Forms of Assessment
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If one was to draw a continuum on a piece of paper to plot out the different methods of language education the transactional method would be close to the center of the line, with the transmissional method and organic/Romantic method on the opposing ends. The transmissional method of instruction stresses direct instruction, usually with drill and practice type of exercises. The lessons are skills based with a stress on “part to whole” language. This refers to experiencing words as their individual graphophonemic parts. The transactional method of teaching stresses the facilitation of information from the teacher to the student. Learning for the transactional teacher is a social process with the learner. Knowledge is constructed by the learner and language is taught from “whole to part”. Whole to part refers to the context with which the learner sees text. Rather than learning words and graphemes individually, the learner sees them in full texts. These language methods are often shaped by the particular paradigm that each teacher chooses.
The search for truth forms the various paradigms that we have discussed in class. According to Realism, truth can be found only in the real world. The quest for knowledge ends with what we can see and feel and touch. Realism is very empirical and scientific therefore translates into a transmissional view of language. An example of a philosophy that comes from this paradigm is Essentialism. In contrast to Realism, Pragmatism holds that there is no truth. Truth is not found in the real world, but truth is relative. It is defined and constructed by the learner. The Pragmatist view translates into a transactional method of language instruction. The transaction between the teacher and the learner is a mutual quest for knowledge. The prime example of a philosophy of education that arises from Pragmatism is Constructivism. The third out of the three main paradigms that form educational thought is Idealism. Unlike Pragmatism, Idealism says that there is truth. Also, unlike Realism, Idealism says that truth can be found in the metaphysical.
So where does that leave Christians? Christians find knowledge in both the metaphysical (from God) and from the real world (His creation). That means that there must be a middle ground between Realism and Idealism. This middle ground is called Christian Theism. Christian Theism holds that there is truth and that it can be found, through God and His works.
In my opinion their needs to be some element of Constructivism involved in this theory. I feel that children should be able to discover knowledge for themselves. The teacher should present the options, including God’s truth, so that the learners can discover it on their own. It is unfortunate how it has become acceptable for children to study religion, (an Idealist notion) but just not Christainity. Politically, it has become taboo for Christianity to be alluded to in anyway. The separation of church and state that the government tried to establish was intended to keep a church from running the country, not to completely force it out of schools. This may seem like a tangent but one way that I feel I may be able implement religion in the classroom would be to use God’s word. The books of the Bible are written in many forms; the Bible contains, but is not limited to histories, narratives, and poetry. These various genres can be integrated into the classroom with units on literature. The Bible is God’s literature, and can be integrated into lessons without infringing on the previously mentioned law. When viewed as literature, I feel that the Bible can be integrated into my class with stepping on people’s toes. Christian Theists should not be scared or intimidated to use their faith in the classroom. The paradigms that shape other philosophies of education are accepted in many schools. On a political level, the Christian view is just and valid as the next, but our eyes it is the ideal, real Truth.
If I were to summarize the IRA/NCTE Standards for Reading and Writing Assessment, I would have to say that those from IRA/NCTE want assessment to be focused on the learner. The assessment should be fair to all learners capture the learners’ interests, promote skills that writing and reading will be used for, stimulate questions and critical thinking, and reflect the method of teaching in the classroom. There have been many assessments that I have participated in that do not adhere closely to these standards. Teachers have often used very in authentic assessments to evaluate my fellow classmates and me. These took the form of standardized, norm-referenced tests. The environment for these tests was usually different from the environment that I learned the information in and there was no room for interaction or discussion. Granted, some people only care about student’s test scores, but if the IRA/NCTE Standards of Reading and Writing Assessment are followed, inauthentic assessments do not have to be the only way we can evaluate a child.
Performance samples, literacy collections, observations and interviews are four methods of alternative assessment that can be an options for teachers instead of traditional tests. Some of these methods of assessment (RMI, CRMA, Running Record) ask the teacher to set time aside in the class to work one on one with a student. While the student reads, the teacher listens for miscues and mistakes that the child makes and documents them. The draw back to doing an assessment like this is that it takes time away from the class in order to work with each student. Assessments like interviews are more informal and are basically a conversation between the teacher and reader about how he reads, what problems arise he reads, any other issues that may come up about strengths and weaknesses of reading. Literacy collections allow for teachers to collect pieces of writing so that they may chart the progress of students writing. Observations are another one of the more informal assessments. The teacher may choose a handful of students who she will listen to read in a given week. This reading takes place usually when she asks a student to read in front of the class. The evaluation comes in the form of notes and anecdotal records.
