Assessment strategies as formative evaluation.
Writing is often misused as an assessment tool. This paper suggests faculty use evaluation strategies evaluation strategy - reduction strategy based in liberatory pedagogy as part of student-centered classrooms, so that assessment can be moved away from summative Adj. 1. summative - of or relating to a summation or produced by summation
additive - characterized or produced by addition; "an additive process" evaluation to serve a more formative formative /for·ma·tive/ (for´mah-tiv) concerned in the origination and development of an organism, part, or tissue. role in the writing process. Strategies are given to help faculty use formative techniques to improve student writing and thinking skills.
Using writing as an interdisciplinary method of learning and assessing has long been the focus of Writing Across the Curriculum programs. Once exposed to the general philosophies, faculty often find WAC WAC (Women's Army Corps), U.S. army organization created (1942) during World War II to enlist women as auxiliaries for noncombatant duty in the U.S. army. Before 1943 it was known as the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). Its first director was Oveta Culp Hobby. methods logical and compelling ways to enhance student learning in their respective disciplines. Inevitably, the focus turns to assessment, and many faculty are stymied, looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. appropriate ways to evaluate student writing projects. As one study indicates, most writing assessment takes the form of written comments that often serve the rhetorical purpose of justifying the letter grade (Connors and Lunsford). We have all been programmed to think of standard assessment practices as summative evaluations that measure how well instruction has taken place. If we subjectively read student's written projects, write comments, and mark surface-level errors, then we are performing the traditional methods of summative assessment Summative assessment (or Summative evaluation) refers to the assessment of the learning and summarises the development of learners at a particular time. After a period of work, e.g. . The problem with this method is that it is part of a top-down, teacher-centered process that does not serve to help students become better writers and better thinkers, nor does it allow students to use their writing as a learning tool.
Moving Away From Standard Assessment
Unfortunately, we cannot do away with grading altogether. We are part of an institutional matrix that requires evaluating student achievement and assigning grades. Since we cannot step out of that role completely, we must alter our perceptions of the process and our reactions to it. At odds with the summative form of evaluation is the current pedagogical ped·a·gog·ic also ped·a·gog·i·cal
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of pedagogy.
2. Characterized by pedantic formality: a haughty, pedagogic manner. constructivist con·struc·tiv·ism
A movement in modern art originating in Moscow in 1920 and characterized by the use of industrial materials such as glass, sheet metal, and plastic to create nonrepresentational, often geometric objects. theory which "emphasizes problem solving problem solving
Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error. , critical-thinking skills, engagement, and cooperation" and advocates the process of learning as more important than any of the products we create (Wolcott and Legg 9, italics in original). Brian Huot suggests that such a shift in pedagogy argues for a "new, shared discourse for understanding assessment as a positive force [...]" (165). Finding that shared discourse, however, is often difficult because we have not been trained to assess a process. Most of our training and understanding of assessment stems from a background where assessment functions as a final evaluation. However, in a new framework of learning which values the learning process, we are challenged to "develop valid performance assessments that capture these processes, and at the same time, allow generalizations to be drawn about students' understanding of a broad subject area" (Wolcott and Legg 9). Thus, assessment should be thought of in two ways: as formative evaluation Formative evaluation is a type of evaluation which has the purpose of improving programmes. It goes under other names such as developmental evaluation and implementation evaluation. that allows for improved instruction while learning is still taking place, and as performance assessment that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge through the actual performance of their abilities (Wolcott and Legg 4-5).
Additionally, assessment must take into consideration the recursive See recursion.
recursive - recursion nature of the writing process and expound ex·pound
v. ex·pound·ed, ex·pound·ing, ex·pounds
1. To give a detailed statement of; set forth: expounded the intricacies of the new tax law.
2. on the philosophy of writing to learn strategies. If we want to improve assessment, we must do it by shifting the philosophy of our grading. We do not want to get our students used to having somebody "fix" their papers or find their errors. We want students to be able to revise their writing based on comments that we make that would prompt revision, rather than justifying the grade we place. In essence, it becomes the difference between "grading" a set of papers and "responding" to a set of papers (Bean 242). More than semantic choices, these are actually two competing philosophies. The first, an editing-orientation, would produce a marked paper with errors identified. On the other hand, a revision-oriented philosophy "concentrates on ideas and structure with the aim of evoking a revised draft exhibiting greater complexity and sophistication so·phis·ti·cate
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.
