Assessment Tools for Evaluating Instruction and Assessing Student Learning

Evaluation and assessment are crucial aspects of the teaching and learning process. I will begin by distinguishing between evaluation and assessment as defined by Newby, Stepich, Lehman, Russel and Ottenreit-Leftwich (2011) in Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning. Then I will discuss two techniques I have employed to evaluate my instruction, namely student tryouts and talking with students. Lastly, I will discuss a standard and an alternative assessment procedure. In this context, assessment of students is used as part of the process of evaluating materials, instruction, and curricula. I will demonstrate how evaluation aids in the process of ensuring that curricula, instruction, and decisions made in the lesson are sophisticated and well crafted.

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Check out the reflection on this assignment.

Evaluation and Assessment

Newby et al. (2011:234) define evaluation as “the process of gathering information from multiple sources in order to judge the merit or worth of a program, project, or entity” with the goal of improving “the instruction’s development and implementation”. Evaluation is a seen as a “cycle of continuous improvement” and involves three important considerations. Before the lesson, educators need to consider how the instruction will work. During the lesson, educators need to consider how the instruction is working. After the lesson, instructors need to reflect on how the instruction worked. The figure below demonstrates the cycle of continuous improvement that occurs before, during, and after instruction (based on Newby et al., 2011:235).

INTMAEU 04 Continuous Improvement.png

Figure 1: The Cycle of Continuous Improvement

The purpose of evaluation is to improve content, methods, media, activities, and materials, to ensure that the teaching and learning process is streamlined and as effective as possible. Assessment, on the other hand, “is the process of gathering evidence of what learners know and can do”. Within the framework outlined by Newby et al. (2011), the assessment of students is seen as a means of “gaining a full understanding of the merit of specific instructional materials”. As such, assessment is used not only to establish what skills and knowledge students have mastered, but as part of the larger educational process in which educators reflect on their own teaching techniques, methods, and lesson materials.

Assessment and Evaluation Before, During, and After a Lesson

INTMAEU 04 Assessment vs Evaluation.png

Techniques for Evaluating Instruction

There are a number of techniques educators can employ to reflect on their teaching methods, material, and techniques. I will discuss two methods I regularly employ when I evaluate my instruction: student tryout and talking with students.

Student Tryouts

I often use my smaller classes as tryouts because I have more time and space to try different techniques and materials. A student tryout is a trial of instructional techniques, activities, methods, media, or material with a small group of students (Newby et al., 2011:239). This technique is extremely effective: I use these tryout classes as a way of finding gaps or establishing what is successful with my material and techniques before I teach the material on a larger scale. Trying out lesson material and techniques enables me to continuously improve on my techniques and materials. It is an effective and valuable technique for evaluating my instruction and providing a platform on which to improve lessons and instruction. I taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP) to foundation, first, and second year students at tertiary level. With the foundation students, there was less work to cover and more hours dedicated to EAP so it is possible to attempt new teaching methods, activities, and materials. The students are more open to trying different ways of learning, and actively participated in activities. I use these classes to try new ways of teaching material. It is a practical and effective way to determine what works and what needs to be adapted to be more functional.

Talking with Students

One of the best ways to establish what is successful and what needs improvement in instruction is to communicate in an informal or formal way with my students. As Newby et al. (2011:240) point out; communicating with students is an effective technique for evaluating instruction since it “has the advantage of going directly to the source to find out what they think about instruction”. I ask a number of concept check questions to ensure my students understand correctly what is expected from them. This enables me to evaluate their understanding immediately and prevent issues early in the instruction period. I also elicit feedback concerning techniques, material, activities, and media to find out what students find effective and efficient. Finally, I create general feedback sheets, which I request selected students to complete in order to have more formal and tangible criticism on record. While talking with my students, I established that scaffolding is an essential part of the teaching process. I often assume that my students have previous knowledge, but unfortunately the skills they should have learned in previous years are either forgotten or have not been taught properly. Talking with my students in informal and formal situations proved to be a fruitful resource that provided information about instruction.

Techniques for Assessing Student Learning

One of the subjects I teach is English for Academic Purposes in which second language speakers learn the skills they need to participate at a tertiary academic level. It is important that these students develop the ability to read, research, write, and follow lectures. I will discuss the assessment procedures I employ to evaluate student writing in my English for Academic Purposes courses. I base my writing assessments on the writing band descriptors for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The standard assessment procedure I employ is an essay (Newby et al., 2011:244) in which students write an academic essay about a topic related to their major. The alternative assessment procedure I employ is a portfolio (Newby et al. 2011, 246), which demonstrates the various stages of the essay writing process. 70% of the mark is allocated to the portfolio and the final essay makes up the remaining 30%. I will begin by examining the alternative assessment before I continue on to discuss the standard assessment technique. I will discuss my reasons for choosing the assessment techniques, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each technique. The memorandum for this assessment task is attached as Appendix A.

Portfolio as an Alternative Assessment Technique

Reason for Selecting Portfolio Technique

The portfolio is an effective alternative assessment procedure since it enables students to understand the scaffolding that constitutes the writing process. The portfolio marks are based on three tasks counting 50% and a peer review activity counting 20% of the total mark.

