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.



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”.




Meta-Reflection: Teaching With Technology

Technology is becoming ubiquitous with everyday life. Students and teachers should use technology in a way that is effectively integrated into the classroom so that learners and teachers are technologically proficient.

Through an investigation of the ISTE standards I have brought multiple avenues of potential development to my classroom. Integrating the arts and technology together in education is a difficult thing to do. Many other subjects have pre-loaded content, websites, and platforms that are dedicated to the education of students through technology. However, the arts do not have parody with these resources.

My existing work with technology in teaching supersedes the work that many of my colleagues are doing. One example of this is my development of a flipped classroom. This approach allows me to deliver lecture, collect survey/test data, and support class content through a use of my website, screen casts, and the Google Platform (including Google Docs, Google Forms, and other associated Google Apps).

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Linked to ISTE1 Blog Post

Given that I already deliver tests and assessments online, I wanted to verify the validity of self-administered testing and self-assessments through technology. I found that testing through technology provided valid and reliable data; surprisingly I also found that self-assessment through technology provided increased learning. I intend to engaged this approach in my future teaching be integrating more self-assessments through my web site.

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Linked to ISTE 2 Blog Post

For ISTE 3 I was able to find an app, ScenePartnerApp, that would assist me in modeling digital age learning in my classroom and content area. Students using this app will be able to upload their script and use the text reader as a scene partner when memorizing their lines. This technology provided the discipline specific resource I needed to teach with technology.

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Linked to Blog Post on ISTE 3

Given the lack of resources that I found that are discipline specific I leave my research with two action points that I intend to pursue. First, I will continue to integrate screen casts and self-produced material in my classroom. It has proven to be, and I believe will continue to be, an effective pedagogical tool. One new aspect of this will be teaching students about digital citizenship.

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Linked to Digital Citizen Post

Second, I will use online communities (such as LinkedIn) to connect with teachers from across the globe. I have already started to do this through LinkedIn; the results of this outreach have been effective. Not only have I been able to ask questions of teachers in multiple disciplines, including theatre, but I have been able to present my research to these groups and offer my expertise to other teachers.

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Linked to ISTE5 Post

By using technology in my classroom I am providing the needed tools to my students so that they can participate in a digital future. Teaching digital literacy and citizenship is the civics class of today and a needed part of every classroom.

Lastly, I plan to create a theatre curriculum that is entirely supported online. I would like to pilot a remote learning theatre program that will allow students from across the globe to connect through theatre performance. This would go a long way towards providing the resources – to other educators – that I struggled to find for myself.

ISTE5: Arts Teachers Connected By Technology

ISTE Standard 5 states that educators should always improve their teaching through lifelong learning, participating in global learning communities, and reflect on the learning of their students through applications of technology.

How can one demonstrate a continual development and improvement in one’s teaching practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in you’re the school and professional community through the effective use of digital tools and resources?

What resources and tools exist for arts professionals to connect through digital networks so that they can participate in local and global learning opportunities and exhibit leadership in an arts curriculum that integrates technology?

There are many groups geared toward teachers of the arts. Many of these groups can be found on Google+ Communities (Arts Education and Google Art Projects are two such groups). There are also arts education discussion boards on LinkedIn that have proven to be highly valuable (Arts in Technology is one such group). However, arts teachers are not known for their technological resources. The arts are more about human and in-person connections. Teachers in the arts must re-train how they connect with each other. One resource to do just that is Learn North Carolina ( This page takes the user, step-by-step, from the in-person conference meeting to building an online PLC. It is not exclusive to teachers in the arts. This resource is valuable for any educator that wants to build a PLC from scratch. Teachers that have been in the field for many years or who have been reluctant to adapt new ways of connecting with other educators may need to receive professional development just to embark into the world of digital networking. Social media and networks can be an essential part in todays workforce to provide educators with the tools they need to succeed in the classroom of today (Transforming American Education, 2010).

Another potential resource is Edutopia. Heather German posited that can provide discipline specific resources and connect educators from across the globe. This is a valuable resource for educators in marginalized disciplines such as the arts.


Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology. (2010, January 1). Retrieved March 11, 2015, from

Testing in Multiple Modalities (Course Reflection, Inquiry and Assessment)

social-media-conferencesMany people have experienced the ability to learn in different modalities. For instance, I memorize information best while I am walking. Many students in my class have demonstrated a visual preference for learning; they write and draw information to retain it. Other students in my class have shown their best growth when they talk to each other about their learning. Empirically, teachers and laypeople alike, understand that there are multiple modalities for learning. Why is it that student evaluation does not encompass the modality of learning?

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Student State Testing Results (course reflection Inquiry and Assessment)

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 12.27.21 PMThe 2013-14 Washington Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction test for Sixth Grade Reading Scores indicate that 30% of students exceed the standards (level 4) and 41% of students met the standard (level 3). This means that approximately one third of all sixth grade students are not meeting grade level standards. On the same test the Math Scores for sixth grade indicate that 28% of students exceeded standards (level 4) and 34% of students met standards. Again approximately one third of all students did not meet the standards. In 2013-14 there were approximately 48,000 students taking these tests and these scores, across each grade level stay at approximately the same rate of passing and failure.


Across demographic categories, girls marginally outperform boys in reading and math. Above the group average, more than 80% of Asian students (10% of respondents) pass both tests and Hispanic students (20% of respondents) have an aproximate 50% passing rate on both tests, below the full group results.

Approximately half of all of students (23,000 in total) taking these tests are low income; one third of students in this category did not pass the reading assessment and half did not pass the math assessment.


Just under 10% of students taking this test have low English abilities. Approximately only 20% of students in this category pass in either category.


Chapter Tests Bloom in Taxonomy

One of the most sophisticated things a teacher can do is to offer appropriate challenge in the content area; curricula must be both standards driven and allow students to develop their competencies using multiple skill areas (e.g. reading, writing, oral communication, and technology).

Teaching social studies in the sixth grade breaks down into two central categories: ancient civilizations and academic writing. Both are based on state or national standards. Every unit, organized around one or both of these pillars, combines all the skills of Blooms Taxonomy.

The application of Blooms Taxonomy into lesson planning, along side learning standards, follows a natural progression that assists in the development of the student (P3); the use of different question types to provoke learning and assess progress is highly effective. When it comes to the end of the unit, students should be able to demonstrate their mastery across all of Blooms six categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, Evaluation, and Synthesis.

Students often start with a hook into the knowledge. For the unit on Mesopotamia we may watch a quick introduction video, in this case Bugs Bunny on Mesopotamia.

Continue reading “Chapter Tests Bloom in Taxonomy”