2. of thought" (Bean 68). Without the shift to revision-oriented philosophy, we can expect students to continue their erroneous erroneous adj. 1) in error, wrong. 2) not according to established law, particularly in a legal decision or court ruling. thinking that writing is about supplying the correct answer rather than about employing intellectual thought (Bean 18). Given the assumption that writing is linked to thinking, using the editing-orientation condemns students to depend on others to see what improvements their thinking needs. Students need to be taught that writing is a means to an end; they need to be able to see what improvements they can make on their own. Thus, we must make students a part of the process, make them responsible for what they write, and more importantly, make them a part of the assessment process as well. This is a huge leap away from the traditional teacher-centered evaluation methods. What we need is a defining theory--a way to rethink re·think
tr. & intr.v. re·thought , re·think·ing, re·thinks
To reconsider (something) or to involve oneself in reconsideration.
re our roles in the process. Liberatory pedagogy allows such a shift.
Also known as critical pedagogy Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate. In other words, it is a theory and practice of helping students achieve critical consciousness. or problem-posing education, this learning philosophy stems from Paolo Freire's argument against the banking method of education in his seminal work A seminal work is a work from which other works grow. The term usually refers to an intellectual or artistic achievement whose ideas and techniques have been adopted or responded to in later works by other people, either in the same field or in the general culture. , Pedagogy of the Oppressed Pedagogy of the Oppressed is the most widely known of educator Paulo Freire's works. It was first published in Portuguese in 1968 as Pedagogia do oprimido and the first English translation was published in 1970. . His banking analogy suggests that students' brains are mere repositories for the wealth that teachers will deposit, until the teacher comes to make a withdrawal through a test or written response. Obviously, the teacher could expect to receive only what she has put in. The result, then, is that students are passive participants in their learning (Freire 52-67). That is an alarming thought--that one person would be responsible for making sure that every worthwhile thought related to a discipline is deposited into a student's head. While we may agree that banking is not a valid pedagogy, if we scrutinize scru·ti·nize
tr.v. scru·ti·nized, scru·ti·niz·ing, scru·ti·niz·es
To examine or observe with great care; inspect critically.
scru our assessment methods, we might readily see that many of our grading approaches stem from this banking philosophy and undermine any student-centered practices we may accept.
Building on Freire's condemnation of the banking method, Ira Shor Ira Shor is a professor at the City University of New York, where he teaches composition and rhetoric. In collaboration with Paulo Freire, he has been one of the leading exponents of critical pedagogy. identifies the traditional zero paradigm, in which "knowledge and power are fixed from above, not negotiated or discovered from below," (200) and the teacher serves as a delivery system to transfer knowledge. This method can do little more than remove students from the learning process "because knowledge comes at them in a one-way discourse [where] they have little need to interact with the teacher, with each other, or with the material" (201). He argues, instead, for the critical paradigm which acknowledges that "teachers and students are complex people in a position to make or detail transformative learning," (201) and who each know things the other must learn. Acknowledging students' cultural identities as more than hierarchical determinants, the critical paradigm "respects the knowledge, experience, and language of the students. It does not mythologize my·thol·o·gize
v. my·thol·o·gized, my·thol·o·giz·ing, my·thol·o·giz·es
To convert into myth; mythicize.
1. To construct or relate a myth.
2. them as deficits. The first responsibility of critical teachers is to research what students, know, speak, experience, and feel as starting points Noun 1. starting point - earliest limiting point
terminus a quo
commencement, get-go, offset, outset, showtime, starting time, beginning, start, kickoff, first - the time at which something is supposed to begin; "they got an early start"; "she knew from the [...]" (202) for their interactions with students in the classroom. This does not mean, however, that the teacher does not have a role in delivering information to the student. But rather than spoon feeding her own interpretations into the waiting minds of passive students, the teacher bears the responsibility for coordination and at times direction in the dialogic di·a·log·ic also di·a·log·i·cal
Of, relating to, or written in dialogue.
