After experiencing my three-week block, I think I have come out of the schools viewing assessment in a new way. Before going into the schools, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of assessment, marking, and assignments. I thought that creating assignments that met the outcome or a portion of the outcome would be easy, and marking it wouldn’t be that bad. I thought I was going to be a “hard marker” when it came to the students assignments. I was wrong about myself. During my three weeks, I learned quickly that if students could demonstrate in some way that they understood what I was trying to say, I gave them the marks, regardless of their quality. I started to realize that as long as students understood the content, the quality of their assignments was not important.
My philosophy of education and assessment has grown so much stronger in the last few weeks. I honestly believe that assessment and evaluation is hard to do without inserting your own personal bias. I also strongly believe that I will do whatever my students need for them to succeed. That means that I do not believe in late marks, and I will never reduce a student’s mark if they do not hand something in on time, as they have their own lives and you never know fully what the student might be struggling with. I will always give my students a chance to redo their assignments as many times as they need. When I was in the field, I would mark assignments and provide lots of constructive feedback for the students to see where they might have gone wrong, or what they might have misunderstood. I would hand back their assignments, and then always explain that they need to read through the comments, fix their assignments, and resubmit them. We would go through the assignments as a class, either for clarification, or to expand their learning, and then I would give them a bit of time to fix anything they would want to and have them resubmit them. The second time around, I would give more constructive feedback, and attach a mark to their assignments and return them the next day. The second time I did this, I would explain to the students that if they were not happy with the mark they got; they could always fix it again, and resubmit the assignment. I think the students really appreciated this process, because it allowed them to show me that they understood the content, and if they did not understand it, they had the opportunity to learn it again as a class, without singling the individuals out, and they were not penalized for not understanding. Like we had discussed in class, constructive feedback attached with multiple opportunities for improvement seemed to be important. It did, however, take a lot of time away from other class content, and it took up most of my night providing the constructive feedback. I think in the end, it was worth it because the students seemed to learn more and actually understand the content, but I think as a new teacher, I would need to learn how to balance time accordingly from professional to personal life.
During my field experience, I used a variety of different assessment and evaluation practices. I used quite a bit of diagnostic assessment in the classroom through the use of technology, and the kids seemed to love it. Each day, they would literally beg me to use that technology again. At one point during my lesson, a kid shouted to the class, “we should do this every day because I am actually learning things!” That made me laugh, but it also made me realize that technology used appropriately can be incredibly effective. I also used summative and formative assessment in my three weeks. For formative assessment, I used technology to see where the students stood with their understanding of content, I had group discussions, exit slips and entrance slips, question boxes, reflections, class reviews, and a few other things (none of which I used a rubric but rather I read through their questions and exit/entrance slips, listened to discussions, and made a list of the areas in which the students seemed to be confused, and where their strengths were, I looked over their reflections). I kept a log book with my reflections, and the student’s names in a list. Each time they handed something in to me which was formative, I would give them a check mark beside their names. For those who didn’t hand something in, I would make an effort to talk to the student and see where they were at with the material in class. This verbal interaction also let me know where those students were with the content, and allowed them to complete the formative assignment/assessment verbally – they had the chance to demonstrate their understanding in a different way.
During class, I would always include the students in the process of assessment and evaluation. We would go through the assignment together, and the students would tell me a few things they thought would be important for this assignment. We would have a discussion on what we covered so far, and for the most part the students and I came to a consensus on what should and should not be for marks. One of the classes I was in charge of was grade 9 English. During those two weeks, I developed a mini-unit on comic-strip poetry. The students learned an incredible amount about poetry over the few weeks together, and for their final assignment for the mini-unit, I gave them four different options to choose from. I looked closely at each of my students, and through the few weeks, I started to understand their strengths and weaknesses. I developed the final assignment based off of the student’s strengths, and allowed for significant room for them to adjust the assignments to fit their needs. I involved the students in a variety of ways in developing the final assignment choices for them. I talked to them about the choices, and they gave me feedback. I handed them out and students were to take them home, look at the assignments, and then again, they were to provide feedback or changes they wanted. As a class, we developed the final four options the students were to choose from based on what we had learned in the classroom. Each of the assignments were showing the same content, but allowed for a variety of different ways to represent the content: students could draw, they could write a poem themselves, they could create their own comic-strip based off of a song they like or a poem they like, I provided 5 different options of poems/songs they could choose from if they wanted (before they started they had to run it by me), the last option was for the students to create their own assignment with certain requirements. Within the assignment, I also allowed for students to interpret their choice and make it their own. I emphasized that as long as the students could show to me in somewhat what they learned in the last two weeks about poems and comic-strip poetry, they had some freedom.
