The Beginnings of Assessment

I’d been thinking about assessment and evaluation this week, before I went to the first ECS 410 class. Specifically, in a mathematics classroom, I was considering how to administer re-tests. I was thinking in term of both tests and assignments. What I had thought, before the class, was to offer several rewrites, perhaps as many as required, but the potential gain from each rewrite would be decreased. I also considered implementing “peer-coaching periods” in which students would work for a class helping each other to prepare for re-tests. That way, those skilled in certain topics could share (and expand) their knowledge through coaching, while those who needed help would get one on one assistance. It would also free me to circulate and give more personalized feedback.

I still like the idea of peer coaching – ECS 410, in one class, has made me question my re-testing policy. Specifically, why would re-writes decrease returns? Also, how traditional are my concepts of assignments and tests in this scheme – should they be the element revised, rather than the re-testing principle? I need to think on this.

During the Math OCRE on Friday, we had a principal from Saskatchewan in as a guest speaker, and he was describing the way some of his math courses are run; specifically, he was describing the Workplace and Apprenticeship Pathway. Essentially, his school’s program worked like this:

1) Students are given a workbook/chapter/section (reference material of some sort) and teach themselves a concept.

2) Working in groups is strictly forbidden – students must work alone with the material. To work with others is considered cheating.

3) Students write a short test. They are required to pass each question on the quiz. If they are unsuccessful, they are given verbal feedback on what material was incorrect. They must study more, then reattempt an identical test.

4) When they have successfully completed a test, they are given the next unit of reference material, and the process repeats.

I have several issues with this. The first and largest is the lack of teamwork. To call collaboration cheating, especially in a course designed to prepare the student for a Workplace or an Apprenticeship, is incredibly naïve. Secondly, I find the use of a single identical test troubling. To paraphrase the principal: if they can answer this question, they have demonstrated their understanding of the outcome, and have thus completed that curricular objective successfully. I don’t believe that a single question can demonstrate outcome completion – what about choice and application? Decision making and problem solving? One question to demonstrate competence and understanding is not very holistic.

I’m excited for this class. I think I have a lot to learn about assessment and evaluation, and I can’t wait to do so. It matters to me, it will matter to my students – what more can you ask for from a university Education credit?

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One thought on “The Beginnings of Assessment

  1. Zachary
    Thank you for your thoughtful and idea provoking words. It is good to see a view from a Math major since I am a math minor but who is counting-well we both are.
    In regards, to peer assessment what would your thoughts be on that, how much time would you allow for the students to assess, would you even get rid of tests? Would you allow a student to constantly re-test or re-assignment? And how do you think these would affect you as a teacher.
    I can begin to see the long term affects of re-testing and how it can reduce the work load and more importantly improve the students scores. Once again it requires more work-which hopefully we are both prepared to accomplish.
    I am 100% with you when it comes to teamwork, you make a valid point on how the class is for the future and in the future we do use teamwork. I would carry this on further and say that it acknowledges the students will be displaying teamwork, which is a form of responsibility as well as respect for one another. By doing delegating who does what on an assignment or test, and helping someone out if they can’t quite understand a concept or problem. It is all about shaping future citizens no matter what class they are in.
    For me this was the case in my Calculus class, if someone struggled and couldn’t understand a concept or problem we went back together as a class and helped the person out. This is actually a pivotal area in my life when I decide to become a teacher.

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