Shifting Perspectives in Assessment
Our struggle now is to escape from traditional assessment methods and to develop methods that allow students to be as actively engaged in the assessment portion of the classroom activity as they are in the other portions. The value of critical pedagogy's perspective is that it is an ethical response to the issue of assessment and one that acknowledges the respect of each participant in the learning process. In general, when we evaluate papers, we decide which ones have met certain criteria and thus deserve a "good" evaluation. However, "good" is too vague a concept to offer any real direction. Olympia Sibley, a composition instructor at a major research university, suggests that this slippery term can best be defined as "what is responsible." In evaluating papers, she leans on the belief that her response to students' writing must be responsible to their needs as students. So in our situation of attempting to implement critical pedagogy in our assessment practices, we can define acting responsibly as taking the time to ensure that writing evaluation is part of the learning cycle. We must extend the belief that the learning cycle does not end when students turn their papers in for grading.
Thus, another shift in perception is needed that allows for an action-oriented perspective of purpose. As Joan Wink A short control signal in telephony operations. It can be a single pulse, a brief interruption of a continuous tone, a change of bits or a change in polarity of the signal. For example, a momentary interruption (the wink) of a continuous, single-frequency tone is a signal that the asserts, students have to be able to take risks and teachers must shift their model from one that controls knowledge to one that allows students to take ownership of their learning and take the risks necessary to be able to apply their knowledge (123). Linking this audience-centered approach to assessment helps us keep in mind that our evaluative remarks on a paper need to have an action-oriented purpose. If we mark a passage on a page, it must be an active comment, perhaps one that requires the student to answer a question or one that provokes a response, not one points out a weakness. Research on the nature of teacher comments on student writing found that the more dialogic and formative the feedback, the better the written product ultimately treats the subject matter (Straub and Lunsford xiii). Thus, if we expect students to learn from the material they have created, we have to give them the opportunity to assess that material from the perspective of formative feedback. We must adopt an interactive approach that does not exalt our accumulated reading and writing experiences and condemn the ignorance of students. From a course management perspective, teachers will find adopting a more critical approach in our pedagogy:
* takes the onus away from the instructor to always be the person who has to supply the information. Critical pedagogy allows for more substantive interaction with the course content.
* puts the responsibility back where it belongs, on the students. Teachers are available to serve as facilitators for learning and students are unable to sit back to simply assimilate as·sim·i·late
1. To consume and incorporate nutrients into the body after digestion.
2. To transform food into living tissue by the process of anabolism. information. When students are helping to shape class content, they must become more active. At first students may resist as they are mired mire
1. An area of wet, soggy, muddy ground; a bog.
2. Deep slimy soil or mud.
3. A disadvantageous or difficult condition or situation: the mire of poverty.
v. in a system that has traditionally placed teachers as fountains of knowledge and students as receivers; however, once the initial discomfort of having to participate is overcome, students enjoy finding their own way through the content.
* serves to teach more than just course content. Active participation helps develop thinking and communication skills.
* moves our role from one of transmission to one of facilitation--a better place to be for enjoying course content.
* builds on the notions of the social construction of knowledge and of collaborative learning Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches in education that involve joint intellectual effort by students or students and teachers. Collaborative learning refers to methodologies and environments in which learners engage in a common task in which each communities (see, for example, Bruffee; Weiss).
How to Link Assessment to Critical Practices
Without too much shift in the way courses are framed, faculty can institute practices that reflect a student-centered, critical perspective, which ultimately lead to the ability to use critical assessment techniques. It begins with making students responsible for their learning from the first day the class meets. Syllabi syl·la·bi
A plural of syllabus. should list specific learning activities, the purpose of the activities, and the due dates. When students are given this information on the first day of class, they can schedule their personal lives around their lives as members of the class. Structure each session so that students must prepare themselves for each class session, participate in that session, or risk being left behind.
It is also important to give detailed explanation of projects before they are due. Make sure the students know the learning objective and supply them with enough models so that they may see what constitutes an effective final product. However, faculty should not define the criteria for assessment. Students should analyze models to figure out why they are or are not representative of good work; thus, students develop their own criteria for evaluation. After they see the models, they should be able to collectively quantify the characteristics and appropriate them for their own uses. Using guided invention strategies, where faculty guide students through a brainstorming session, students typically create the same criteria faculty desire. Through the guided invention process, students will have a sense of ownership in the criteria being used for evaluation. When they create the characteristics of a good final product, they are much more likely to include those characteristics in their own writing project.
