Aligning course goals with a course, is often left out of the hands of educators who work at institutions, (or at least where I am currently located – in other locations, I both designed and developed the assessment format of a course). However, as I also mentioned in my previous post, personally speaking, I have always had a handful of marks which I could give to learners according to what I thought was relevant. Most of the times, these marks were awarded for continuous assessment – not only a presence in the classroom, but collaboration and fulfillment of tasks. As a language teacher, project-based learning is not new to me – for years I have practiced what is known as task-based learning – not only learning a language, but learning it through intelligent tasks where students could use the language and skill outside the classroom.
Nevertheless, my greatest challenge at the moment, is finding a balance within the assessment formats I am given to follow. If one looks closely at this chart below (taken from Teach Thought), where exactly do the contradictions lie?
Many of these tasks are not really about quantity; rather about quality and richly embedded with digital literacy skills (which still today are not being included in the curriculum). As I am currently teaching within an iPad learning environment, everyday I question assessment and evaluation procedures more.
As a teacher, I assume that other learners also appreciate feedback and the lack of any form of assessment would leave them in a void. Other than explaining the evaluation format at the beginning of a course, I also include 3/4 other elements which I take into consideration. They may not be much, but considering the handful of marks which I am given to award students, these elements weigh heavily in terms of qualitative work which cannot be pin-pointed by multiple choice.
For overall achievement of set tasks and classroom collaboration, I award badges through Edmodo – the LMS which I use for both class management and teaching. I create badges for collaboration, team-work, sharing, enthusiasm, self-initiatives and more. Nothing pleases me more than a student coming up and showing me something they have discovered how to do on the iPad – immediately I will ask if he/she wouldn’t mind sharing with the rest of the class. This is in fact not only sharing, but performing a mini-presentation as well. More. It is a student taking control of what she wants to learn, of individualizing her learning interests and sharing them. Isn’t that one of the purposes of education, to foster autonomy and love of problem solving? Isn’t it a pleasure when it is a student who sets the example of learning and doing instead of sitting passively, waiting to be entertained? At the end of the semester, other awards are given to the 3 students with the highest number of badges.
It is no surprise that blogging rates highly on my list of tasks for students. Blogging is one of the most important practices that actually teaches students about digital literacies and essential skills for today as they learn by doing. Just as for Presentation Skills, I give students rubrics by which their blogs will be assessed.
Depending on the level I am teaching, both presentation and blogging assessment will have slight variations of rubrics – after all, students are learning both a language and a skill.
If the diagram above is to be implemented, if media and technology skills are further developed with the implementation of iPads in classrooms, there is no doubt that assessment will have to change. The focus now is on the creation and transformation of knowing and knowledge – not only learning facts and figures to pour out in an exam.
Nevertheless, this change is far from simple or straightforward. Public/state institutions are accountable to the Ministry/Department of Education. Most governments are accountable to their population, particularly where tax is accounted for. Societies need their educational system to turn out graduates who can perform in their social systems, namely at work. If on the one hand, today there are robots doing many jobs which were initially performed by law abiding citizens, on the other hand, the emphasis on critical analysis, creative problem resolution and digital media skills are too, a focus for graduates to fit in the jobs which are necessary for societies to maintain themselves today.
Perhaps the most urgent issue is not whether one uses apps, online learning tools or not – but a change in assessment, making assessment more meaningful to learners, making assessment reflect their learning progress and ensuring standards of quality.
Further References for Rubrics