EDS 113 finale: The hike towards assessment success

The journey….

Several ‘aha’ moments during the duration of the course were had, especially in enumerating the different types of assessments. While some have been labeled for me, some have been identified for me to use. They were not hard to accept, because I was a somewhat creative teacher, and have learned how to isolate and asses somehow in my practice…

The summit…

Looking down on how have I done in terms of assessment, I have discovered a few misconceptions I have held about assessments:

1. Prelesson assessment is a waste of time
2. Formative assessments could be shallow in essence and may not produce real reflections anyway
3. Tests can me made in haste as long as it covers the necessary scope of the material

In retrospect…

In the true spirit of self- assessment, I have come up with a small list of things I have realized after taking EDS 113, and the pledge I wish to make in the quest to improve my practice:

1. Pre-lesson assessment is important as much as post-lesson measurements are. Pre lesson assessment directs where to steer lessons in the interest of engagement and time- economy.

2. Formative assessments are a valuable information mine such that strategically devised ones have power to raise academic performance.

3. KYS (know your student) is not necessarily emotional but rather a highly logical tactic to be able to accurately gather important student data. I used to think that knowing your students is not as valuable as scores, but evaluations made through observations and prior experience with them shows how accurate they are in predicting future performance

4. Standardized tests is insufficient as an assessment if taken alone by itself. These things aren’t wrong as they are, but they heavily need back up in the forms of informal assessment methods. Teachers cannot take the easy route and dish out solely traditional forms and hold to them as the ends of education.

5. I would be an advocate of a movement towards greater accuracy in assessments by determining what are valuable information and what are not; what makes students respond to engage them to get high- quality data; employ an adapt-and -adjust strategy to reveal misconceptions and expose opportunities to instruct; stick close to assessment ‘authenticism’ by discovering scenarios where the assessments have a real- world application and value especially in the student’s own contexts (play, home life, intrapersonal, interpersonal).

Earl, L. (2006 April 27). Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind [webinar]. In Webcast for Educators. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.org/k-12/en/videos/rethinking-classroom-assessment-with-purpose-in-mind

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EDS 113 Module 4: Why the topnotcher is not (necessarily) the smartest in the class

I went around today asking my coworkers who happen to be literacy and numeracy teachers at an enrichment center seeking their views on their beliefs on grades, specifically summative assessment grades (or report card figures). They start digging up in their past experiences, dating back in grade and high school, when all that matters is either academic rank, or coolness rank. Concentrating on academic rank, some of them who claimed they do not 100 per cent believe grades are a true reflection of intelligence or learning progress in mark equivalency said that they know more than one person who were, in their opinion, way more mentally advanced than the first in class, also know as the Top 1. This has struck me as I probably felt the same way more than once in my own classroom experience as a learner, and
sometimes as a teacher.

One of the teachers at my job claimed that hard work- laziness could significantly improve one’s rank. She claimed further that due to the traditional format of the school system, results could be skewed by intense review and studying before examinations. Very much agree. The review pre test- forget post test has proven so effective that all my coworkers know someone who mirrored the said technique (or perhaps themselves). Another pointed out that no matter how appropriate or highly prepared the assessment are, other intelligences may come into play such that one’s intelliegence domain (see M.I. by Gardner) may be mismatched into the institution one is in. According to her, a student who may have a slant towards a visual- spatial reasoning may do very poorly forcing himself in a liberal degree (and underperforming) when he could be in technical school learning how to reverse- engineer cars.

I stopped and thought about these views and thought that one of the two could be right: we might all be hating on the Top 1 of our respective classes, or they might have a valid point.

But before debunking all thoughts about the way we traditionally grade students, I wish to offer another insight. Our center keeps a strictly small teacher to student ratio, such that maximum number of students is 2 and 4 for reading and math, respectively. I wish to insist how it is still possible to rate and mark the learners accurately thru meaningful and deliberate formative assessments, and high quality constructed summative assessments, and how that keeps marks and progress reports accurate in describing what it needs to describe. Then were do teachers go wrong?

Perhaps grading trickiness is proportional to class size. What this means is that as the class grows in size, so does the lack of accuracy. It could be that a smaller class allows for more differentiated instruction and then differentiated assessment, and this relationship is what creates high fidelity grades and feedback. A larger class may be deindividualizing students into mere ‘group members’ and teachers may tend to generalize more as the class grows in number. I am always highly confident that my one on one student is almost always on the right track as I enjoy greater freedom in making teacher made worksheets and assessments, not having to consider to accommodate anybody. Comparing it to how I handled my 14 year old ESL class in Hanoi, Vietnam a long time ago where I would attempt to describe them in a few adjectives when asked about by my supervisor. Making some sense.

