I have been preparing for department work on assessment and learning as part of an ongoing improvement agenda. The most useful website I have found is the Australian Government one as it includes sample assessment tasks, professional learning materials as well as research papers for further reading. It really is a one-stop shop for all things assessment. Assessment for Learning: Home | Assessment for Learning.
It has often been a fantasy of mine that I would have a machine that would quickly and efficiently mark student work, thereby freeing my time up for more important stuff; like reading more books and playing games and using the web for fun. Now that distant dream may have become a reality! Studies have been done fairly recently that seem to show (it is early days yet) that machines are at least as effective as teachers in marking student essays. This may well be a good thing as it will certainly be objective. We have all had the essay where we know what little Johnny is saying and are sorely tempted to be more kind. For more on this topic read the research over at Education Week. The quote that stood out for me the most here was one from Vantage Learning:
“It’s designed to be a support, so that a teacher can focus him- or herself completely on inspiring composition of writing or creative composition of writing,” he said. “It’s possible that an administrator will say, ‘I’m just going to throw it all to the computer,’ … but that’s not what we would ever recommend.”
This is certain to be a topic that creates enormous debate….and questions. I want to know a lot more about it before I hail it as the next great thing in education, after all, we have had many of those.
Today I am spending the afternoon assessing student essays. My year 7 group have been working on recounts about their recent trip to Camp Illuka. Usually this would involve lots of colored pens and highlighters and copious amounts of coffee!
Today I decided to up the ante and do it high tech. We have been using One Note to organise ourselves and to file our work. So far it has been a glorified note book and I have not really noticed that it is much better than old fashioned pen and paper other than its ease of use and ability to record multimedia. However, I had a rethink and decided that it would be much more worthwhile marking their essays on my computer. Normally when I do this I use the comments function in Word, and this works fairly well. Today I decided to use the voice recording function in One Note to read through the boys’ work and show them my thought processes as I read. This has allowed me to clearly articulate what it is that I am looking for when I mark their writing and then to talk through the process of filling out the rubric.
It took about 14 minutes on average per paper, which is a reasonable amount of time but allowed me to really unpack what effect their spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and overall structure has on the reader. I talked about their word choice and was able with some students to clearly articulate their goals in their writing.
I had several students who used run-on sentences. Now they can hear the impact of these. Others did not punctuate effectively; again, I was able to demonstrate how this affected the reading of their work.
The next step for this class will be to record themselves as part of the proof reading process. This should assist them to develop a clearer understanding of their own writing and to set future goals.
I hope to see improved results in their writing as the year goes on.
I did some searching to see whether I could actually use blogs, wikis, etc. for students to demonstrate the outcomes in VCE English (see comment below). I did some checking and found this lot in the VCAA assessment handbook:
Work completed outside classMost assessment tasks will be completed in class. This does not preclude students from completing work associated with the task/s outside class time, providing that the teacher can confirm that all work submitted for assessment is the student’s own. Students should be advised in advance as to the conditions under which tasks are to be completed and submitted.
Teachers should have in place strategies for ensuring that work submitted for assessment is the student’s own. Where aspects of School-assessed Coursework tasks are completed outside class time teachers must monitor and maintain records of student’s work.The teacher may consider it appropriate to ask the student to demonstrate his/her understanding of the task at the time of submission of the work. If any part or all of the work cannot be authenticated, then the matter should be dealt with as a breach of rules.To reduce the possibility of authentication problems arising, or being difficult to resolve, the following strategies are useful:· Ensure that a significant amount of classroom time is spent on the task so that the teacher is familiar with each student’s work and can regularly monitor and discuss aspects of the work with the student.· Regularly rotate topics from year to year to ensure that students are unable to use student work from the previous year.· Where there is more than one class of a particular study in the school, early liaison between teachers on topics, cross-marking and sharing of draft student work enables earlier identification of possible authentication problems and the implementation of appropriate action. Teachers should develop assessment programs for Units 3 and 4 that:· include both formative assessments, for diagnostic or monitoring purposes, and summative assessments, for determining achievement that contributes to the final coursework score· include a variety of assessment tasks and conditions· provide an appropriate balance of short and extended taskstake into account the workload for students Assessment tasks should be completed mainly in class and within a limited timeframe.
Designing the assessment task
Teachers should develop an assessment task that allows the student to:
· create a text or texts appropriate to a chosen form, audience, purpose and context
· demonstrate an understanding of the ideas and/or arguments relevant to the chosen Context and presented in the selected text/s; and draw on these in the creation of own text/s
· review and edit written work for expressiveness, fluency and coherence
· discuss and analyse in writing, using appropriate metalanguage, choices made in regard to form, purpose, language, audience and context in the creation of own text/s
· have the opportunity to demonstrate the highest level of performance.
This leads me to believe that I can do this as long as I give students the same type of experience that they would normally undertake when sitting a SAC a more traditional way. This means that as long as they sign authentication records they could do some of their written pieces on a blog or wiki. I’d really like to try this and I think I’ll actually contact VCAA to triple check.