Both Weimin Mo’s article “Can you Listen Faster” Assessment of Students Who Are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners and Damian Coopers chapter How Should Assessment Be Matched to Students Needs discuss the importance of working with our English as an Additional Language Students (EAL) to create a classroom climate that offers the greatest opportunity for success. This is important because many times teachers do not know how to adequately gage the learning that EAL students have in their previous language. When this occurs the student becomes disengaged, as they either already know the material or do not have the supports needed to succeed. Many teachers also have difficulty differentiating assignments for their EAL students, and the students are often left completing assignments that do not meet the required grade level outcome.
Both pieces focus on the importance of creating a place of success for all of our students but particularly those whose first language is not English. One way we can help our students is by using formative assessment to gage where our EAL students are at, particularly when it comes to things like vocabulary. Mo and Cooper place a great emphasis on the fact that our EAL students “do not…share the same conceptual system that…[we do]” (Mo 46) and that we need to communicate effectively with our students to assess whether or not the scaffolding that you have provided is enough. This scaffolding could be as simple as revisiting key terms related to the assignment or having the student repeat the instructions for the assignment in their own words, but the heightened understanding the student will have of the assignment and that you will have of the students understanding will make a world of difference.
Chapters seven and eight of Making Classroom Assessment Work involve both assessment of learning and involving students in their own learning. Assessment for learning is important because it “teaches students, while helping them learn how to assess their way to success” (Davies 63). By working as a class to set criteria for what we are doing is a way to involve students in both their learning and assessment, in turn encouraging student accountability. Chapter eight discusses involving students in their own learning by allowing them to gather their own evidence in support of it. This is important because “when students are responsible for assembling the evidence [of learning], they have more opportunities to figure out whether they are on track” (Davies 77) and gives them the opportunity to get help.
These chapters connect to The Classroom Experiment videos we watched this week as well. In these videos a school in England implemented some controversial ideas into a classroom. I loved the red, green, and yellow cups, and the whiteboard ideas but had difficulty accepting the comments not grades rule; particularly as it was implemented in this school. I like the idea of using less grades and more feedback in my classroom, but my main concern would be involving the parents in the process. As our schools get more and more diverse we should acknoledge the fact that some cultures prize grades and that parents might not understand when their child has no grade to show them. In the videos they only involved the parents towards the end of the experiment and I believe that if they went to the parents first the parents could put their childs minds at ease regarding the new rules. Davies comments on the importance of teacher-parent communication when she says “You may not be marking or grading work in ways parents expect. Let parents know that you are continuing to assess all student work” (Davies 78). Without this communication both parents and students are left confused and uninvolved with the assesment process.
Chapters three and five of making classroom assessment work although on different topics, share some common beliefs. Chapter three begins by discussing the theory of backwards design and that “When teachers and students know where they are going, they are more likely to achieve success” (Davies 25). This model of assessment is important because no two kids will come into class on the same level, but as a teacher your job is to support all students so that eventually reach the same outcome, and if you don’t know what that outcome will be you cannot accurately and equitably help students reach that goal. In chapter five Davies discussed collecting evidence in order to represent student learning, and the idea that “the amount of ongoing evidence needed to effectively plan daily instruction varies from teacher to teacher” (Davies 51) and from student to student. In both chapters Davies discuses the idea of involving the class in their own assessment students don’t know what they are to learn and what it can look like, they are handicapped and their success is at risk” (Davies 28).
The article “Backward Design” furthered the ideas presented by Davies and put the focus of backward design on “design[ing] curriculum and instruction that facilitate understanding, retention, and generalization” (Sands and Pope 6). Both the Davies chapter and this article It also focused on why this model of assessment is important, because no two kids will come into class on the same level, but as a teacher your job is to support all students so that eventually reach the same outcome, and if you don’t know what that outcome will be you cannot accurately and equitably help students reach that goal. The backwards design approach works well with the current outcome based education system here in Canada, as we already know the goals that we need to work towards, they are mandated in the curriculum. Knowing these outcomes, but having the freedom of designing how to best get your students there is one of the best parts of being a teacher.
Assessment is an important aspect of the teaching profession and chapter one of Making Classroom Assessment Work does a good job of providing a baseline for new teachers. Assessment is the “gather[ing of] information about student learning that informs our teaching that helps students learn more” (Davies, 1). Since student learning is the most important aspect of assessment the chapter encourages both assessment for learning and student involvement of assessment as key factors in student engagement and student improvement
In my ELNG 351 class we’ve recently discussed assessment for learning in relation to high/low stakes writing. As an English major I like the idea of using low stakes writing assignments throughout the year to prepare students to write a larger paper; which is something I did not experience in high school. This type of assessment for learning allows students to explore their own writing while also working on the technical writing skills learned in class. This style of learning is beneficial to students because “it is when students do something the second and third time that they come to understand” (Davies, 7). Allowing our students the time and space to explore their own learning using this kind of assessment makes them accountable for their own learning and encourages their investment. Another thing that encourages student accountability is creating assignment rubrics with the class as it “increases student learning” (Davies, 3) which reminded me of a text I read in my ELNG 351 class that suggested “[having] students write a cover letter or writers log to hand in with the…final version” detailing what they were proud of, what they struggled with, etc. This would allow me as the teacher to give more specific feedback and allow the student involvement in how they are being assessed.
Elbow, Peter. (1997). High Stakes and Low Stakes in Assigning and Responding to Writing. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 69.