Tag Archives: assessment

Give 100 Percent?

28 Jul

Working at a daycare has shown me many things and given me much insight into how children behave, and more specifically, how they learn.  The kids that I work with are so incredibly eager to learn, it almost makes me jealous.  They want to know everything, and they seem to retain anything they find interesting.  When i tell them stories, or work on the different topics that we are learning about, they have an ambition to learn just because it interests them.

It’s amazing.

In no other teaching environment, and i have been in with all grades, have I witnessed children who have such a drive to learn.  They want to do math just because they think it’s amazing that I can show them how to do it! I know it is probably a lot different being in a daycare rather than a school, but there is still a much different attitude towards what they are learning.

Then one day I noticed a cancer.

It spread so quickly through the children that I barely noticed the change.  The change took a week to get rid of though.

I gave my students a word search to work on, just as a task to keep them focused for twenty minutes, and to go through some Ancient Egyptian vocabulary with them.  They were so excited each time they found a word.  They wanted to finish the task and find all the words because until they found it, I wouldn’t tell them what it meant.  They were racing, and excited, and wanted to learn all the new words.

Then I went on my break.

I came back, and the person who took over for me started marking the word searches.  100% ‘s filled the pages and stickers and the kids all came running to me to tell me they had all got 100%.  No more cheering for their actual accomplishments, just excitement for the mark that was written at the top of the page.  When I asked if they wanted to learn all the words, they simply said they were done because it already got marked.

These are 5-8 year olds.

I was incredibly disheartened.  If they didn’t get a sticker and 100% they didn’t want to do it.  They lost their intrinsic want to do the activity.  For a week I had to decline their pleads to mark their work.  Now they are finally back to wanting to learn for their own reasons.

It’s sad that a race for marks can start so young.


Easy Assessment Vs. Easy Marking

26 Mar

Which would you choose?  The ability to assess easily, or the ability to mark easily.  I suppose for some teachers this could be a difficult decision for them.

I just don’t see how though.  If the only reason for making a “test” or “assignment” the way you do is because its easiest to mark, who is that benefiting?

I have been marking multiple choice tests recently, and doing them myself also, and find that I can’t even figure out what the question is asking me some times.  I also find that I know nothing about what my students know or don’t know from these questions.

So I ask myself, why would I choose the easy marking?  Sure it might take longer to go through different assessment tools, or even just making notes about the students from day to day, but it’s easier for me to assess in the end.  The actually assessment, not the evaluation of marks, but the assessment, is incredibly easier when I can see the progress my students have been making every step of the way.

The easy marking might save the time when having to fill a report card with marks.  If I’m filling this report card with numbers that don’t mean anything, what is the point?  I can see that my students are purely motivated by the marks that they get, but there are still ways to give marks for authentic assessment.

Some may think that giving marks for the things a teacher observes isn’t as credible as having concrete marks from an assignment or an exam.  The numbers might seem to be “made up” by the teacher.  My question is:  What is the difference between numbers “made up” by teachers from their actual assessment of a students progress, and the numbers given from a multiple choice.  A number given from a multiple choice test can be just as pointless, considering you can’t really see the knowledge from a multiple choice question.  What is more beneficial for the student?

It’s sad to think that a reason someone would do less actual assessment because its less work than marking, say, a multiple choice test.  I choose to do more work, if by more work it means more time on my students, because it will be easier to assess, because I can see much more clearly what my students know and, more importantly, need.

Multiple… Choice?

23 Mar

We have all taken them, and probably given them, the dreaded multiple choice test.  Although they are convenient, how much do they actually assess?

Recently I have been in a class that had only multiple choice tests and I found myself wondering what the point was of even doing them?  If they are made good, they can show some things, but if they are made badly, then they seem to be completely useless.

I understand that in some cases a multiple choice test are the only option necessary (or so the teacher might believe), but if they can be avoided then why aren’t they done so?

The first type of assessment I have encountered in my pre-internship, not administrated by myself, has been multiple choice.  While going through the quiz I wondered how much I could actually understand of the students knowledge depending on which letter they circled.  The only beneficial aspect of this quiz was going over it question by question, and actually seeing if the students could do the questions when they were asked.

So if that is the purpose of the quiz then why do it at all?

The real purpose of the quiz is quite simple: a grade.  There needs to be a numerical number to attach to a students name in order to make up the grade for the course.

If we are teaching students to understand we should be teaching for understanding not teaching for a grade.

Breaking Out Of The Box

10 Feb

A couple weeks ago my entire math education group was fortunate to go on our OCRE.  Don’t ask me what the acronym is, because I honestly have no clue.  What we got to do was plan a “bonding time” where we were able to bring in guest speakers of our choice to speak with us.  We had someone come in and talk about brain based learning, a speaker about grief, an incredible skype session about assessment, a talk about sexuality, and finally a talk about FASD.  Every single presentation was incredible and I learned so much in those two days it was amazing.  It was also an opportunity to get closer with the students who are also in math, we are just one big happy family.