The first task is constructing a specific, researchable question that involves primary and secondary research, which counts 2% of the total mark. The second task includes producing an essay outline, which has an introduction with a hook and thesis statement, body paragraphs with topic sentences and supporting details, and a conclusion. This task is allocated 25% of the total mark. The third task involves writing a reference list that is formatted correctly according to Harvard style conventions and contains at least four secondary sources. In addition to this, students need to include a sample of a quote, paraphrase, and summary that will be included in their final essay. This third task counts 23% of the total mark.

In order to provide the students with sufficient scaffolding and practice before their final essays have to be submitted, I provide them with an adapted rubric covering the same areas that I employ to evaluate their essays and have them peer review each others’ work. I do this for two reasons. Firstly, in an academic context, peer review is a significant aspect of the paper writing process, and it is valuable to introduce students to this culture. Secondly, peer review provides them with a better understanding of the evaluation process, which enables them to prepare their work better. The peer review essay marking rubric sample is attached as Appendix B.

Advantages of Portfolio Technique

There are several advantages to using portfolios to assess students’ work. The tasks related to the various stages of the writing process are an effective way to “portray both the process and the products of student work” (Newby et al., 2011:247). The peer review aspect of the portfolio ensures that students can be more self-directed and be involved in the assessment process. It enables them to understand clearly what is expected from them when they appraise each other’s work using the criteria with which I will assess their work. Finally, it ensures that throughout the writing process students are following the correct procedures, which will produce an effective essay.

Disadvantages of Portfolio Technique

There are several disadvantages to using portfolio assessment. It can be unreliable since the work may not be an accurate representation of students’ abilities and the marking criteria can be subjective. The peer assessment aspect of the portfolio also has a few disadvantages. It is time consuming to mark essays, and students could be biased and unreliable. In addition to this, the students may not have the capability and skills to evaluate each other’s work adequately.

Standard Assessment Technique: Essay

Reason for Selecting Essay Technique

The essay is the best way to evaluate students writing in an academic writing course. The students select a topic related to their major in order to ensure that the academic writing is relevant and helpful to their studies. The medium of instruction at the students’ college is English, so they need to be able to complete their writing activities and studies in English. The vocabulary and content of the essays written in their English for Academic Purposes class is tied to their majors. The essays are evaluated with a marking rubric that has been adapted from the IELTS writing band descriptors in order to couch the assessment procedures in industry standards. The lecturer essay marking rubric sample is attached as Appendix C.

Advantages of Essay Technique

As Newby et al. (2011:244) point out; the main advantages of essay writing include evaluating students’ abilities to express themselves within a creative, detailed, and broad scope. Students are given experience in writing in an academic context that will support them in their major subjects.

Disadvantages of Essay Technique

There are several disadvantages to using essays as a means of assessing students. It takes a long time to mark all of the essays, and even with a well-structured rubric and the use of multiple assessors, the results can be inconsistent and unreliable. In addition, there are many students who do not necessarily have the required skills and knowledge to complete the essay writing at the appropriate level. In my experience, I occasionally do not have adequate knowledge about the students’ topics. I am responsible for teaching them English for Academic Purposes, and it can be challenging to ensure that I am sufficiently knowledgeable about the various subjects my students are studying.

Effectiveness of the Assessment Techniques

Overall, the essay project (composed of the final essay and portfolio) is a highly effective way for students to understand the writing process. The three tasks provide a solid framework for enabling students to understand pre-writing tasks more completely. The peer review aspect of the portfolio in which students review each other’s essays using the rubric and criteria with which I would evaluate their work is particularly successful. The students seemed to accept negative criticism in a more positive way from their peers than they would have from me. Applying the assessment criteria to their peers’ work helped them to more fully comprehend what was expected from them. Finally, the essay is an excellent method for assessing students’ writing. If students wish to study at English-medium institutions in predominantly western countries, they will need to pass an IELTS exam. Using the IELTS writing criteria to evaluate my students’ essays supports their understanding of what would be expected from them in the IELTS exam and provides them with the necessary skills to pass their own subjects, which are conducted in English as well. A sample of the mark sheet for the essay project is attached as Appendix D.

Reflection

It is essential to evaluate material, activities, and techniques before, during, and after the instruction process. This enables a continuous process of improvement and creates an environment in which teachers are open to finding better approaches to the teaching process. Evaluation and assessment not only enable teachers to determine how well students have achieved learning targets, but also allows teachers to establish how effective instruction was in aiding students in the learning process.

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References

IELTS TASK 2 Writing band descriptors (public version). (n.d.).  Available from: http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/IELTS_task_2_Writing_band_descriptors.pdf. (Accessed 23 June 2015).

Newby, T.J., Stephic, D.A., Lehman, J.D., Russell, J.D. and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., (2011). Educational technology for teaching and learning. Boston: Pearson. Fourth Edition.

Nieman, M.M. & Potgieter, C. (2008). Study guide: Instructional techniques and multimedia in adult education. Muckleneuk: University of South Africa.

 

 

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