EDS 113 Module 3E: My classroom realities on differentiation

So many teachers have dreamed of differentiating classroom assessments, and one can imagine the clamor to incorporate such into formal curricula, but the perceived disadvantages seem to continue to outweigh the benefits. What really is the current state of our teachers and classrooms that something as beneficial, even exciting, as differentiated assessments cannot penetrate most class instruction? or, if implemented (or attempting to), what are the struggles in differentiation? Let me make my own classroom as a case study.

I work at a numeracy and literacy enrichment center, which is short for an after school facility. The owners are very amiable and generous, but as teachers there, I and my coworkers understand that there is always a business side to things. Two to four students are accommodated at a single class, regardless of level, with only student and teacher availability as basis for the placement. Students come in for an hour’s worth of session, multiple times a week, with usually the same classmates. Which means our number one enemy is the time constraint. It is not a joke to actually be concerned about student progress and care how every student may benefit from their 60 minutes if a single teacher is constantly bombarded by a five year old on one side of the desk, and then a 14 year old, and then an 11 on the other. All three clearly needed some type of attention, and for the most part, it is impossible to speak to more than one at the same time (we wish we can, and we sure tried).

Second is the lack of rigid scheduling. Although like I said earlier, we are trying to understand this as it is one on the business side, and at this point, the center has decided that we cannot afford to refuse a student only because the teacher only cared to admit same- level pupils at a given time slot.

Third and last is the lack of preparation time. Teachers at our center prepare for their classes during their lunch hour, or force themselves to report to work very early. Sometimes, as much as we dislike doing so, we are forced to prepare some materials during another student’s class, and we hate to be in this position. But it’s better than no preparation at all. Management seem to scrimp on this because again, it is hard to lose a whole hour, which again meant losing business.

Me and my coworkers continue to seek a solution somehow on how to reconcile issues on differentiation of instruction and of assessment and the lack of allowance on matters of resources and time, so for now, we continue to do our best and multitask by rehersing talking to two people at the same time.

EDS 113 Module 3D: Teachers’ problems with self assessment

There is a serious lack of alternative forms of assessment in today’s classrooms that could be blamed on the unpopularity of creative approaches in teachers. Perhaps the latter are forced to resort to less than creative means due to institutional pressure and tradition. An example of an yet widely used measure is self- assessment.

Lack of knowledge about alternative forms of assessments such as this possibly hamper its usage in classes. Teachers (and students) may have a good few concerns about leaving highly prized final grades to students, while some students lack the confidence to rate themselves or their classmates.

Intellectual independence and a critical mind ties closely with the ability to accurately asses the self. while teachers may claim that such learner traits are developed in their classrooms anyway, then what seems to be the problem? A huge and hard to penetrate hurdle is the culture of distrust between institutions and students. Students may feel the same way, but teachers generally aren’t too confident either of their students’ capability to critique and analyze.

Personally, I think teachers need to get exposed and professionally educated on other types of assessments that are pragmatic, applicable, executable and sustainable. It is only deserving of students to be offered the best possible form of incorporation in their classes through the practice of more practical but intelligent testing and measures such as self- assessments. Not only does it foster higher order thinking, but could actually be exciting, too. Win- win.

EDS 113 Module 3C: Living in academic utopia (where alternative assessments reign superior)

In my ideal world, the schools are clean, not because there are many janitors, but because students have self-assessed and they have decided that cleaning up after themselves is the best learning environment. They may not be as prim and proper, but they sure have the ability to regulate their behavior, after much reflection.

Parents are not distrustful of teachers, in fact, they respect what they do. They have realized that enrolling their children at a school is tantamount to granting trust that the administration knows what they are doing. Petty complaints are scarce, bickering against teachers and staff very uncommon. That is the parens also know the importance of peace and a harmonious environment as conducive to teachers and students being able to deliver their expectations. They also respect students and their youthful, sometimes illogical reasoning, but the difference is the parents do not dismiss them as nonsense. Youthful views are welcome, and they are equally welcome to be dispelled by the new and growing knowledge they receive in school.

Teachers are learned, knowledgeable, strategic and fun. They are lifelong learners, they are hungry for more. They receive periodic professional development from the school, encouraged to eat healthy to avoid that 2pm slump, plenty of fruits and good snacks in the pantry so they do not need to drown in refillable coffee. They are not forced into anything but they readily choose a lifestyle that reflects what they preach. They garner the respect of their colleagues as well as students.

But most of all, it is common knowledge that teaching and learning could be fun. It is not all fun and games every day but the students can see the advantages of what they work hard for in school. They persevere not only to pass an assessment but the end of their school life is deemed as important as the means. Assessments are not limited to pencil and paper, but there is much freedom to enjoy in performances, collating work, debates, round table discussions. In fact they enjoy their chit chat with the teachers and do not think of them as someone who will readily judge at the drop of a hat. The students welcome being corrected because their teachers have created an environment of friendship and trust. There are still summative tests, though, but it resembles so much more like the agora than a local public high school.