Another important component is to rely on peer evaluations and assess student writing only after it has been through at least one cycle. Keep in mind, however, that students need to be taught how to evaluate; they must know that they are not copyeditors but that they are measuring each other's work based on the criteria they have selected as appropriate. Students have to be convinced they are knowledgeable enough to evaluate. Most often, they understand it after practicing a few times. Students should also be required to include reflection letters or memos as part of their projects, as suggested by Freire's notion of action and reflection. Expect a brief written analysis of how students think they performed on the task. Encourage them to provide any information, such as difficulties they encountered, which may be helpful for the instructor to know as he or she begins assessing the project. Often, students know when they have not done what has been asked of them. They understand how their work did or did not measure up to the criteria they set for themselves. Requiring reflection also helps students make those necessary connections to the activity and the course content--another writing to learn strategy.
If any one revision in our writing/assessing activity is paramount, it is the notion that we give students time to use their writing skills. If we believe writing through a process approach builds the quality of writing, we must give students an opportunity to use that process. Do not ask them to use writing in a false situation, such as timed written exams. Essays written outside of class will include better content and will reflect the links between writing and learning that we are teaching our students to value. Ultimately, we will be receiving a culmination of student learning rather than what information remained in their heads as they entered the classroom. Making the assignments as specific as possible and using plagiarism detection With the advent of the Internet, it has never been easier for students to plagiarize the work of others. Many teachers are looking for efficient ways to fight plagiarism. A few solutions exist. software, such as that available at Turnitin.com, can help alleviate the possibility of students not doing their own writing. Tying the writing assignment to specific classroom activities and topics of discussion helps to assure that the exam topic does not exist on Internet paper sites.
Students react favorably fa·vor·a·ble
1. Advantageous; helpful: favorable winds.
2. Encouraging; propitious: a favorable diagnosis.
3. to this shift to critical practices and critical assessment, as research (see Bean, Shor, Straub and Lunsford, and Wolcott and Legg) and personal experience support. In end-of-term reflective responses students acknowledge that they feel their writing has improved, that they feel better prepared to apply their skills to other courses, and that the class had added value Added value in financial analysis of shares is to be distinguished from value added. Used as a measure of shareholder value, calculated using the formula:
tr.v. in·tim·i·dat·ed, in·tim·i·dat·ing, in·tim·i·dates
1. To make timid; fill with fear.
2. To coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats. by the new process, students indicate that they enjoy the active role and feel they have more power over their learning. In my own classes I have found that students who know what the assignment is supposed to teach and how their writing should reflect that new knowledge will produce higher quality writing, making it easier to focus on the global issue of content instead of being dragged down by surface errors. Ultimately, the grading becomes easier and I do not see as many of those hastily-created first drafts handed in at deadline thinly disguised as final drafts. Since assessment is no longer focused on the punitive, negative nature of the task, grading writing becomes a happier experience.
This paper argues for a shift away from traditional strategies of summative evaluation toward the more responsive role of formative assessment Formative assessment is a self-reflective process that intends to promote student attainment . Cowie and Bell  define it as the bidirectional process between teacher and student to enhance, recognise and respond to the learning. . Using liberatory pedagogy as a supporting theory, faculty can create a dialogue through their assessment techniques that allow students to retain an active role in their learning and writing processes--a role that does not rely on faculty to provide the right answer. This method of assessment supports current critical theories and supports a more active classroom environment, one that does not undercut undercut,
n 1. the portion of a tooth that lies between its height of contour and the gingivae, only if that portion is of less circumference than the height of contour.
2. the value of students' thinking and learning. Using formative assessment techniques as part of a student-centered classroom helps to move the instructor's role from one of final arbiter to one of a facilitator, which in turn helps make students more responsible for their own learning.
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NCTE National Centre for Technology in Education
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Carroll Ferguson Nardone, Sam Houston State University
Carroll Ferguson Nardone, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of English and co-facilitator of SHSU's Writing in the Disciplines Seminar.