I think if I were to do the assignment again, I would do most of it the same way. The things I would change about it would probably include incorporating the students in the development of the rubric as well as the assignment. During my three weeks, I felt that I did not have the time to cover a rubric as well as the content, but I think it would have really benefited the students in their understanding of what I was looking for. With that being said, though, the students ended up doing really well. I found that giving them the freedom to create their own version of comic-strip poems really enhanced their learning, and involvement in their own education. They seemed to be really engaged and worked hard each class period, and there were no attendance issues. I found that giving them their freedom had the students produce the best work, and their work really impressed and surprised me. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know my students and build that relationship piece that is so incredibly important in the classroom.
I think for the most part, my philosophy of assessment and evaluation lined up with the practice and application. At first, I felt a bit lost because I really was not too sure what to expect, but as the days went on, I think my philosophy grew and got stronger. I know there were a few teachers and pre-interns that would completely disagree with what I thought, just through overhearing different conversations, but that reinforced to me that assessment and evaluation are hard to do. It seemed to me that there was no one right way to do assessment, but at the same time, there seemed to be many different wrong ways to do assessment and evaluation. I do not believe in assigning 0’s and I definitely do not agree with late marks on assignments, but one of my co-ops had a different opinion of those two ideas. I also believe in allowing students to re-submit work until they get their assignments, and understand the content, and allow for a variety of different choices for students to choose from for their assignments. I know that this philosophy creates a lot more work for me as the teacher, but I feel that the students are worth it, and it seemed that they really appreciated it as well. I felt that I got better work in because I would allow them time to work in class, and I would never assign homework.
Three things that I have taken away from the past few months are:
- Giving students options for assignments is crucial for their learning. This is important to me as a teacher because not all students learn the same, or at the same rate. Moreover, students may not be able to represent their understanding of content through writing, but they might be able to tell me verbally what they know. A student might not be good at presenting, but they might be good at creating videos. There are many different incidents where giving student’s options are a good thing, and I think that as a learner and teacher, if you want students to succeed you need to give them the chance.
- Assigning late marks and 0’s are not a proper reflection of a student understands. Like the case studies in class we went over, giving a student a 0 or assigning late marks on their assignments can really impact not only their self-esteem and interest in a subject/respect for the teacher, but it can also have a huge impact on their overall average and marks. As a teacher, you never know what is happening in a student’s life, and I don’t think it would be fair to penalize them for not handing in an assignment, or giving them late marks because they could not learn, or read, or write, as fast as others. I think it is important to note that grades are not only a reflection of a student’s understanding, but are also a reflection of the teachers work as well. It shows you where you need to spend more time developing concepts and ideas on, and where you conveyed the ideas effectively and easily for the students to understand.
- I think the last thing that I learned that will really stick with me this year is the difference between formative and summative assessment and evaluation. Of course, we talked about those two different forms of assessment in other classes, but I never really understood the difference between the two nor did I understand when to use each type of assessment, Before this class, I knew that each class had to have some type of assessment in it to make the lesson purposeful, but I also thought that each day had to be a different summative assessment. This particular idea overwhelmed me, because I knew that would be a lot of work, especially if you were teaching 5 or more classes a day. Now I know that summative is a way to figure out an exact level of success – it is something you can attach a grade or mark to. Formative is a more informal way, where you can provide feedback for the students, and it can be used as a guideline for teachers to see what needs more work, and where students are misunderstanding an idea. In class, we talked about using formative assessment as your main tool of assessment, and using summative assessment only for bigger parts of the course, or for assignments with lots of work. During my three weeks, I attempted to give students feedback without a mark attached at first, allowing them to read over their assignments, make changes and re-submit them again. I found this tactic to be very effective for their learning, because not only did they not get penalized for something they might not have understood, but they got the chance to re-do and learn from the assignments. On the second day, I would attach a mark and allow the students to re-submit if they wanted. The first time I did this, students seemed a bit panicked, but as the week went on, I think they learned to appreciate the process.
I know I definitely do not have all the answers, and of course I will continue to grow and change, and so will my philosophy. Having the opportunity to take what we have been learning in the classes and putting those theories and ideas into practice really helped to create a more well-rounded idea of what assessment really means. I feel more confident now about internship, knowing what I have learned, and I am looking forward to continue to develop my philosophy and abilities as a successful teacher and educator.