One of the goals of the IRA/NCTE Standards is to place the interests of the reader in the forefront of the assessment. With such a personalized setting as a one on one reading session, teachers might be able to choose books that appeal to the reader. Teachers could also use what they have learned in this session to change the manner in which they teach that particular child. In an interview there may not be as much room to place the interests of the reader at the head of the conversation. One may talk about what books that student likes to read, but I think that generally the conversation would stay in the area of reading strengths and weaknesses. Observations might not fully take advantage of the readers interests, simply because this takes place in the context of the normal class day. I feel that portfolios may be the evaluation that places the most emphasis on student interest. The students’ favorite writing pieces can be included from start to finish. Portfolios and other collections can be placed in the hands of the students. A teacher may tell his/her class that it is their job to fill their portfolios with writing that they feel best represents them. Also the teacher could contribute what he/she feels is best in the portfolio.
The second and third standards deal with the teacher’s ability to reflect on the evaluation with regards to the curriculum. I think that these two standards are a given when it comes to evaluations. The point of most forms of testing is to see how well the students know what it is they have been taught and so that teachers can evaluate their methods of teaching. No one method of teaching language is right for every student. Teachers must uses their evaluations to see the strengths and weaknesses of each student and how his/her teaching methods and curriculum can fit the students. Therefore I feel that each of the four alternative evaluations discussed can yield these results.
The IRA/NCTE Standards go on to say that assessment should be fair and equitable. As with any form of evaluation, there is room for bias. Unfortunately teachers can hold misconceptions of their students that may affect evaluations. For example, anecdotal records may be skewed to show the downfalls of a students reading simply because the student acts out in class. A teacher may be less likely to write down favorable things about Johnny when he beats up his classmates. Other assessments, like an observation with a checklist, or a Running Record would be more equitable in that context. Teachers would have a rubric of sorts to check the miscues of the student. One downfall of some of the alternative assessments is that the teacher may assume that the student knows what he or she is doing even though the student may not. An interview may be an example of this. With an oral evaluation it would be easier for a teacher to finish sentences, assume what a child knows, and make mistakes as to the miscues. A portfolio allows children to write and show the progress of their writing. Progress is something that can be measured individually and that may be something that might not be fair or equitable. If I see that the best writer in the class as made little improvement over the course of the year, but continues to write outstanding work, while the worst writer in the class makes significant progress throughout the year, will their grades during evaluations reflect improvement of caliber of work? It would not be equitable, but it would be fair to give them both good grades.
Lastly the goals claim that the consequences of an assessment are the most in considering how well the assessment works. My understanding of this goal, is that the evaluation should reflect the objectives that the teacher had when he was teaching. This goes hand in hand with the statement that assessment should reflect the way students learn. With a one on one reading session, students are reading in similar fashion to the way they would read to an adult at home. Most likely teachers do not take time to read to children individually so this method might not reflect the teaching styles of most teachers. It may work with teachers who engage the entire class in read aloud types of programs. Observations and anecdotal records may be the most natural style of evaluation since they do not interfere with the normal flow of class. Also portfolios would fit this goal since writing is something that students must do in everyday life, as well as in class. I feel that collecting a class’ examples of writing and documenting its progress would be the ideal method for making assessment naturally fit with the curriculum.
The implications of these goals for teachers according to the standards, , are that many different forms of assessment should be used in the classroom. I feel that no one form of assessment can accurately fulfill each of the goals described by the IRA/NCTE. A variety of alternative assessments would be the best way to cover these areas. It seems as though I praised portfolios over the other forms of evaluation, but I do see a downfall in them. There is not the same opportunity to observe reading as there is with the other assessments. I do like portfolios and intend to use them in my class, but to make up for where they lack I will also use other alternative assessments. The standards also state that the teacher is the most important agent of assessment. I am not totally sure I agree with this statement. This statement seems like it is going away from a student-centered classroom. I feel that the student is the most important agent in learning, and if learning reflects assessment, then the assessment should be student centered as well. Also included in this is the fact that parents must be actively involved in assessment. As far as parent involvement, a reading interview with parents would be an easy way to integrate parents into evaluation. The standards also state that the community (“parents, students, teachers, administrators, policy makers and the public”) have a stake in the interpretation and treatment of the assessment results. I think it is a given that the community will want to have a say in and be informed about the different types of evaluation used in classrooms. The scores from a test can only say so much about a child’s ability. By using anecdotal records I will be able to give a more accurate picture of what each student knows and what each student is capable of. Ideally, each of the methods of assessment will be used in my classroom. The way that a puzzle fits together to make a whole picture, so do the different forms of assessment give a whole picture of a child’s capability.