Planning, planning and more planning

I love to travel. And yes, I have gotten used to the stress that it brings before the joys. Stress from planning the trip that includes, the completion of requirements for visa processing, scouting for cheap fare and suitable accommodations as well as familiarizing ones’ self with noteworthy activities to do during the entire trip. It is only after all these things are ironed out that the rest of the process becomes smooth sailing– and, that’s when the fun part begins. It’s like reaping the rewards of your month- long preparation. And, believe me, it’s definitely worth it.

I’d have to say that the same is true for teaching. Part of what educators do is that they plan. They plan what they need to teach and how to teach them. They make adjustments in their original plan when the situation calls for it and also plan appropriate means on how students should be assessed.

It is through this process that teaching tools in the forms of Table of Specification (ToS) and Rubrics become important. The same in planning a trip, ToS can aid teachers on how they can align their teaching objectives with the content that they have lined up for their students. It can even help them target the different thinking levels that they want to emphasize in their teaching. For example, if the teacher simply wants to measure students’ recollection of previous knowledge or skill, then they can target the students’ lower level thinking skills. Moreover, if the teacher finds the need to check on students who are more advanced, then he/she can have them do tasks that involve application, evaluation and synthesis. Having the ToS is like having a checklist which teachers can refer to that will allow them to identify if they have given a suitable number of items to target the level of thinking that they want to enhance or improve in each and every student.

Rubrics are also essential not only in the teaching process but in the learning process as well. In short, it serves a dual purpose. It helps the teachers set students’ expectations as to how they will be assessed through identifying the areas or aspects from which they will be evaluated including their behavior towards the different tasks. Rubrics allow teachers to assess students consistently and saves them time in grading. Lastly, it also enables teachers to give timely and effective feedback that promote learning in a sustainable way. As for the students, rubrics help them identify components from which they will be assessed, making them aware of what learning processes to apply in order to progress. And, since feedback is provided to them, it enables them to improve their work and make necessary adjustments when needed.

Although it may seem tedious and quite challenging to make these tools, the benefits are definitely far more worthy for one to ignore. Like traveling, one’s need for a map is essential in order for that person to reach his/ her destination, and it is for this same reason that I believe that both the Table of Specification and Rubrics are necessary, because they serve students, teachers and stakeholders to know exactly where teaching and learning should be.

20141113-175816.jpg

Advertisements

Thoughts on 3C/Personal Preferences

After having enriched myself with so much information regarding the different kinds of assessments and their advantages and disadvantages, I can’t help but go back down memory lane and recall my own experiences as a student and how I prepared myself each and every time I was to take those ‘tests’.

Normally, majority of our tests came in the traditional form wherein we were given multiple- choice type of tests, true or false, enumeration, matching- type and others. The performance- based tests however were mostly given by our non- academic subjects ( except for Science) like Physical Education (PE), Home Economics and Livelihood Education (HELE) and Music. I still remember that, part of my preparation then for traditional tests was that I jot down notes as I make my reviewer and I found that to be quite effective as it was relatively easy to tap on my memory. Needless to say, memorization played an important factor on how I was able to get decent grades. However, memorization is not my number one choice when it comes to approaches or methods when reviewing for major exams as I am aware that at times anxiety can lead to mental- block. Quite frankly, I realized that I felt more comfortable doing alternative or authentic assessments. With alternative assessments, I have learned to follow procedures and come up with fruitful results like in cooking, sewing and baking or when I did experiments that gave sound conclusions to theories that started off only as hypotheses. I was also able to express my thoughts and ideas through skits, oral reports and presentations which I enjoyed doing the most as I had never been the shy type.

And, now that I have been made aware of the differences as well as the pros and cons of traditional and authentic assessments, I believe that educators must find a balance in the use of both. I say this because I believe that no single type of assessment can be the absolute measure of one’s knowledge and skill. Apart from this, we may look at things in this perspective, that when traditional assessments fail or are found to be ‘lacking in its effectiveness’ in certain aspects, then educators must rely on authentic assessments to be the alternative tool in measuring what needs to be measured ( and vice- versa). Therefore, they must complement each other rather than compete with one another. Besides, they share the same end goal, and that is, to improve both teaching and learning.

