A New Beginning

At the end of this trimester, I feel a little burned out because I have been subject to a lot of assessments in various endeavors: 1) midterms and quizzes for acupuncture courses (and I happily learned I didn’t fail in the midterm of one major subject because the teacher miscalculated my score); 2) a high-stakes summative assessment of one module of Data Science on Coursera, consisting of only five questions; and 3) self and peer evaluation for two group assignments and quizzes in EDS 113.

Back in college, being on the receiving end of assessment and a learner subject to tests felt like a mandatory (sometimes, annoying) requirement that had to be finished with, so it was important to strategize with dispensable knowledge (which is vital for procrastinators like me). As a more mature learner, I now greatly appreciate the importance of assessment to students and teachers because it is integral in improving the quality of the teaching-learning process, and hence place more value in how assessment helps teachers facilitate learning and assists students in retaining important concepts and learning important skills.

With that being said, it becomes extremely important for teachers to be assessment-literate. They should be able to plan well-designed assessments and to align them with learning goals and objectives because they know the purpose and importance of different types of assessment (assessment of learning/summative, assessment for learning/formative, assessment as learning, informal/formal) and when to use them. They must also marry theoretical knowledge about assessment and connect it to theories of learning (EDS 103) because it will justify how they will capture learning according to how students learn. Lastly, assessment entails critical reflection and action, which is a core principle in teaching (EDS 111), that allows teachers to reflect upon information from assessment and to adjust accordingly. Theoretically, critically reflective teachers provide the model for students to become critically reflective as well.

As I journey through my life as a student and a (future) teacher, I hope that a strong foundation on assessment becomes part of professional development and teacher training so that we develop critically reflective and assessment literate teachers, who will pave the way for critical thinkers and graduates who perform well in assessment and in life.

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Grade-Conscious

Back when I was in college, one popular term among us was “GC” or “grade conscious”. One of my closest friends was exactly that: he would always be the first one to raise his hand, to achieve 100% of attendance, to schedule his tasks and activities for class, and to ask his teachers for more guidelines to ensure that he would always get the perfect uno in class. To be fair to him, he was a critical thinker and analyst and his hard work eventually paid off — he graduated valedictorian of his batch. Yet to put his motivation and achievement in perspective, I think it would be fair to state that his sole focus – as well as other students who are conscious of their grade – was on excelling in formative assessment and summative assessment. Yet while traditional grades give a picture of student achievement, do they really capture learning of content knowledge and life skills?

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In recent times, it has been discovered that emotional quotient (EQ) is a better predictor of success in work than intelligence quotient (IQ) and that employers are looking more for holistic graduates with the necessary soft skills (e.g. communication, attitude). Unfortunately, the exam-dominated educational system composed of “high-stakes” summative assessment system has a tendency to create students who often resort to surface learning (backwash) and strategy than learning and students who tap into the hidden curriculum so that they only need o know how to pass a subject but they do not understand it (Surgenor, 2010).

This is where teachers and their creativity and critically reflexive practice comes in. How can you encourage and facilitate learning if your students are performance-driven? From what I’ve learned, a combination of a range of assessment methods (assessment for learning – formative, assessment of learning – summative, and assessment as learning) can give teachers the upperhand in ensuring that students learn while improving the quality of their learning. Aside from the three broad classifications, assessment can be categorized as informal or formal. The big difference between the two lies in the fact that formal assessments, which often are standardized tests, are data-driven while informal assessments are content and performance driven (Weaver, 2018). The purpose of formal or standardized measures is to assess overall student achievement or to compare students’ performance with other peers, while informal assessments are criterion referenced measures or performance-based measures used to inform instruction (Weaver, 2018).

With these additional types and categories, the line that delineates formative, summative, informal, and informal becomes further blurred as either can be classified as the same as the other. Teachers, therefore, must be assessment-literate and know how to distinguish the types of assessment they use but most importantly, they must know the purpose of their assessment while aligning it with learning goals and objectives. Lastly, teachers can use the same assessment method but the interpretation of the information from assessment will determine if it is summative or formative.

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Interestingly, when my GC friend and I met in one of our barkada meet-ups, he stated he was worn out by how GC his students where and that he had an inkling of how his former teachers must have felt (karma?). When I asked him whether he recalled how much he learned in college, he just shrugged and laughed.

 

REFERENCES

Education.com. (2010). Are Traditional Grades a Thing of the Past? Education.com. Retrieved from https://www.education.com/magazine/article/traditional-grades/

Surgenor, P. (2010). Teaching Toolkit: Effect of Assessment on Learning. UCD Teaching and Learning Resources. Retrieved from https://www.ucd.ie/t4cms/UCDTLT0031.pdf

Weaver, B. (2018). Formal vs. Informal Assessments: An overview of the two general categories of assessments. Scholastic. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/formal-vs-informal-assessments/

Frame

This week, I am observing and learning from a five-day Top Management Program for selected chancellors and university presidents of private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The leadership development program is intended to help them re-think their role in society and to change their vision and mission statements to be more 21st century in this Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. Interestingly, the  lectures, group discussions, and case methods are important but not as important as the frameworks being introduced through andragogy. To quote from the lead resource person and speaker from the institution, “Our traditional degree programs give you the information and you suit it according to your own needs. Now, in adult learning, you share your problems, facilitate solutions to your problems, and give you frameworks.”

This coincides beautifully with this week’s module on frameworks for the assessment of student learning. Beyond the concepts and definitions of assessment, how then do we make sense of the process of assessment? How do the different components of assessment relate to one another? How should it be carried out? As seen in many examples, there are different frameworks to explain the process but it is clear that all of them aim to help students achieve learning objectives and to continuously improve teaching practice and learning.

