Grade Authentic Responses

I see teachers, in the current virtual teaching modality, struggling with student assessment. I have some thoughts on that.

First – grades are only as good as the test and do nothing to increase happiness. It is that- happiness that we need more of in the classroom. It is the only logical response to the mass global trauma that everyone is going through. Trauma changes the way your brain functions; it is not making logical choices, not everything is connecting fully.

I understand that people feel a need for control and the response goes to the authoritarian, information processing, teacher strategies that may have been handed down through teacher induction, mentoring, and systemic ideas about what education was.

Second – I have been asked this question multiple times:

How can we stop students from cheating on their at-home testing. My response, really goes to the core of, what are you teaching?

The problem: Teachers, why are you testing students on things that can be googled? Regardless of the constraints you place on them, time limits, screen-casting to document and monitor the test, locked google forms, and even education software that promises to manage it for you, students will find a way to cheat if they want. And then you still have to verify their work. This, at its core, is not the job of the teacher. That’s what a proctor does.

Here is a solution:  Why not give an exam that requires original creative thinking? Ask a question that gives the answer and the student must come up with the question. Ask for a book summary in the form of a monologue from the second most important character. Ask a riddle that has no answer (aside from the creative response that applies authentic connection with the material). Move the quiz into an oral defense of the work. With google we can use Blooms taxonomy to move beyond the facts and analysis (and the former style of info-processing teaching) and move into creation and synthesis. Test students on that.

When you engage students authentically, with personalized material, you increase the chances of intrinsic motivation. That is a key to happiness.

Assessment of Literature Ability

This one lesson activity is conceived of as being an INITIAL ASSESSMENT to analyze student ability at the start of an IGCSE literature course. It easily could be adapted to other subjects and grades in the upper school. 

OBJECTIVE: To identify literary elements within a text for further analysis

BELL RINGER: 1 minute: Name as many literary elements as possible (such as metaphor or simile)

PARTNER WORK: 10 minutes: – share your list with your partner. Define any common elements together. Define any unique elements on your own. Use your combined experience to craft a shared definition. Use a dictionary as needed.

(Informal teacher assessment here – observing the wealth of and accuracy of knowledge within the class)

GROUP ACTIVITY: 15 minutes: Share one element and the definition, aloud with the class (practice presentation of information). Individual students note any elements they did not have on their list, note definitions. Students should be left with a list of literary elements.

INDIVIDUAL ACTIVITY: Formative assessment. 20 minutes:  Students are given one of four or five (depending on group size) short texts (a paragraph, a poem, for example – ideally from the syllabus for future scaffolding). Students, annotate their unique text in the following way. The teacher should provide a live demonstration of this – or at least an exemplar of annotation.

– Highlight any literary element

– Annotate a description of the element

– Make any connections, in writing to the text as a whole or to other literary elements

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Students turn in work from the class. Count literary elements with correct definitions. Note current knowledge of students.

NEXT CLASS: SMALL GROUP WORK: Pass back formative assessments: Students connect in groups (based on text) and make note of their work and compare to others. They review their understanding in contrast to others. Students create one large annotated (collaborative poster) on their text. Students present their work to the class. Students can then craft an essay in response to their text. Use a past paper question to guide the in-class text. This becomes a second formative assessment looking for essay structure and response style.

  1. THE ASSESSMENT WILL HELP present the learners’ level of understanding with factual information (identification of literary elements in a text) and the application of that understanding (composing an essay).
  2. WITH THIS INFORMATION instructional decisions will be made to teach (or not) the identification of literary elements, textual annotation, essay composition.
  3. LEARNERS WITHOUT THE ABILITY will be identified from the first ten minutes of class. They could get, elements highlighted but not identified (or the reverse “look for a comparison”). Learners may need ESL accommodations (such as mother tongue translation). Learners may need to be referred to a learning support team. This two day assessment will identify a range of skills that can be scaffolded. It will also provide support to the student through the collaborative elements.

Robot invasion! (Change what we teach)

How do we teach for the future? When robots will be more intelligent than humans? What qualities must we educators seek to define and cultivate in our students? Creativity is key. This is something that robots can only simulate. Jack Ma has several other keys to teaching for the future. I for one appreciated this singular view from a person so well versed in the singularity.