Learner-centered approach

traditionalAs I reflect on being a past learner, I remember taking mostly traditional assessments. My favorite was answering objective type of assessment such as multiple choices. It’s because even if I didn’t know the answer to a question, I knew I still had a shot at getting the right answer by doing the eeny meeny miney moe method in my head. There were also times that I looked for patterns like AABBCC and I thought I was being clever. However, when one of the choices was either none of the above or all of the above, I knew I was doomed.

Because of the kind of assessment being administered to me when I was young, tasks designed by my teachers were also to drive us in memorizing facts. Just like most public schools in the Philippines, we were so dependent on our teacher in disseminating the information. There was also a limitation as to what we could learn because it was our teacher who structured the learning and the tests. I just knew that I was feeling bored from time to time but I didn’t know that we were already missing out on opportunities to develop higher level of thinking skills.

Our Philippine Public Schools are still in a very dreary situation. Traditional assessments still drive the design of students’ learning experiences, the behavior expected of them, and the attitude of the teacher. I believe non-traditional assessments should be used more often and should become the main source of assessments for students in the Philippines and worldwide. Being able to assess students based on rubrics, observations, peer reviews and self-reflections are a much better way to enhance the learning process of students. Students won’t just learn to pass a test, they will be challenged to absorb the material, use the feedback to improve their performance and think of ways to use in their lives.

Also, I think we need to be more student-centered in our approach to education and let students become successful in their own way with our guidance. One way to stay more student-centered, is create an atmosphere in the classroom that allows for more choice and voice. Teachers also need to create the appropriate assessment tasks to help students address their strengths and weaknesses. Differentiation complements a student-centered class. It is such a crucial part of every teacher’s job, and it requires constant attention and a positive attitude to do it well. I believe differentiated assessment is needed because every student has different needs and abilities.

Reflective assessments are also significant to the development of a student because it forces them to reflect on themselves and their performance. Sometimes we can become our own worst enemy, but we can also be our greatest ally and reflections have a way of pointing out both positive and negative aspects of ourselves. There are numerous types of assessments out there and this subject has been a fresh reminder of some I’ve forgotten and a few I need to learn more about.

Far from what I once was but not yet what I am going to be.

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When I first found out that I was going to have Principles and Methods of Assessment for this term, I was so elated! I told myself, “Rowena, you do assessments at work. You got this in the bag.” But as weeks passed by, I began to realize that what I know about it is just the tip of a huge iceberg.

Reflecting on my journey here, I think one of the most important lessons I learned is Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain. I found it very helpful to know that there are different levels of cognition that I could apply in every situation. I became so interested in this that I furthered my readings and came across another article discussing the levels of cognition in reflecting. Currently, every time I create a set of objectives or task, I ask myself what level of thinking my students are going to use. Whenever I am reflecting as a teacher as well or just doing anything that involves thinking, I also apply the same method.

Another valuable lesson I had in this course was to know about the importance of alignment. In the past, I only aligned my objectives with the instructional activities but not as much with the assessments. I know now that assessments should reveal how well students have learned and what we want them to learn, while instruction ensures that they learn it. So for this to occur, assessments, learning objectives, and instructional strategies need to be closely aligned so that they reinforce one another. I know this may sound strange, but it’s easy for me spot on my own mistakes now and even my previous teachers’ mistakes.

I also think that it was a great idea for us to collaboratively design our own self- and  peer- assessments. That learning experience allowed us to use our higher level of thinking and even enhanced our skills in collaboration. Now, even though I’m the type of a person who doesn’t give up control, I realized that as a learner, I actually have the ability to let others lead and accept their ideas with an open-mind. It’s certainly true that two brains are always better than one.

The muddiest part of this course for me was distinguishing the differences of assessments. I’m confident that I can set traditional and non-traditional assessments apart as well as the formative and summative assessments. But I still get confused sometimes with the formal and informal assessments so this is what I need to read more about.

Looking back on my practice as a teacher, I realized that I have made various mistakes along the way. From choosing a wrong assessment task, having vague objectives, giving wrong feedback, being inconsistent with my feedback and not allowing my students to assess their peers and themselves. I didn’t realize that with these little decisions I made, I wasn’t just depriving myself to improve but also depriving my students from learning essential skills.

Fortunately, I work in a school that uses a constructivist approach to teaching and so I have already gotten the opportunity to apply what I learned right away and correct wrong practices I’ve done. A few weeks back, I also initiated the conversation with my grade level team regarding analyzing assessment data. We have been doing a good job administering them but we needed to improve on picking the assessments which will help us improve learning and teaching.

