understanding?
    • Why not reward correct knowledge?
    • Assessment at any time?
  • What would be the impact of students choosing their mode of assessment?
    • Unless the mode of assessment (a writing task in an English class for example) is germane to the assessment, why should the mode matter?
    • Can students show their understanding in multiple ways?
  • Could a student be assessed fairly at any time?
    • What if the student completes the learning task late? Does that change the amount they have learned?

What would be in the best interests of the teacher? The teacher has a set time-frame to assess every student – a semester, a week, a day perhaps. What would be fair to all of the students? If the teacher allows for maximum flexibility in assessment, are they setting the path to every student achieving their very best? What if the student does not display mastery at the same level as another student simply because the modality of the assessment does not allow for some expression of knowledge?

Suppose a science class is finishing a unit on the water cycle. One student might choose to be assessed traditionally by completing a paper based test. A second student may opt for more flexibility in how the information is presented and create a presentation with graphics and written paragraphs that explain the content. A third, less talented writer with test anxiety, may opt to create a dance that demonstrates the water cycle. All three students may have the same understanding. The mode of assessment will reveal different sets of knowledge.

The first student will show a prompted understanding of the knowledge deemed important by the teacher.

The second student – assuming they are a good writer – will be able to clearly articulate what they understand to be important in regards to the water cycle.

The third may be a highly accomplished dancer – and compose a dance that could be interpreted with all the same content as either of the first two students, but it is dependent on the teacher’s ability to understand the dance.

It seems there is a line between subjective assessment and objective assessment. Clear criteria, the correct and incorrect answers are set in one corner. As is the case with student one, accolades are given for reproducing the answer exactly as instructed. It is clear which student has the information and which does not. Some may argue that test anxiety gets in the way – a re-test on paper or even orally may be the remedy.

This is set against the modality of the student that creates their own mode of assessment and tells the teacher what they know. The second student clearly has done this.

The third student may need to interpret their work for the teacher, which is ultimately an oral report (a hybrid of student one and two); perhaps the second two students can even assesses their own work for their own grade. At what point is the assessment fair? At what point does the assessment support the learning of the student?

In life outside of school – which all teachers must consider in the instruction of students – the later, student created assessment, seems to be more applicable to growth. The answer to a real world problem rarely has a clear single solution. With the drive toward soft-skills such as flexibility and creativity this mode seems to be the most relevant. It also allows students to test how they want to be perceived in the world and how their ideas my be received. However, for the sake of teacher-ease and transparent fairness to the students, a clear ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answer is clearly the way to go.

 

 

Poetry Assessment Objectives IGCSE

Upon reflecting on effective teaching practices, here are four activities that engage students in the four AOs for IGCSE Literature.

FOR AO4: Display of Questions

I believe these questions are good starters for the students to identify their perspective on a text. There are two possible deployment tactics I would first take. OUT OF CLASS TACTIC: Primarily, given that my students are fairly high level, I would give these questions as an out-of-class assignment. Students would be instructed to read the text and then write for 10 minutes in response to the questions. The students would then come to class with these questions answered and ready to discuss them with small or large groups. IN CLASS TACTIC: On the opposite end of ability, my second deployment method, would be to provide sentence frames, helping my one low student respond to the questions. For example, in the question, ‘what words do you find most vivid?’ I would provide a frame for the response, ‘I find the word____________ most vivid because it reminds me of _______.’ Or, ‘List five words that you find to be important for the poem’ followed by a numbered list with blanks to fill in.

FOR AO2: Deeper Meanings

USE OF BLOOM’S TAXONOMY: The suggested activity asks pupils to ‘ask probing questions’. But, it lacks specificity. To support this activity, I would use Bloom’s Taxonomy. We would first identify factual elements of the poem. E.g. there are four quatrains and an A-B-A-B rhyme scheme. I would move to analysis questions. For example ‘what is the narrative content of the first quatrain, the second, third and fourth?’. Moving from identification and analysis, I would then ask them to make connections between the facts of the poem and the identified elements. I would use questions such as, ‘what is the importance…’, ‘what is the significance….’, ‘tell me why…’ and ‘tell me how…’. By identifying the elements that need to be connected, I can guide the pupils to make those connections. Students may respond orally or in writing. They may do the work individually or in groups. It could even be done as a presentation or interview (imagine students ‘pretending’ to be an expert on the poem and then answering the interview questions I identified earlier).

FOR AO3: Connecting to the text

PERFORMANCE AND DIRECTION: This activity suggests partners work together to identify elements such as enjambment, rhyme, and meter. I have used excellent speaking aloud work to do this. One student acts as a director and the other the performer. The performer stops when the director tells them to stop (e.g. at the end of the line), tells them to walk and helps them identify how fast to walk – in identification of the meter, and provides a gesture or movement to be symbolic of the rhyming elements (this works too with alliteration and assonance). The students trade positions and use a new or the same text. If using the same text, the students try to make new choices or pick a different element of focus.

