Sit, Think, And Write

birds

 

 

 

Preparing for a test is an activity everyone tackles differently. Some really go for it, well in advance of the date of an assessment, some keep on hesitating up till the last moment and then burst out in action. And there are those who keep on worrying when to start, how to avoid, or what precisely to do in preparing for the event. Others take in serious consideration what will bring them luck, what to wear, or which omen will forecast success. Preparing for an assessment is surrounded by all kinds of peculiar human behaviors. Simply because we do not know precisely what to expect! (1). The event of an assessment is veiled with unknowns. How hard will it be, how many question items, on what subjects in particular, and so forth. Of course as a student you have learned the topic, it was covered in the program, and assignment were rehearsed more than once, but still a full demonstration of your actual mastery level at the ‘moment supreme’ is hampered by indefinites. Would it help when students would know in advance much more about the circumstances of the event? For instance, can they ask for clarification in case of unclear test items; can they indicate confidence in their answer of an item; are they allowed to rephrase the question as they understand it; can they add items showing their excellence: “I also know about….” ?

Let’s be fair: an assessment is about showing ability – why not let the student in on how to show it? It cannot hurt to open our minds on how we capture attainments.
An article explored possible ways of assisting the learner in taking tests. The author took different perspectives originating from several disciplines. Optimal foraging theory stemming from ethology points to the issue of providing the learner with sufficient cues and resources to give an answer to a test item. Marginal value theory from economics would suggest the student not to overstay or dwell on one question too long. Prospect theory from decision management would be important in determining how well a learner plans an answer given what one knows, thinks one knows and actually writes down.

Assessments are not an assessors’ playground. It is an arrangement to demonstrate what is attained and what not – by the student. So why not arrange for the student to do his or her utmost? (2) It probably starts with having an open mind for the, in itself quite unnatural, environment we have created for our students to give their utmost, and begin by answering queries like: would it help, for instance, to vary on self-selected difficulty levels; to provide aid or support in case of mix-ups; to give hints on planning an answer? An advice of an examiner at the start of a test like ”sit, think, and write” could then be transformed into “ bring your stuff, ask for help, and go for it”

Source
W. Brian Whalley (2016) Evaluating student assessments: the use of optimal foraging theory, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41:2, 183-198link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2014.991909

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Referencing
1. http://www.edutopia.org/assessment-guide-importance
2. http://pearsonblueskies.com/2011/first-class-how-assessment-can-enhance-student-learning/

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Grades, Or Less Of Them?

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What would happen if there were no grades? Stupid question, the whole education system would fall apart. It is built on grades. But really, what would happen? Grades are so immanent to the system one can hardly imagine how it would function without it. There were times without it when pupils did their exercises and had to come forward to be rehearsed at the front desk of the teacher. Not good enough? Go back and Try again! But that was hundred or more years ago. There are also education systems that weaken the role of grades, like the Montessori or Dalton systems (1). But they function mainly for young children. Grades establish the critical role of education in determining achievement. Without grades no certainty about what is attained or mastered. So, there is good reason to ask about whether or not grades are up to the task of establishing achievement. To be explicit, grades are marks given by a teacher to work delivered by a student. An alternative would be to administer achievement tests. Main difference between them is that grades are teacher, teaching, and classroom context dependent; achievement tests are supposed to be neutral to that effect. Grades may vary: what one teacher in one classroom might rate as sufficient, another probably would consider still below standard. Giving grades, like teachers do, is sensitive and adaptive to the learning process and its learner. It is therefore an indicator of attainment “at the local level”. And it is a cause of variation “at the central level”.

In an excellent article a review was undertaken on the role of grades over the past fifty year or so, scrutinizing the position grades have in our education system with some important outcomes: The variation in results between graded and tested achievement is moderate in size. Yes, grading incorporates student, teacher, and classroom characteristics, but these effects are small. Early in the education system (elementary school) differences between marks and tests are larger; but later on they become more similar. It is concluded that graded achievement is a valid measure of classroom learning.

One up for graded achievement!

It is no secret, the trend is towards testing achievement. High stake testing against standardized goals that are unequivocally applied is what dominates the assessment debate. Not that grading is being abandoned but as a source of variation it has become mistrusted or at least questioned (3). However, to give a meaningful account of a pupil’s attainment relative to personality, effort, behavior, classroom context classroom learning skills, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity grading still is an honest, reliable, sensitive, and caring way of establishing levels of achievement. Good that we have this in our educational system.