Grades are not reflections of their weaknesses but a reflection of what the students need to adjust in themselves. Parents do not punish for a low mark, instead they seek a dialogue with the grown friends the students call Misses and Misters.

EDS 103 finale: Snippets of EDS 103 learning

To tell the truth, I am happy that I had EDS 103 for my first course in this program. I feel that I have been fully enriched and improved by it. I was always excited to find out what will come next, or what the next module will be about. I remember my first formal teaching post, I missed my job every weekend, and I wished it was already Monday so I can go back see my students….

…but no class is ever like this with any adult, let’s be real. But it is close, and I am happy to report that I feel like I have grown as a teacher because of the theories I have learned here. I find myself talking about it with my coworkers, I plan to give trainings based on new theory concepts I learned, I ask my coworkers to pitch in and tell me how the ideas are correct in their practice, and how it does not apply in their situations.

Growth was with me every step of the way, and I almost physically stretch me every week—by now I feel like six feet tall.

…………………….

To be more specific, I would say that as much as I savored every new grain of thought, I continue to ponder upon behaviorism. Not surprisingly, it is the most relevant to my practice as I deal with preschool children. While I stand by my conviction to avoid extrinsic rewards, I wonder if none of the teachers know about the faults of a “token economy” I discussed in my previous post “Sticker-stingy” (https://glenbanal.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/eds-103-module-3-sticker-stingy/). Why continue to reward even if it’s become obvious that the reward has stolen the spotlight? Have some of us failed to receive Pavlov’s memo? Or, did I miss a new memo?

…………………..

The Sousa article about the importance of prime time and how learning is affected by down time (Sousa, n.d)…. One that I will never forget. Not that it was memorably written, but it has a huge impact to me. Perhaps it is because it was closest to home, and in my school it is something that all of us continue to struggle with. I have not stopped talking about it with my coworkers and I was telling about it to anyone who wishes to listen. From then on, I swore no more tired and bored students, and yes to better classroom management planning.

………………….

I was especially inspired by the constructivism school of thought in education. As Piaget rebuilt our confidence on students by suggesting that a learner and his or her prior knowledge can be responsible for assembling knowledge out of information, then they can be largely responsible for their learning (Piaget, 1936). This has reintroduced active learning to me, and I am sure to attempt to steer my classes towards a more learner-centered approach, where my students will become stakeholders in our learning community. Students, no matter how young they are, can be and must be a part of their growth, as much as of our own. As I continue to use Vygotsky’s ZPD in considering learning curves and scaffolding, his concepts were indeed very helpful in the quest to better understanding of learners (Vygotsky, 1934).

…………………………..

There were knowledge that has been articulated in my study of this course, and there were some that were brand new acquisitions. It is not as much about the amount of modules read, or the volume of journals added in my mental education folder (See “Folderize your brain” post, October 13, 2015), but the way I have directed my learning. The epistemology of my learning, to me, is based off of how these will reflect in my teaching practice. Sure, several students have expressed how excited the course has gotten them, and how they plan to remember all of it, but like what Schunk (2000) said, what good does a piece of information has if it is not about to move away from the book to the drawing board? It is not considered learned until it has been practiced and then, to borrow from the latter, enduringly changed behavior (Schunk, 2000).

…………………….

I love map reading in my free time, and EDS103 gave me my first map. Ah, so this is Lifelong learning.

Banal, G. (2015 October 1). Sticker-stingy [web log post]. Retrieved from https://glenbanal.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/eds-103-module-3-sticker-stingy/

Sousa, D. (n.d.) Primacy-recency effect. Retrieved from https://www.lancsngfl.ac.uk/secondary/math/download/file/How%20the%20Brain%20Learns%20by%20David%20Sousa.pdf

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

Dahms, M. et. Al (n.d.) TheEducational Theory of Lev Vygotsky: an analysis. Retrieved from http://www.aiz.vic.edu.au/Embed/Media/00000023/Article-The-Educational-Theory-of-Lev-Vygotsky.doc

Phye. G. (2004). Learning. Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. (Vol 2. p. 520). Retrieved from http://www.perl.hs.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/projects/carver/learning.pdf

EDS 111 Module 3C: Creative versus Interesting

As a sucker for Buzzfeed and internet facts lists, idling before for hours on end (and probably procrastinating), I have come across an article on the 4 general traits of interesting people (“Four Characteristics Interesting People Have” by Steve Bloom), and it immediately reminded me Danah Henriksen and Punya Mishra’s list of the five guideposts for teaching creativity, and somehow I have found a huge deal of similarity and parallels. It has made me reflect whether interesting is synonymous to creative, and the other way around.