This is just the first mile of my journey but I can say that I am equipped enough with important information to improve my teaching and my students’ learning. This course had helped me to see my school’s curriculum in a new light. My goal is to be a true constructivist teacher and bring out the best in myself and my students.

Module 6

As I think about “Module 6” I can safely say that I learned many things and I feel like I have grown as a teacher because of it. I believe that teachers should have many tools in their tool box and this module has helped me put a few more helpful tools in mine. For example, a Table of Specifications is a great way to make sure test questions match the content being taught in class. Every teacher that cares about their students’ educational growth wants to improve their teaching as well. A Table of Specifications is one way to do this because it helps keep teachers stay accountable when assessing students. A Table of Specifications also gives teachers evidence that a test has validity because it covers what it should cover.

I’ve been teaching for many years now and have done assessments, but I’ve never felt like I mastered the skill of assessing. This module has challenged me to think on a deeper level about assessments and has inspired me to improve my own assessing techniques. For example, teachers can’t just do assessments for the sake of doing assessments; they need to make effective assessments instead of just collecting results and moving on. In addition, it’s important to remember that those results can’t just be collected; they need to be analyzed, discussed, organized, and measured.

This Module was also a great reminder for me to never forget that assessments are incomplete without feedback. Assessments could be well-designed on their own, but they are practically worthless unless the student understands what the assessment was designed for. It’s an awful feeling to have no clue what’s happening around you, especially when your educational growth is at stake. The teacher must communicate clearly to the student the purpose of the assessment, and then provide constructive feedback after the assessment has been made. It’s my goal to make sure all my students understand what they’re being assessed on and to also understand the feedback I have for them afterwards.

To make the assessment process easier for students (and also the parents of these students) to understand is creating clear and concise rubrics. Rubrics are not just for teachers and students, it’s a helpful tool to get parents more involved in the education of their children as well. Let’s face it, education is not a two way street between teachers and students, it’s a triangle that connects teachers, students, and parents. If any part of the triangle is missing in any way, then the education of a student is in jeopardy.

Lastly, I feel it’s necessary to help students overcome their failures and obstacles in life. This can’t be done successfully unless the proper attitude is demonstrated to them on a daily basis. Teachers have a tendency to focus more on the negative aspects of students than the positive one’s, even I struggle with this from time to time. Every so often I need to tell my students (and myself) that the only way to be truly successful is to have a positive attitude. They should have a growth mindset about life, not a fixed mindset. They can’t control what happens to them in life, but they can control the attitude they have through life.

Culture and Taxonomy of Reflection

What I realized in this week’s discussion is that assessments are effective when teachers are reflective. We learned that assessments impact both teaching and learning, however, it is limited to the kind of teacher that will use the assessments. A reflective teacher would utilize assessments in making his class learner-centered by meeting the needs of every student. He would also reflect on the objectives and create them in a way that will both support high and low learners. His assessments are appropriate for the learning experiences and outcomes. A reflective teacher, by utilizing different kinds of assessments, is able to articulate the problem, assess the problem, and develop tentative theories as to why the problem occurred and then solves it.

However, teachers don’t instantly become reflective. Reflection is a problem-solving skill that I think is not innate to everybody. It is learned and mostly from the environment a teacher belongs in. If that’s the case then I would like to assume that reflective teachers develop from reflective schools. Schools have a big responsibility in creating a culture of reflection. How do schools help teachers in fostering this skill? In the school I currently work at, reflecting is practiced but only extends to remembering what had been done and how it should be applied. Outcomes from reflection are not always applied.

On a similar note, I came across an article regarding the taxonomy of reflection by Peter Pappas. He basically paralleled “reflection” with Bloom’s taxonomy. And what I think is amazing about his idea is that reflection doesn’t only apply in different areas of practice but also in varying levels of thinking. Sometimes when we reflect, we look at our assessments and don’t always know what to look for, what to ask ourselves or where to start. So instead of randomly throwing in questions at ourselves or at our students, we could actually use the taxonomy in guiding our reflection. It would definitely benefit us teachers and our students.