Thoughts on 3B

I find it interesting and quite refreshing to know that there is such a term as student- generated assessments. It is no surprise that the traditional practice in schools is that, educators are responsible in coming up with different types of assessments to use as a measure for students’ learning outcomes. Teachers are always asked to incorporate the kinds of tests ( formative assessments) that they will use in each of their lessons as they come up with their lesson plans. These assessments will then be used as a collection of evidences that allow them to come up with their summative scores at the end of each grading period.

After having spent many, many years in school, I could not quite remember as to how many times a teacher has asked me to think of ways on how I wish to be evaluated. Thus, I agree with what I read in one of the references, that student- generated assessments are indeed the most underutilized type of assessment. I wonder why. I mean, after having learned that each individual is a unique learner and that we have different ways in obtaining and demonstrating our knowledge and skills, why then are we not “consulted” as to how we want to be tested or assessed? Why do we depend largely on the kind of assessments that our teachers give us? Why can we not have 50% of our summative score taken from our preferred assessment and the other 50% from the assessments prepared by our teachers? If we claim that students learn and demonstrate knowledge and skills differently, then, is the aforementioned method not a more accurate basis to get our summative scores?

As a future educator, I am very much intrigued as to how I can incorporate student- generated assessments to obtain more acceptable summative scores for each of my students. I would like to be the kind of teacher, who would get out of her way to know how each of my students can best showcase their learning abilities. Like for instance, a student who loves to dance will not be obligated to write an essay regarding a topic on one’s love for another, but would instead be encouraged to demonstrate said topic through an interpretative dance, a painter through his creation of a mural or a math wizard to come up with a mathematical equation to demonstrate his understanding of love, just like in one of the series of Bones ( a US television show). Of course, these student- generated assessments will not be the sole source of their summative scores, but, with the incorporation of this kind of assessment together with the two others, obtrusive and unobtrusive assessments, I can at least say that I have given my students equal opportunities to display their knowledge and skills and that they will not make any claim that their intelligences were not fully maximized or utilized because opportunities given them were limited.

Thoughts on 3A

a) How do you decide when to use formal or informal assessments? How is assessment done in informal ways?

Formal assessments may be used when your objective is to accurately identify whether an individual’s performance can outdo that of his peers or to identify comparable strengths and weaknesses with peers, whereas, informal assessments may be used if the objective is to measure an individual’s ability against a pre-established criterion to indicate how well he knows the specific content domain that is covered by the test.

There are several methods by which informal assessments can be done. They are as follows:
1. Observation- enables teachers to identify children’s behavior and document performance before making decisions. This may be done by looking/ watching children in a systematic way.
2. Anecdotal record- provides insight into a particular behavior and may be a basis for planning a specific teaching strategy. Teachers can give a brief written description of student behavior at one time.
3. Running Record- helps obtain a more detailed insight into a behavior over a period of time. Teachers may focus on a sequence of events that occurs over time.
4. Event Sampling- helps identify when a child displays particular behavior and helps answer the question, ” Does the child do something all the time or just at certain times and events?”. Teachers may record particular events or behaviors at specific time intervals.
5. Rating Scale- enables teachers to record data when children are observed. Teachers may have a list of descriptors for a set of behaviors.
6. Checklist- enables teachers to observe easily and check off what children know and are able to do
7. Work Sample- provides concrete sample of learning and can show growth and achievement over time
8. Portfolio- provides documentation of a child’s achievement in specific areas over time and can include test scores, writing etc. Teachers may collect sample works of children.
9. Interview- allows children to explain behavior, work samples or particular answers. Teachers may engage children in discussion through questions.

b) What are some characteristics of good formal assessments? …of good informal assessments?

Some characteristics of formal assessments are:
a. They are data- driven.
b. They usually produce a written document such as a paper or test.
c. They usually receive a numerical score or grade.
d. They often contribute to a student’s final grade for a unit or course of study.

Some characteristics of informal assessments are:
a. They are unplanned.
b. They have no strict rules for administration.
c. They have no strict rules for interpretation.
d. They rely on the teacher’s judgement.
e. They are subject to modification during testing.

c) When are informal assessments useful (versus formal assessments)? How valuable are informal assessments? Can informal assessments be good ”replacements” for formal assessments?

