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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reflection 10 : Monitoring and Evaluating Progress with AfL (9 November 2010)

Our last two tutorials revolved around assessing student learning. Assessment procedures to gauge student learning should be as varied as the teaching strategies used to teach them. Although teachers used tests and evaluation, they should also use informal classroom observation, homework performance, project works, portfolios, journals, and even answers given during oral questioning that might assess a student’s prior knowledge. PERI’s Recommendation emphasised balancing knowledge with teaching of skills and values. Assessment for learning (AfL) has been defined as “the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there”(Marzano, Robert J)

Assesment must go beyond providing grades or scores about student learning. It has to provide rich descriptions of the current state of students’ achievement if it is to support improvement in their learning so that they can do better the next time. This requires teachers communicating with parents and students using qualitative and quantitative feedback supported by a comprehensive report to guide the learner’s action. To support learning, assessments must evolve from being isolated events that take place at certain time of the academic year to one that happens in an ongoing, interconnected series so that patterns in students learning will be revealed. Both students and teachers will be able to gauge not only the students’ current level of achievement, but also how much students’ capabilities have been improved. This serves as a powerful booster for students’ motivation and confidence too.     

In this tutorial, we had the opportunity to use a variety of tools to assist us in carrying out a performance task - finding the height of the pillar on level one. Through collaborative team work, most of us were able to arrive at an answer. Why did Dr Yeap give us such a task?  He used an authentic task to illustrate what performance assessment is about. We learnt that performance assessment, also known as alternative or authentic assessment, is a form of testing that requires students to perform a task rather than select an answer from a ready-made list of multiple choice questions. Tasks used in performance-based assessment include essays, oral presentations, open-ended problems, hands-on problems, real-world simulations and other authentic tasks.        

Dr Yeap observed us at “work” and he occasionally would ask some questions to set us thinking. He took the role of a coach, facilitating our learning. Through this we were also being assessed - checking on how we developed our approaches to the task and  demonstrated what we know. It was followed by reflection on our learning process. I liked the approach Dr Yeap adopted, that is, getting us to reflect on :
(a)    I could have thought of these methods myself
(b)   These methods make sense to me
(c)    These methods do not make sense to me    

We discussed about six methods which all of us felt make sense, and watched a video. Through these we have a better understanding of performance assessment which is not about testing strategies. It actually involves students in the construction of various types of products and as they get involved, they develop the process of problem-solving too.Thus, making learning meaningful. In fact performance assessment measures what students can do with what they know, rather than how much they know. Through performing the task, students get to demonstrate how effectively they can put concepts, skills and information together to a real-world problem.

It is important that students understand how and why they are being assessed too. In this aspect, teachers need to share the learning goals with students to make assessment criteria more transparent. When academic expectations and criteria for assessment are clearly spelt out, it “facilitates learning process as the feedback given is explicit and specific for the learner to take action to improve his learning” (Wiggins, 1998). When teachers have clear expectations of how their students will be assessed, they too will provide consistent feedback to students and monitor their progress along the way. One way of providing clear descriptions of assessment criteria and standards for students’ work is through the use of scoring rubric (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). When students are aware of the assessment criteria, they will be able to keep track of their own progress.

The class was shown an example of a rubric that has three levels of mastery. There is technically no limit to the number of criteria that can be included in a rubric. However, Dr Yeap stated that he found having three levels are sufficient. The type of rubric used is dependent on the purpose of the assessment and its evaluation. In conclusion, rubrics not only can be designed to formulate standards for levels of accomplishment and used to guide and improve performance it can be used to make these standards clear and explicit to students.                   

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