GRAPHIC REPRESENTATION: The second part of the activity suggests that pupils comment on and identify devices – such as imagery, sound, and rhetorical devices. This too can work with a performative activity, as suggested above, or it can be effective graphically. Using class posters that include common elements such as: 1) The device, 2) a modern-language definition of the device, 3) examples from poems (and citations of which poem). Then groups can present on one element and identify all the devices. This can also be an effective tool to review and revise before a mock exam.

FOR AO1: Extension activity, peer-review

This activity suggests that students can essentially annotate the work of a peer and identify required or beneficial elements in a practice response. I would add to this with a reflective piece before the activity. REFLECTIVE PEER-REVIEW: For this activity I would start with the class by giving them the rubric with each band. I  would ask them to identify possible examples of what they may see in an essay, meeting each band. They may identify signpost language (e.g. key words such as ‘one key quote is…’), they may identify structure such as (PEEL), they may identify countable elements (such as one quote for each section of the poem). We would then create a shared annotation key (building from the one identified in the SOW). Students would peer-review, annotate, then talk back to their peer on their perspective of the work.

Reflection on PRESENTING in CLASS

I think presentation is essential. Therefore, I ask that my students do it frequently and the stress is lessened. All students are also rewarded with a single clap of respect from the entire class after every presentation, 1, 2, 3, *clap*. It’s just part of my expectations. However, I have provided accommodations for students gripped with fear. Accommodations have included, presentation in a seated position instead of standing in front of the class, written work read by another student on behalf of the shy student, small group instead of full class presentations, recorded at home and sent in presentations, and fully excused presentations as part of an identifiable medical disability. Any clearly seen accommodations like this are often accompanied with a class discussion about different abilities with fear and presenting – as well as why learning to talk in front of the group is important.

Command Words – Lesson Plan

LESSON ONE: COMMAND WORDS

LEARNING TARGET: To understand different levels of presenting information (fact,analysis, and synthesis) and apply them to command words in test questions.

Bell Ringer/pre-assessment: Students respond in writing to question for one minute, then share out ideas: 

What is the difference between the presentation of facts, the development of analysis, and a synthesis of ideas?

(Gather learner friendly responses)

Practice one: Students Take ten minutes to answer the following questions, writing independently

Explore the ways… with three examples that the story of “The Three Pigs” tells the reader about theme of hard work.

How… does “The Three Pigs” tell the reader about the theme of hard work through the plot?

How far does… the story tell the reader that hard work is important? Cite evidence from the plot that is in favor and against.

In what ways… using three examples does “The Three Pigs” support the main idea of hard work through character development?

To what extent… do you agree that “The Three Pigs” is about the theme of hard work? Provide three pieces of evidence from the text that support one or both sides of your position.  

Supporting Activity- Small Groups: Student compare their responses with each other in a small group setting.  

Questions for conversation: What was different about your responses?

What was similar about your responses?

What was different about the questions?

What was similar about the questions?

Extension Activity- Individual / Full Group: Students respond to the following question, first in a “five-minute” quick write and then share their responses in a class conversation. 

If the question was not about hard work or “The Three Pigs” and instead about a different theme or story, what would be different or the same about your response? How do the command words (how, how far, In what ways, To what extent, Explore the ways) connect to the way you respond? Which questions are asking for facts? Which questions are asking for analysis? Which questions are asking for synthesis?

Extension Practice, Formative Assessment: 

Write five questions using the same command words for a book that you have already read.

How to Evaluate Memorization

Memorization is a key skill in theatre and in life – but some kids need more or less support. Sometimes it even depends on their ability level. In my experience one point for each word becomes tricky – different students have different word counts and different memorization challenges in a particular script. Instead, I look at levels of memorization. It helps me direct student support for follow up.

Here is a general rubric that I like to use:

“Top Marks” – 10 points for being  Word Perfect

“Job Done” – 7-9 points for being basically word perfect. Maybe some transposition of words or dropped words. Perhaps a missed sentence (depending on length).

“Support Needed” 4 – 6 points, student missed more than a sentence, called for line or looked at script (1 – 3 times).

“Significant Revision Required” –  1-3 points for being unable to complete memorization or in need of more than three prompts.

I’ll assign a Student AD or SM to make notes on any missing or incorrect words by highlighting a revision script for the actors or by making line notes specifically for each actor.