Source
Susan M. Brookhart (2015) Graded Achievement, Tested Achievement, and Validity, In: Educational Assessment, 20:4, 268-296, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10627197.2015.1093928

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Referencing
1. http://montessori-nw.org/what-is-montessori-education/
2. http://study.com/academy/lesson/high-stakes-testing-accountability-and-problems.html
3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.2333-8504.2000.tb01838.x/pdf

The Good And The Bad

good guy

‘Opposites attract’ may sound as a plausible advice used in dating site commercials but would be a questionable approach in education. As a deeply moral enterprise education values sensitivity in teaching and instruction to be adaptive to the learner. This must be since we proclaim that the learner is at the center of the whole enterprise. A crude “pass or fail’; “attained or not”; “true or false” is unlike and in contrast with (good) teaching and (deep) learning (1). “There will always be another approach to reach a good solution” might be the typical reaction by a teacher when a pupil gets stuck in a difficult assignment. Indeed, trying in (a) different way(s) may contribute to consolidation of a learning result. `That is at least what Herbart in his teaching pedagogy advocated (2). There is no good or bad in learning; only multiple ways in which a learning process unfolds to reach acceptable outcomes (3). If this is true than there is no case to be made for teaching aimed at avoiding mistakes. It may be even be a good strategy to create mishaps, perhaps.
So, what to think of a research study in case based learning that offered a course in writing in which both good and bad examples of texts were presented? The assumption was that by contrasting exemplars learners would focus on the essential elements of a good writing piece. It turned out that this contrasting approach was successful in creating good stories by the learners. Students were better able to identify the weak parts in their own writing.

It certainly could be the case that analyzing good and bad exemplars elicits an active comparison and processing. The idea is being advocated quite strongly currently (1). And it may be true that in this way students develop a concrete and fuller understanding of what key criteria are in the assessment of their work. But why then did students learn most about the weak parts of their writing? Is focusing on the “good and the bad” a good strategy? Or is it more that capturing similarities and differences, looking for generalizations, and synthesizing key elements describe the learning process more adequately? It may be not so much the meeting of good and bad but the get-together of multiple perspectives which laid open insights that prospered students.

Source
Contrasting case instruction can improve self-assessment of writing, by Xiaodong Lin Siegler, David Shaenfield, & Anastasia D. Elder. In: Education Tech Research Dev (2015) 63:517–537.
Published online: 20 June 2015, Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015
Link: DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9390-9

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Referencing
1. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/110126/chapters/Introduction.aspx
2. http://www.enotes.com/research-starters/herbart-apperception
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Educated_Mind

Pass or Fail

hawk

It is a necessity of life – passing exams. Exams are gatekeepers of a future to be mastered, more often than they are gateways to potential directions in life. So better pass exams than getting blocked by them. Taking exams is a hurdle that needs to be overcome, often at high emotional costs. The idea is of course that previous activity in courses taken in programs offered by schools aids to the successful tackling of the barrier but students know very well that this preparation is certainly not a guarantee. Therefore, as a strategy, it would be better not to take high risks by trying to excel in mastery of knowledge and skills but stay on the safe side of your overall ability record when confronted by the probing eyes of examiners or the nasty queries by supervisors. There exists considerable student knowledge on how to do exams (1). Trusting exams to be a fair and considerate, representative and authentic instrument would help. After all, you would like to know whether it will give an honest and trustworthy exemplification of your current state of abilities. But when you have taken exams before you know better. They often give just an arbitrary, temporary, and partially snapshot of what you would be able to perform or understand normally. It all heavily depends on the selection exam assignments and the ones who are rating it .
A study on evaluating interns abilities after completing their intern program was done to look at different types of exam assignments issued by examiners (from the intern organization) and supervisors (from the teaching organization). It revealed a low correlation between exam methods and between overall ratings done by examiners and supervisors. Different evaluation methods yielded different results, and no significant relation was found between rating by examiners and supervisors.
Knowing this makes one cautious not to step into an exam too lightly by simply performing well or doing one’s utmost in completing assignments. Strategic deliberations take over control: aiming for a minimal overall pass level; concentrating on specific exam tasks while going to underperform on others; selecting a subset of assignments by skipping ambiguous ones. There are numerous exam training courses that will help you out here (2) . Of course at the expense of giving a true, overall and representative depiction of your ability; their ultimate and sole aim is passing, not failing. But is that not in fact stimulating misjudgment?