I find that at times, informal assessments can be a better measure of one’s true skills or abilities as they have no need for a lot of planning, instead, data is received from students immediately and then planning comes afterwards. For example, after reading a story, a teacher may ask questions regarding what has been read. Those students who are able to answer the questions correctly show a clear sign of good comprehension. From there, the teacher may devise other plans on how she may get the rest of the students to understand the same story that was read. It is for this reason that I find informal assessments to be valuable as they can immediately indicate what students can actually do or perform.

Having said that though, I do not feel that an informal assessment should serve as a replacement for formal assessments. I say this because, formal assessments are useful tools that provide concrete and measurable evidences of learning especially when these assessments are constructed flawlessly. They have the ability to provide accurate data through the use of written documents ( paper or test results) that help determine one’s overall achievement and to compare that person’s achievement against others of the same age or grade.

d) How would reflective teaching skills enhance the effectiveness of informal assessment in facilitating teaching-learning? (What does it mean to reflect about teaching?)

Reflective teaching is a process in which a teacher examines her teaching practices/ strategies to determine how she may improve or modify these practices for better student learning outcomes. It is through this process that a teacher can reflect on whether her methods agree with what her students need. As teachers, it is our responsibility to not only teach but to identify how each of our students can best learn from us. We have to not only be concerned about “what” we teach them but to also be aware of “how” they can best learn from us.

References:
Information taken from the following websites:

http://www.education.com/reference/article/informal-methods-assessment/
http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/MSiiM/lang-ass-formal-informal
http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/what-is-reflective-teaching-definition-methods-quiz.html#lesson

No reason to fail

I’d have to admit that I was a bit taken aback when I learned that we are given unlimited attempts to do the quiz. I was of course happy that it was the case thinking that it will give me more chances to check on my learning without having to be so conscious of failing. During my first attempt, what I did was I answered the questions based on my recollection of the items that I came across with during my reading. There were times that I had to look at my notes for reassurance especially when it came to the other half of the test which I answered quite giddily knowing that it was about Bloom’s Taxonomy. I sort of wanted to see how I’d fair in the test and got a bit excited that I answered hastily. Also, I felt less stressed to be performing excellently the first time because of the unlimited opportunities given us. With that said, I got an 8 out of 15. Then knowing that I didn’t get a perfect score, I immediately tried it again, just to see what I’ll get next and when my score got lower by one point, that’s when I realized that I had to review my lessons on Bloom’s Taxonomy before going on my third attempt. It also helped that there was the review button which allowed me to reflect on my answers and use it as a basis to compare the information that I have on my notes.

On the question whether the review button was accidental or intentional, I’d say that it is the latter. Although, I personally didn’t see that as an opportunity to cheat. Instead, I saw it as a tool that helped me reaffirm that I was on the right track. Of course, I can’t say that I am an ideal student and that I am not prone to temptations, however, I personally feel that having those features in the quiz made it appear less stressful and more fun to learn. If anything, it made me more responsible with how I did the quiz knowing that the burden of being stressed over the quiz was removed out of the equation. Therefore, I had no excuses to do poorly on the quiz as I was aware that I have already been given too much leeway and that failing is just not acceptable.

Assessment, a MUST for everyone!

Whether we want to admit or not, assessments are and will always be a part of our learning experience and growth. Beginning from when we were babies, our parents used methods of assessments to make inferences on whether our learning has progressed from one level to another. From saying our first words to identifying different colors and reading letters from the alphabet out loud, our parents made sure that they ‘test’ us on our acquired knowledge, and, I say that it is a good thing. Now that I am a parent, myself, I value these assessments for pretty much the same reason that they did. Assessments, in its many forms, allow me to ascertain my daughter’s progress in learning. I remember during her first day in school at age 3, the teacher used a carved block of wooden board to see if she was capable of identifying different shapes by putting the right pieces ( that were piled randomly on the side) onto the board. As soon as my daughter completed the test, she moved on to having her identify colors, count numbers from 1-10 and so on and so forth. It was after these assessments, that she was able to assure us of her readiness for school, as well as the intended program, despite her young age.

Year after year, my daughter continues to acquire more knowledge and together with that, she is given more types of tests and assessments (aptitude, achievement, performance) with the objective of measuring how much she has grown intellectually and emotionally. Yes, even emotionally. Let us not forget that schools not only prepare kids academically, but they also teach them on how to deal with others through group performance tasks that are not only meant to measure the end- product of what was taught, but also serve as a good teaching scenario of how each child should interact with one another as they deliver what is asked of them.