In fact, if we step back a bit we realize that assessment frameworks are not only applicable to assessment per se but other aspects of education. For example, using Westminster College’s (n.d.) framework, do not we, as teachers and educators, continually and internally act and assess our practice as we 1) plan and set goals for ourselves (e.g. personal, career goals), 2) engage in the practice and do teaching, 3)  check and evaluate the correctness and appropriateness of our methods and pedagogy, 3) act upon the results of our self-assessment and revise/adapt/make changes in our practice, and 4) repeat the process everyday. A lot of us may already be doing it, but a framework puts a name into what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Another example beyond student learning assessment is that public schools are required to adopt and to appreciate a continuous improvement (CI) cycle in their planning and implementation of their individual Enhanced School Improvement Plan (E-SIP). This is in line with DepEd Order no. 44, s. 2015. The assess-plan-act framework in CI strives to make sure that school administrators and their School Planning Teams (SPTs) are able to assess the school’s situation with relevant, timely and necessary data; to use the evidence to plan appropriate programs and projects that are aligned to the schools’ Vision/Mission/Objectives; and to act and implement programs. Yet they do not stop at the approval and printing of their three-year E-SIP; ideally, the SPT must go through the cycle every year to make the necessary adjustments and changes in projects and programs in order to improve the quality of their education for their learners.

The point here is that the beauty of a framework of assessment (or anything for that matter) is that it provides a clear guide of an approach and process that should be followed. It is also a reflection of two things: first, an underlying belief that growth and learning in assessment can only take place if done in a cyclic manner and that a linear progression would result in a “dead end” of summative assessments with no growth; second, the underlying assumption that systems and policies are in place to support educators in carrying out the continuous assessment process from data gathering to using the results meaningfully.

As the week ends, I take note of how the educators of private HEIs being encouraged to adopt a “Blue Ocean” framework in identifying new markets in their localities and to revisit their VMOs using an Input-Process-Output-Outcome framework. I realize that the most useful things that they will be able to take home to their schools are not the readings, powerpoint presentations, handouts, and anecdotal stories but the tools and frameworks provided so that they can better inform stakeholders and lead their school. Likewise, assessment frameworks, as one important tool in teaching and school performance, should be understood and appreciated by all stakeholders – top management officials, school administrators/managers, administration, and teachers – in order to unite them towards one common goal. At this day and age, teachers and schools must be able to produce graduates with 21st century skills and competencies so that they are better prepared to deal with and to face a VUCA world.

REFERENCE:

Westminster College. (n.d.) The Assessment Cycle. Westminster College. Retrieved on 17 January 2018 from http://www.westminster.edu/academics/accreditation-assessment/cycle.cfm

The Perfect Start to Assessment

The year has just started and this is the perfect time to learn about a topic that has been closely related to my previous PTC subjects. First, critical and reflective teaching practice requires some degree of internal assessment, which would lead to improvement in teaching and learning outcomes (EDS 111: Principles of Teaching). Second, assessment entails learning or a change in the state of an individual – wherein the change can be both intrinsic (new skill, new knowledge, new understanding of the world) and extrinsic (behavior) – over time as a consequence of experience (Schunk, 2012; Roberts, 2013) so that teachers, supervisors, administrators, and higher level officials can improve the teaching and learning process in schools (EDS 103: Theories of Learning). Lastly, it is important to contextualize how assessment is being done at different levels within the Philippine educational system and to identify the hindering and facilitating factors behind the process of improving the quality of education for Filipino children (EDUC 101: The Philippine Educational System).

Before I took up the course, I had some expectation that educational assessment would be somewhat related to the discipline of my masteral degree in Population Studies, which placed emphasis on statistical and demographic data and analysis. In principle, it is fairly the same because it relies on valid and reliable measurement, evaluation, and testing. There are also numerous ways to measure one indicator, target, or achievement. In application, it is different because assessment is an integral part of a teacher’s life – within the classroom, within a department/program, and within a school. It also does not stand alone because it must be clearly anchored on the institution’s goals and objectives – because after all, why assess if you don’t know what you’re assessing?

Another interesting intersection between the course and my work is that I have often attended a lot of training for civil society organizations (CSOs) that place emphasis on results-based management and management frameworks (logical framework, design and monitoring framework, etc). These frameworks place heavy emphasis on assessment (or more popularly known as monitoring and evaluation) because projects need to be able to prove that they have reached their goals, outcomes, outputs, and inputs using data. However, one important question of development workers is always: How do I systematically assess so that I can achieve my target? What tools or mechanisms must be in place so I make sure that my beneficiaries are benefiting from the project? After the project, what are the lessons learned that I can apply in a different project or so that we do not commit the same mistakes? In the same way, teachers use assessment to see if they are achieving their targets in the classroom, utilize various tests and measurements to make sure that their students are really learning, and gather feedback to improve their teaching process.

As I string new connections with these ideas, I find myself constantly in awe at how we can use our previous experiences and learnings to connect to seemingly isolated concepts – so in the process of learning about educational assessment, we should always self-assess and reflect on how new constructs can improve us as individuals, teachers, parents, citizens and so on.

 

REFERENCES:

Roberts, G. (2013). “What is Learning?”. YouTube video. Retrieved on 02 May 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtT31Sn1Ukk

Schunk, D.H. (2014; 2012). Chapter 1.  Introduction to the Study of Learning. In Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective. MA: Pearson.