Exams are too important to fail. But also too important to let misjudgments take over. The study’s finding that different evaluation methods yield different results is not a bad sign in itself; they could be measuring different aspects of performance. Misjudgment of one-sided judgment occurs when only one type of raters uses one type of method, while others are assigned to another method. Better, more balanced measurement occurs when multiple raters are involved in a multiple measurement. The key to acceptance of exams as a dependable measurement approach is that the combined set of evaluation methods goes together with a trustworthy rating of competence. Its steadiness lies in the combination.

Source
Oral Case Examinations for Assessing Intern Competence by Robert W. Goldberg and Kevin R. Young Training and Education in Professional Psychology 2015, Vol. 9, No. 3, 242–247
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000081

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Referencing
1. http://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-best-ways-to-cheat-in-examinations
2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1041608010001123
3. https://www.tolley.co.uk/products-and-services/exam-training#

Get Liked

like

A decade or so ago the expression “I have liked…” would have sounded a bit weird. But thanks to Facebook we are now ‘liking’ all the time: giving our evaluations and opinions about what others do. There is even market value in doing that. No matter what we really think or understand about the issue “liking” has become a true democratic tool that allows everyone to express a verdict. No matter the variety, depth and multi-perspectivity of your opinion you “like’ by one token only, all included. You can ‘like’: music, sites, books, persons, institutions…; even teachers?
Student evaluations of their instruction and teaching experiences are liked by many: principals, district or state school officers, parents, and to some degree even by students who have to fill in forms almost after any course they take (1) . Admitted: these forms are a bit more sophisticated in the degree of their likings than thumbs up or down- they use Likert scales instead (what’ s in a name). Now, if you want to be liked (do teachers want to be liked or….?) at least you would want the evaluation to be fair and transparent. But what is more important (certainly in performing professions) you like to have feedback. Not appraising judgments but assessments for learning.
The cited study gauged student evaluations of their teaching experiences using the format of: stop, start, continue (i.e., what a teacher should avoid, improve, and keep on using). It turned out that this review method was more liked by students (than giving a written reflective evaluation) and on top of that led to greater depth of feedback (more meaningful comments to the teacher).

What about this feedback? It is provided to the teacher but there it halts. Feedback, according to Assessment for Learning theorists (2) , must be processed in order to have effect. It is just like instruction itself. Something must be done with it. Now, most evaluation and review methods fall short of instructional value. Nevertheless, they could provide a wonderful opportunity to achieve precisely that. In this case, for instance, by having a post instruction meeting of teacher and students to review what went well or remained difficult to grasp in the teaching just experienced. Such a post lesson conversation would contribute to learning of students and of teachers. Strange that we hardly do it. Certainly a waste of feedback information .

Source
Alice Hoon, Emily Oliver, Kasia Szpakowska & Philip Newton (2015). Use of the ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ method is associated with the production of constructive qualitativefeedback by students in higher education, In: Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40:5,755-767, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2014.956282
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2014.956282

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Referencing
1. http://www.oecd.org/edu/imhe/44058352.pdf
2. http://www.ccsso.org/resources/program/formative_assessment_for_students_and_teachers_%28fast%29.html

In or Out

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Anyone can call her- or himself a ‘teacher’, ‘trainer’, ‘educator’, ‘mentor’. Profession labels in education are not protected or safeguarded. Admission to the profession is still regulated by having a proper diploma or certificate, completed by a hiring procedure of an institution having an open position. But this is changing. A call for gatekeeping the profession (1) has been made in professions adjacent to education. Again the health professions set the example. To be admitted as counselor, or therapist gatekeeping is set in place. Entry to the profession becomes a careful profession based (not program based) monitoring process of evaluating personal and professional qualities of applicants. Assessing professional readiness in addition to an academic diploma is favored for remediation and development purposes to prevent potential misconduct in the profession later on.
A strong plea for setting up gatekeeping procedures is to be found in the referred article. The authors state that “failing to do so could result in global consequences for the profession”. (p. 29). Of course, admission and gatekeeping procedures are there for the benefit of good practice.