I’d have to say that the same is true in my case. These assessments like group projects, buddy-works and others have helped me immensely in terms of how I deal with people on a daily basis, especially when I was still a trainer/communication coach. I would not have been effective at my job in relating with others if it were not for the different experiences I had in high school and college, and for that, I am very thankful to my teachers. They have made sure that not only did they supply me with knowledge, but more importantly, they’ve equipped me with an important tool that I was able to successfully use in the ‘real world’. In conclusion, I believe that with the right objectives and well- thought off activities that are aligned with those objectives, educators should persist in providing assessments to help individuals put to application their knowledge and skills into real- life everyday scenarios.

Good Grades versus Good Learning

I’d have to admit that I may be one of the thousands of parents who have always wanted to have her child consistently get good grades in school. The reason behind it is quite simple. I always had the impression that good grades always translate to a smart kid. Little did I imagine that even if my child gets all the high marks in school, if she fails to apply the knowledge and skills that were carefully thought out, planned, implemented and reviewed conscientiously by an able institution, then everything done was just for compliance’ sake. It was not for ‘good learning’.

As I now understand that good learners:

a) are always curious. They will often wonder about things that they do not know about and get thrilled over the discovery of new things. These discoveries satisfy them as their curiosity grows.
b) pursue understanding diligently. This means that good learners are willing to put in the time and effort to discover everything about something that stirs their curiosity. They may find reading, analyzing, evaluating and other works tedious but do it anyway because they never stop thinking about what they want to learn. They are persistent, and giving up is never an option for them.
c) recognize that a lot of learning isn’t fun. Despite that, their love for learning never stops. The journey may be bumpy at times but once they start to understand and put the pieces together, then they find genuine satisfaction and happiness and would most likely go through everything again even if what’s waiting for them is the same string of difficulties and challenges before the actual prize of learning is achieved.
d) are scared of failures but see the benefits of it. They may stumble and fall and experience numerous failures but what makes them move forward is the confidence that they will eventually figure things out and that those failures are all part of the process of learning. Besides, who says that one cannot learn from a failure or a misstep.
e) are responsible for making knowledge their own. Good learners make room for new learnings and are open to changing their knowledge structure once they have determined that something does not make sense. In the process, they make a bigger and better knowledge structure that connects in meaningful ways with what  they already know.
f) are always full of questions. Good learners are always hungry to know more about anything and they live for new discoveries and answers. Even if at times those answers do not give them the bigger picture. Lastly,
g) are generous with what they’ve learned. Knowledge lacks the ability to spread unless it’s passed on, that’s why good learners are committed to sharing with others what they’ve learned in ways that make sense to others. They can communicate their ideas and find meaningful ways on how they can leave what they’ve learned with others.

I have become more open to the idea that good grades should not just be about the numbers, instead, it should be about what the student has gained, demonstrated, accomplished, valued and shared. It should be all about the kind of learner that the student has become.

P.S. The thoughts mentioned above are paraphrased by yours truly from a material that I’ve read.

Reference: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/seven-characteristics-good-learners/#sthash.JPgDIcp5.dpuf

Out with the old and In with the new

For the sake of traditional learning, will you push on keeping the old way or will you be brave enough to usher something new?

Case in point, most students, young and old, find it difficult to understand several words used in Araling Panlipunan (and Filipino) books like koreo, pagsosona, mapagkandili, and tumangan to name a few, and yet, these words have still been used in narrating events in history.

If we have accepted the changes and adjustments made to our language and agree that language does evolve, why then can we not make the adjustments or changes apply to this particular subject? Does it make us less of a Filipino if we use words that are less outdated? Has this subject not undergone the scrutiny of experts or don’t these experts find any need to revise materials in a way that make them more timely and easier to understand?

Now these questions came to mind in the eve of my daughter’s second mid-quarter exam and while I was taking notes on assessment, its purpose and benefits. Part of what I learned while browsing through some references is that assessment is systematically gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well programs and practices are working at meeting their expected outcomes and using results to understand and improve institutional effectiveness (See: virg.vanderbilt.edu). If this is the case, then institutions should have already been made aware of the difficulties that many students, in the primary and even in the secondary level, are faced with when studying Aralin Panlipunan (AP). As in the case of the subject, Filipino, the reference materials are written in Tagalog or Filipino, and not the conversational type. Some references would even go as far as using words that have not been heard of by students of this generation.