Additionally, it is important to:

  • Give students memorization tools before giving them a memorization assignment (or make sure they have experience with memorization).
    • Tools include: writing and re-writing the lines by hand (speaking aloud while re-writing can also be helpful)
    • Writing cue lines on one side of an index card and the full line on the other side. Students can study like flash cards. Again, speaking aloud is preferred.
    • Memorizing line by line or sentence by sentence in what I call the A, AB, BC, CD, method so that what has been memorized gets linked to what will be memorized and the text is evenly memorized throughout.
    • Physical cues within text. Students can connect physical action such as blocking or character gesture to pieces of text. These gestures are fully implemented as part of performance whenever possible.
    • Sound cues in text. It helps students to use auditory clues such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize a text. Sometimes it takes a study of these poetic elements to cue into the memorization.
    • Memorization to a song.  Use an established song melody and fit the spoken words to that song. Play the song again and again.
  • Give students ample time to memorize their texts and scaffold the memorization so that it is not all due at one time. I often tie memorization deadlines to the rehearsal following completion of blocking for a scene. (Alternating in sets of four for rehearsal: 1) Table read and discussion of scene; 2) Blocking of scene, on book; 3) run of scene memorized blocking and lines; 4) working of the scene, “stop, work, fix, go”.

 

 

 

Lesson idea – intro to musical theatre.

What should an interviewing teacher do to show off great teaching for an upper school drama class? My response is as follows: pick one lesson that shows your technical strength as a theatre artist. Perhaps musical theatre. Keep it simple.

1) pre-view and pre-assess (eg. Sing a song about what you are feeling) discuss with the class what they saw. Deploy relevant academic language (Eg. Ballad. Sonnet. Rap.)

2) prep and practice (eg. Give kids an open prompt to sing their feelings/thoughts. They can use an existing song for lyrics or make one up.) let them pair share in rehearsal. Circulate and work one-on-one or in small groups. Give them a simple rubric to follow and peer evaluate. (Eg. Song had emotional content. Enunciation was clear. Voice message was projected.)

3) kids up on stage one by one share 10 seconds of their song. Quick feedback in Oreo style – good performance element – challenge or growth element was – compliment performance. Fill rubric out for student. This should be the third evaluation on the rubric. They did one for themselves. They had a peer do one too.

4) Reflection. On the back of their rubric, students write out one strength of their work and one thing they want to do differently next time. Rubric with reflection becomes exit ticket. Before dismissal establish exit routine. (Eg. Fist bump, bow to rest of class, clap of respect etc.) collect reflections. Be ready to discuss each student’s work with the hiring team.

AUTOMATED or AUTHENTIC ACTING

Does acting in acting class need to be authentic to the student?  I recently came across this question in a professional forum.

Certainly authenticity is good – especially in theatre. It is a creative process; the product is best when it is personal to the actor. However – I contend that this may only be the desired end product.

A novice actor needs skills to build from – guidance even clear direction to develop with. Ready, set, create… GO! Open ended creation can be difficult. Giving a student a framework, blocking, gesture, vocal placement, clear direction is not only good teaching, it is a real-world occurrence. In doing so, the teacher is supporting the skill level of the student and scaffolding from that point forward. Yes in theatre education, there should equally be as many opportunities to collaborate, devise, and create in an open-ended forum. These are key skills that theatre can main-line to the student; these later skills, require a prerequisite of experience to build from.

Consider instruction in English Language Arts. In middle school and high school, writing instruction is often prescribed. A teacher may say, “use these sign post words” or “use a first person voice”; they may further say submit your paper in 12 pt font and MLA format. And in the execution of that prescription, the student learns the structure, the form,  the style required and then can learn to write in that mode authentically. But, their first prescribed may not be authentic to the student.

I contend that the instruction of an acting student does not need to be much different. I am curious to see what other teachers of theatre may think on this point.

This approach of prescribed movements and highly directed or choreographed work could also be described as an “outside-in” style of acting. Physically based styles are widely used around the world. Included in this would be the Lazzo of the Fly from Commedia and the stylized movement and voice of Kabuki. Here are some examples.

You can see in the Lazzo, the movements are very planned, even choreographed in response to the music.

Here you can see an example of a planned combat scene in Kabuki. It has been done in this exact prescribed style for the past 400 years.

 

 

 

Youth Theater Needs Lessons – not simply games

I’ve been working in the field of youth theater for the past decade. I find that when it comes to training acting skills and getting specific with young actors about the skills they are learning such as voice, speech, physicality, using objectives, and general analysis of a character plot and given circumstances, Drama games do not cut it. Drama or improvisation games are good for general, unspecific, and inferred skills that actors use every day in theater. However, to break through that and actually transfer knowledge in an explicit way, Young actors need formative lessons that are equivalent to a musician playing a piece of music. Similarly, you cannot train a classical musician through jazz improvisation. Drama or improvisation games are good. But, I do not rely on them anyway to actually teach my students. Drama and improvisation games are good for days when I want to depart from a lesson sequence. Yes, fun is essential in learning and especially in a creative discipline such as theater. However, it is difficult to engage student voice and ask students to articulate what they have learned in a drama game. Learning should be based on formative lessons with specific skills that are being practiced in improvisation or a script.