Gatekeeping the profession is here to stay; it seems inevitable. The ‘Thatcherism” inspired management turn (2) made professions and professionals painfully aware that autonomy comes with a price (i.e, installing accountability measures to control service rendered). Decisions on entry to the profession, certainly, need assurance (meaning: standards, requirements and procedures). But what if turns back on you and starts to function as an impediment? Consider the possibility of a β error (i.e., the incorrect dismissal of a positive instance); that is, not selecting a talented applicant to the profession. Most entry procedures once set in place are not scrutinized or critically examined afterwards anymore. They become ‘norm’-al acting as inert, uncontested bodies with a conserving impact. It becomes increasingly hard to question them. However, from time to time one needs to ask “are you sure you are not keeping out who should be in?

Source
The Gatekeeping Imperative in Counselor Education Admission Protocols: The Criticality of Personal Qualities. By Ann M. McCaughan & Nicole R. Hill. © Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2014.
Published online: International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 2015 37:28–40.
Link: www. DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9223-2

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Referencing the issue
1. http://www.quintcareers.com/career_book_reviews/Gatekeepers.html
2. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/apr/15/margaret-thatcher-education-legacy-gove

High Hopes

high hopes

Are humans rational beings? Some economist still think that this is the case (despite Kahneman’s comment (1). When it comes to students educators know better. Not that students are irrational beings, but seeking satisfying solutions is not often their major strategy. To cope with the demands of classroom life, especially when it comes to getting satisfactory grades, you have to set your aspirations high. When passing a test or doing an exam it is like ’climbing a mountain’; you have to get sufficiently high in order to raise the flag.
In this matter the cited study gives some enlightening background. The study is about student expectations about their final grade after taking a test. The authors, using an economic perspective, started from the assumption that setting of expectations is a rational process; it is about weighing relevant determinants. Well, it turned out that this was not the case (and the study used quite a lot of sophisticated analytical techniques to come to that conclusion). In fact students were over confident in their expectations about their final grade.
Is it then that students are stupid by being overly self-assured? Most likely not. Living a life in the classroom requires a lot of adaptation (2), and students learn to do this over time, often the hard way, especially when it comes to taking in the results of tests. The education route can be a thorny road. To cope with spiky tasks ahead you need a lot of resilience. The best coping strategy then might be to have a long term perspective like ‘I will get there..somehow’ But, may be, that is not an economic perception.

Source
Belayet Hossain & Panagiotis Tsigaris (2015). Are grade expectations rational? A classroom experiment, Education Economics, 23:2, 199-212,
link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09645292.2012.735073

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Referencing
1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
2. http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/differentiated-instruction-adapting-the-learning-environment-for-students.html

Caring about

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Looking into a mirror for a critical inspection, we do it many times a day. No harm in knowing how we are doing. It is a private thing and we do not allow many others to know what we know, unless of course we have a “trusted other” who may peek: “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the most fairy of them all”. There is a painting by Manet of Olympia, a goddess of beautiful perfection showing how she waves aside a mirror that is handed to her. She knows she is perfect, no need for further assessment. But we mortals alas need to be informed how we are doing. A Trusted Other is more than welcome.
And there are helping agents who are willing to hold a mirror. The study cited found that more than 90% of the teachers supported student self-assessment and were willing to deploy it in their classrooms. This is an exceptionally positive outcome, and according to the authors a reassuring finding for fostering learning in students. Such a high favoritism on part of teachers for self-assessment needs to be explained and the article gives 5 plausible backgrounds: (1) positive experience, (2) high belief in students, (3) willingness to include, (4) advantages and (5) attending courses.
Still the feeling remains: why are teachers so positive? What is it that brings them to embrace it. It cannot be that students are doing their job, i.,e. assessing grades. Or that teachers get tired of pointing out the same defects in study behaviors over and over again. There must be a deeper level to the self-reports explaining why. I can only guess, but it must have something to do with the teaching profession itself, since almost all teachers in the survey agree. Probably it has to do with being a pedagogue (1) , a trusted other whose main incentive it is to foster understandings, to hold a mirror. I wonder if it was not apparent somewhere in the self reports: the pride of teaching.

Source
Teachers’ reasons for using self-assessment: a survey self-report of Spanish teachers
Ernesto Panadero, Gavin Brown & Matthew Courtney
In: Assessment in Education Principles, Policy & Practice, 21:4, 365-383,
DOI: 10.1080/0969594X.2014.919247
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2014.919247

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Referencing
1. http://www.fzf.ukim.edu.mk/files/pedagog_agenda.pdf