There were certain points in those two days that I felt like I had really had a huge “A-Ha” moments.  During our talk about grief, given to us by The Greystone Bereavement Centre I realized that although I have felt grief in my life, it isn’t something I really actually understand.  Our class opened up entirely and it made me realize that I am going to have to support children who have gone through some very difficult things.  I also really enjoyed knowing what the Centre had to offer and some of the beautiful activities that I would incorporate into my own lessons, especially in the arts.  In our session about sexuality, given to use by the UR Pride Centre I realized that a big thing I will need to focus on is something as simple as my language.  Language can be taken in so many ways, and for someone in a class who could be confused or feel different, they aren’t going to care about that schooling necessarily and I will need to help them feel safe.  It reminded me of all the research I have done on oppression and of how I want to be able to create the safest environment for all students as possible.

Our talk about FASD was also incredible because it gave so much insight to something I didn’t know before.  Sometimes things like extrinsic motivation are crucial and sometimes they are not.  Our presenter gave us lots of examples and scenarios of things that she has encountered and really gave us a captivating talk.  I am happy to know that there are people like her that work for the school system who are ready at your disposal to help you when you have children in your class that need that help.

The last thing I want to talk about is really a turning point in how I feel about education.  It made me think.  Maybe more than any other time in my education thus far.  We had a skype session with Joe Bower about assessment.  I was lucky to be familiar with his blog, For The Love Of Learning, so I already knew what he had to talk about.  Joe Bower is a teacher who assesses his students, but does not grade them.  What a crazy concept in a society we have today.  I have thought numerous times before this that grading is something that is done wrong, I don’t know if I ever thought it was something you could actually do without though.  But really, what is a grade anyways?  Bower talked to us about how he doesn’t grade, why, and how we could go about doing this too.  A big focus is that we need to get students intrinsicly motivated to learn, and everything else comes from that.  It was an amazing talk, and I could probably go on for days about this so I will just end with something he said during our talk that really stuck with me.

There’s a word that starts with L that we don’t use enough in school, it’s called Learning.

More Thoughts on Assessment

2 Feb

A big topic in our EMTH classes has been focused on assessment.  Something that I have noticed before but never really reflected on was the type of assessment I was exposed to in my schooling career.

Assessment is going to happen in numerous places but generally in the three main areas: beginning, middle, and end.  Generally all of the assessment I have encountered has been something that happened at the end of the learning.  Originally when thinking about it I could only think of a few examples of assessment at the beginning, for instance an exam to start math in grade nine to see if I was placed in the right class.  I thought of cases where we had quizzes and assignments do throughout a course and that was the limit what I thought about for assessment during the middle of the learning.  It is easy to remember the end assessment with testing and finals.

Then I thought, well really what counts as assessment?

I didn’t think about the beginning discussions we would have before a topic, or numerous activities that went on throughout the learning, or many other different assessment tools.  I thought only about what I was marked and given a grade on.  There’s more to assessment than a grade.

The question is, were my teachers using these activities to assess my knowledge?  Did my teachers ever really do anything with that assessment for me?

I think about assessment a lot.  The only way that assessment is going to be beneficial is if I can apply it to actually help the students.  Feedback.  That’s a word I got very little of in my schooling.  Of course there was many instances where I did get feedback, but it was really ever given to me in a way that I was actually expected to apply it to my learning.  How can assessment be affective if you don’t fix the areas that are week?

Focusing assessment on the end result also has a lot of ramifications for the learning of a student.  Since that was where most of my assessment was evident I went through school knowing that I didn’t really have to learn anything as long as I could do it on the test.  Focusing on the end result puts emphasis on the final product and disregards the process to get there.  I find that the process of learning is actually where you find the learning, not the product, so the assessment should be found in the same places.

Assessment in Mathematics

13 Jan

A group of educators are brought into a room and asked to grade the exact same math test taken by the exact same student.  The mark achieved on this test?  Well the mark varied by 30%.  Wait a second… I thought math was black and white, right and wrong, good and evil… Why such the difference?

Over the course of my education I have thought a lot about assessment and especially how I am going to approach it when I teach.  I understand that there is a numerical grade given to students and I just do not think that it necessarily reflects any knowledge or understanding of the student.  Assessing doesn’t have to be done through marking to get a grade, because what does a grade really mean anyways?  Why is it that students need to be tested to prove their knowledge?  Do we not notice students understanding in numerous situations and do we not assess those things?  Regardless of these numerous things that we assess there has to be a numerical grade assigned to a student.  Marks are only reflective of a person’s opinion, so do they really matter?

Today in our EMTH 350 class we were asked to assess tests.  This is the first time I had been asked to do this, but not the first time that I have marked something.  I saw in many different instances that I knew the student fully understood the assignment and the problem yet made mistakes along the way.  What is more important; getting the right answer or understanding the process?  Process over product is a concept that I often think about and have always felt true.  When it comes down to it though, society asks a grade of us for our students.  In such a competitive society, with scholarships and university and so on, how else are we to gauge a students performance?

What really is assessment?  My understanding of it is that when you observe a student you can understand what they understand and what they are doing wrong.  Most importantly you are understanding how to fix those problems.  Assessing is something that happens all the time, but how can we measure it?  Do we need to?