Should you want to read more about the Taxonomy of Reflection, please click the link below.

http://peterpappas.com/2010/01/taxonomy-reflection-critical-thinking-students-teachers-principals-.html

Alignment

Last week’s unit of study presented the idea of alignment. Alignment of assessments, learning objectives, instructional activities and outcomes was all new to me but it was great to learn these things. It reminded me of a teacher I had recently who designed the course work with many activities, mostly essay type. We were asked to actively join in the discussions, submit assignments that required analysis and evaluation, and read tons of articles regarding the subject. Final exam day came and I finally saw my test paper and felt like passing out. The assessment was mostly recalling of facts, facts that we passively discussed. I was also asked to define acronyms of sorts, acronyms that we didn’t even focus on.I tried to answer the test as best as I could but I knew in my heart that I failed it. I was so disappointed at the teacher because I felt like the assessment she gave was misaligned with the instructional activities she provided.

After learning about alignment. It became clear to me that her assessment was inappropriate at all. I wonder if she had reflected on the results of our test as well and asked herself what went wrong. Oftentimes, teachers are so busy at giving difficult exams for the sake of giving those kinds of exam without aligning them with their objectives and instructional plans. And who else suffer but students. Did the result reflect what students have actually learned? No. It is a result of poorly designed assessment.

Moreover, the main purpose of assessment is to improve teaching and student learning. However, some teachers use assessments mostly for summative purposes. If the students performed well, teachers think that it’s because of their effort. But if students failed, then it’s students’ fault. With this kind of thinking, how will the teachers improve their teaching?

Now that I’m equipped with this vital knowledge then I should be able to apply it in my teaching as best as I could. I know that it will take a lot of effort and time in planning a well aligned assessment to objectives, instructional plans and outcomes but I know my students and I will reap the rewards later on.

Assessment Framework Reflection: So Much Room For Improvement

Discussing about assessments made me feel funny inside as I reflect on my practices, both when I was a novice and now that I have more experience. Novice and misguided, I remember that very first time I was feeling elated after placing my students’ formative and summative assessments side by side on my desk. The feeling of sheer joy, gratification and huge relief from knowing that my students got what I taught was immeasurable. “My efforts have paved off,” However, it was abruptly blended with the sense of disappointment, and frustration to see that I have a few who fell short of my expectations. It was absolutely frustrating that I almost tore their sheets to bits and pieces. I wanted to pretend they never existed. My thoughts scrambled to find the answers to my whys. I resolved in blaming my students’ absence of motivation to learn combined with their parents’ lack of support.  It was the most convenient thing to do. I shook off the dust on my hands and moved on.

Over the course of a week, I had been wondering about my practices and there are things that I thought are worth mentioning here. Years ago, I misunderstood and misused assessments. I used it merely to recognize which students “got it” and not, and that was the end of it. After learning more about assessments, it dawned in me how integral assessment is in our educational system.

“Sometimes poor practice is built into the test. Other times it is what is communicated through the test administration.. Still other times, poor practice may be found in the way the results are interpreted and used.” (Shermis and Di Vesta, 2011).What Shermis and Di Vesta claim rings true. Every stage of assessment is critical, therefore all the educators involve in creating assessment tools, using them and interpreting the gathered evidences should have a great understanding and knowledge of it.

This makes me wonder if educators allot a time in calibrating any assessment tool before diving into it.  I remember using a tool to assess my students’ reading ability. When I was sharing the data with my colleague, we both realized that we interpreted some areas of it differently. Thus, making the evidences we gathered incorrect.

I also realized that I haven’t been giving much attention on collecting qualitative evidences as consistently as possible. I know now how vital to have both the quantitative and qualitative to gain a thorough understanding of my students. I think creating a good system to use in a daily basis could help me in gathering this type of evidence.

Moreover, I think that parents are external stimuli in making teachers scramble at their feet and I’m no different. I work in an International School and they pay me to do my job and to do it well. This is one reason why I tend to focus too much on the summative assessments. I know that my performance is being gauged through my students’ summative assessments. But I also know that parents need to be educated as well to change their preconceived notions regarding assessments.

All in all, it was great to delve more into the different components of assessments. I think there are areas in my teaching and assessing that’s in the right track but I also think that there are things that I need to improve on to be better. I have so much room for improvement!

There’s Always a First

I should be working today but decided to take a day off and face my fear of figuring out how to create a WordPress account. Mind you, I grew up playing Nintendo but for some reason technology isn’t so kind to me.  I spent half a day on going around this site, pushing every button, changing fonts and colors a hundred times before I finally settled! Anyways, I’m grateful for our FIC (faculty-in-charge) for requiring us to use this to journal our reflections, realizations around our learning and learning experiences. I was also thinking that maybe I should just use this for everything else. So, welcome to my blog!

Here’s an invisible toast to my first post of the year!!!

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