According to Bloom’s list the four general characteristics of interesting people are:
1. a risk taker
2. curious
3. opinionated
4. has presence

and in Henriksen and Mishra’s list of what makes creative teachers are:
1. connects their interests in their practice
2. imparts real- world learning
3. has a creative mind-set
4. collaborates
5. takes risks (Henriksen and Mishra, 2013).

Putting these side bsy side will undoubtedly yield parallel results. For one, risk taking, according to Bloom, makes for stories that will have historical value in the future because they were the type of people who were headstrong on making a big move for the sake of experience, and then knowledge. This was the same lack of fear of mistakes Henriksen and Mishra was looking for in teachers to become creative and inventive. Curiosity takes you out of passivism, and in taking charge of discovering interests; with these interests, you will be able to share something with your class. While idea collaboration and risk taking may have something to contribute to being an opinionated individual, Bloom said if you are offering no opinions and or afraid of forming new ones, then that is not worthy of interest. Confidence is something that we can borrow from all of guidelines from Henriksen and Mishra, as strong and creative pedagogy requires presence to deliver in front of students.

This comparison begs us to think that if being creative and interesting are indeed similar, then does that mean that interesting individuals automatically make creative, and effective teachers? Perhaps, but as the TPACK framework suggests, it takes a union of different kinds of elements– pedagogy, content knowledge and technology to fully assist learning (Koehler and Mishra, 2009). To the layperson, this means that not everybody who is good in the arts, who is interesting, who takes risks and who is confident makes for a creative, and effective teacher. I have personally seen teachers abroad with zero teaching experience and nay any form of training go straight to occupying a teaching post in SE Asia. Foreigners are revered this way and are seen perhaps as more competent by virtue of their accents and bright skin color, and most of them, due to the privilege of language, brave the teaching waters, armed only with “a tad bit of teaching creativity sense”, and this is where we mess up becuase of our definitions. Sure, some of these intersting individuals proved to be “naturals”, but there are some whose practice still requires formal training and education of pedagogy.

Perhaps it takes a certain teacher sensibility and mindset to become a teacher, formal training or none, to be able to creatively execute a fun and engaging lesson. Making sure that proper learning occurs can be accomplished by at least trying to subscribe to the lists above, and strive to be both an interesting person AND a creative teacher.
Bloom, S. (2011). Four Characteristics interesting people have.Retrieved from http://dosomethingcool.net/4-characteristics-interesting-people/

Henriksen, D., & Mishra, P. (2013). Learning from creative teachers. Educational
Leadership, 70(5). Available at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educationalleadership/feb13/vol70/num05/Learning-from-Creative-Teachers.aspx.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge?
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/articles/v9i1general1.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3B: So what, Albert Bandura?

In the previous module, we have critiqued and interrogated the text surrounding the learning involved in the behaviorist approach. While most have accepted the efficacy of conditioning and the power of association, we are yet to apply them in real life settings as learners of education.

Bandura’s social learning theory (1977) suggests that as creatures of society, our learning is also highly susceptible to our sensory observations. What we see, hear, taste… anything we perceive that we deem moral and just, we may copy. But has Bandura considered whether the learners have thought about the more profound reasons why they behave/ want to behave like they do? Do they have full understanding why they have considered to copy certain behavior they wish to do so?

He said that in his pursuit of explaining behavior, he has formulated the social cognitive theory to be able to cover the lack of weight on the influence of human cognition in behaviorism. He suggested that in his theory, people also mentally process the morality of the behavior that helps us judge whether it is a behavior/ learning we desire to have or enact (Bandura, 1989). But the purpose of the consequence of that behavior, it is really something we aspire? And how many of us use a metacognitive reflection to tell  whether this is what we want?

Bandura has arrived at the conclusion that the bobo doll experiment had the children consider the environment to assist them in making that call of modeling the observed behavior, but I wonder if the children actually know what purpose this behavior will serve them later. After learning how to use periods religiously after the writing  teacher models this desirable behavior, do students really know why it is important for them to put end marks in their sentences? What purpose has this served? After desiring a nice little body and craving money and fame, do followers of Kim Kardashian understand their purpose as to why they choose to imitate her demeanor and the way she looks? Or is it plain fanaticism?  After the deed has been done, the most imposing question is: so what?

Perhaps I have yet to read more on Bandura and the cognition he posits to happen, to understand the thought that goes into why we model from certain behaviors. Or it could be too convoluted and muddy a concept that the social learning theory does not involve itself in. Perhaps it is too broad to be explained by such one theory, and that other theories are in play?

Kendra, C. Social Learning Theory: How People Learn By Observation. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/a/sociallearning.htm

Mahto, A. (2006). Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory. Retrieved from http://ananda.mahto.info/albert-banduras-social-cognitive-theory/