Given this, many of them struggle to perform well in AP since majority of the subjects in school have English as their mode of instruction, not to mention that with this generation, the use of English or Taglish is preferred not just in day to day conversations but in their choice of books, television, newspaper, magazines etc. (See: http://www.academia.edu/183864/A_Survey_on_Language_Use_Attitudes_and_Identity_in_Relation_to_Philippine_English_among_Young_Generation_Filipinos_An_Initial_Sample_from_a_Private_University).

Now, is this not reason enough for experts and authors of these materials to take a second look and assess whether it’s time to make those changes with the objective of making Araling Panlipunan, a subject that students like having because of the manner by which stories or history is told– with the use of words that have been heard and understood by today’s generation? Besides, isn’t improvement of a program or curriculum one of the purposes why assessment is part and parcel of teaching?

With everything that has been said, my wish is quite simple. That is, for experts to finally see the need to evaluate whether it’s time to use simpler words that both students and parents alike use in their everyday conversation, as I am sure that with these simple words, conversations and storytelling will be found more meaningful and will be better understood and appreciated.

Looking Back

20140911-202847.jpg

Today, I started reading the materials that were very kindly provided for by my teacher regarding assessments, evaluation, item bias, aptitude tests and a whole bunch of other terminologies that I would need to familiarize myself with. I wrote things down, as I normally would when reviewing, and when my hands and fingers got tired, I thought that I should take a break and look up my old write-ups and reread them. It was a good thing that I did, because while reading a few old entries, I came across something that I wrote on intelligence. I mentioned that, “test scores are not to be taken as the ONLY basis for an individual to be branded as intelligent”. This idea was once again reiterated by the numerous references that I chanced upon reading while looking up some of the terms. I believe that no single type of test can be the ultimate measure of one’s intelligence. I say this because based on past learnings, each individual can manifest several different types of intelligences ( as per Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences) and to say that one is intelligent purely on the basis of his cognitive abilities is unfair to those who may perhaps be better skilled in interpersonal relations or those who are gifted with the appreciation of the arts. This may explain why experts have come up with all sorts of assessments and tests. Take for instance, an aptitude test. It is designed to assess a student’s capability and competency to perform a certain task, whereas, diagnostic tests are intended to locate learning difficulties of students with the objective of targeting those patterns of errors for corrections.

There are tests that are aimed to assess one’s potential for specific learning like the Dynamic assessment and tests that assess students ability to apply the knowledge and understanding gained in one part of the program to other parts of the program or across the program as a whole.

Note too, that tests no matter how ” standard” they are may be subject to change or revisions especially when Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) are not met. And, as each individual is unique in his learning abilities, it is possible to say that these tests, assessments and evaluations of the individual’s measure of intelligence may vary in its validity.

To summarize, although I for one believe in the value of giving out different tests as means to measure one’s capability or competency, I would say that the sincerest way to measure one’s intelligence should not be limited to just getting good grades in exams, reports, theses etc. since not everything can be measured in a direct way– like ones’s perceptions, feelings and attitudes towards various situations or tasks. Besides, the goal of grading is to evaluate an individual’s performance but it may not always be the most reliable measure nor is it the only measure of one’s learning. (See: http://www.cmu.assessment/basics/grading).

Finally, the wait is over!

I guess the title of this entry best summarizes what I feel now that classes are back. If I were to be perfectly honest, I’d say that I feel all sorts of emotions. I am excited, for sure, but besides that, I also feel anxious (again) as I am about to begin another journey with all of you. The excitement is quite easy to explain, as it stems from the fact that along with the new learnings, come the challenges as well. And for me, these challenges will once again help me prove to myself that learning should never ever take a back seat to other duties or obligations I have as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and my many other roles.

At the same time, I feel anxious because like many of you, my hope is that I am able to give my absolute best in this endeavor despite all my roles. And, it is for this reason, that I am grateful to have a new set of classmates, who I know will surely make this journey all the more fun, interactive and easy. I am also looking forward to teacher Lou’s creative and inspiring ways of teaching and hope that she may never ever run out of patience and understanding as I am sure that we will need certain doses of those from time to time.

Cheers to another term of learning!