Teacher’s Journal – Session 9: Assessment

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NOTE: This is an original and personal journal entry that ‘cites’ the work of others in a “Bibliography” (see below). A Bibliography like mine is one way of giving authors credit for their work. A Bibliography can take many forms; there are various different styles. However you choose to do this in your own writing, it’s the “giving credit” that’s important. If you wish to quote me, or use my original elements for inspiration, please acknowledge this source using the information above and the address of this website, as I have acknowledged my sources. This way, you will not be infringing copyright or plagiarising. Also, if you like anything you see here, I’d be grateful if you could drop me a line or leave a comment. Information about citing (a.k.a. referencing) is abundant on the internet – try http://www.essex.ac.uk/myskills/skills/referencing/referencingSkills.asp by Essex University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citation by Wikipedia Contributors, or the automatic bibliography maker at http://www.easybib.com/, by ImagineEasy Solutions.

Thanks,
Peter Buckley.

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Teacher’s Journal – Session 9: Assessment

  1. 1. ’ Title: Teacher’s Journal – Session 9: Assessment Author: Peter Buckley Date of last revision: 30 July 2009 NOTE: This is an original and personal journal entry that ‘cites’ the work of others in a “Bibliography” (see below). A Bibliography like mine is one way of giving authors credit for their work. A Bibliography can take many forms; there are various different styles. However you choose to do this in your own writing, it’s the “giving credit” that’s important. If you wish to quote me, or use my original elements for inspiration, please acknowledge this source using the information above and the address of this website, as I have acknowledged my sources. This way, you will not be infringing copyright or plagiarising. Also, if you like anything you see here, I’d be grateful if you could drop me a line or leave a comment. Information about citing (a.k.a. referencing) is abundant on the internet – try http://www.essex.ac.uk/myskills/skills/referencing/referencingSkills.asp by Essex University, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citation by Wikipedia Contributors, or the automatic bibliography maker at http://www.easybib.com/, by ImagineEasy Solutions. Thanks, Peter Buckley. Assessment can be a daunting prospect for the learner. The thought of being assessed recurs in those exam-hall nightmares we’ve all supposedly had. Sure enough, assessment can come up against a “backlash” of tension from learners, as in a recent Doonesbury comic strip I discovered, by G. B. Trudeau (http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20090428, 29th July 2009). Let’s think about where the conflict stems from in these amusing exchanges. The learner’s objection is to the form of assessment. The learner perceives the teacher’s questions as an attack, an exercise in trap-setting and “playing gotcha”. This may not be intentionally the case, but the teacher must take this valid response into account - might there be another form of assessment that the learner is more comfortable with? I could diagnose here a problem with the context of assessment; might he prefer being assessed in one-to-one tutorials rather than in this intimidating lecture theatre? Is his quarrel with the learning environment? There are potential barriers to learning here, too, of the kind we covered in Session 3. The learner protests on grounds related to diversity and the perceived differences in identity that a teacher must manage in a way that doesn’t make it the obstacle to learning it has become in this scenario. The learner evokes geographical difference. The “cool” learner is also unreceptive to teaching he perceives as irrelevant and “uncool”, delivered by a teacher who is not of his generation. It is the teacher’s role to bridge such gaps, with the aim of facilitating an environment where difference assists learning rather than hindering it. Is this cartoon teacher accounting sufficiently for the diversity of his classroom in his choice of teaching and assessment methods?
  2. 2. In Session 4, we practiced embedding functional skills in what was essentially a practical assessment activity. We were given the task of sequencing the content of a course intended to teach fictional alien creatures called Zogs how to boil eggs. During this task I came up against barriers to learning of my own. In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs, 29th July 2009) I was experiencing a minor crisis in my “Safety needs” – a cold was attacking the security of my health and my ability to concentrate. I would be worried if I was being assessed solely on this session. I remember my school friends complaining about the “make-or-break” nature of exam days. If one had an “off-day” on the occasion of a GCSE exam, for instance, the success of an important assessment would be put into jeopardy. Some of my fellow learners deemed this unfair. What the teacher can do about this is unclear, but we can at least be aware of learner’s needs, and in the Lifelong Learning sector we have arguably more space to adapt to these. The Session 4 task also seemed to disagree with my learning style - the abstractness of the Zorg’s endeavour was a difficult obstacle for my logical mind to get over, and I experienced, in considering how to boil an egg, that “blind spot” in which the simplest, most everyday things can appear alien upon close inspection. This reminds me of the purpose of initial assessment – (re?)-discovering what a learner knows at the beginning of a course. As philosopher Slavoj Žižek said of one of his books, “the reader should not simply have learned something new: the point is, rather, to make him or her aware of another…side of something he or she knew all the time” (Žižek, 2009: PX). This, I feel, is an underestimated aspect of learning, and the initial realisation of what we already know of course joins formative (which assess newly gained knowledge) and summative (which review all knowledge gained) assessment methods. By the end of the course, the learner “should not simply have learned something new”, but have gained the confidence of knowing what he/she knew already. All this should be catered for by a good programme of assessment. This is a thought worth noting in this journal - at the end of the PTLLs course, I expect to look back on my learning experience just I have looked back on events in my life following the birthday I have just celebrated. The self-assessment process is the same; I have records of both assessments, for one assessment I have my PTLLs profile, for the other I have photo albums. During Session 7’s Microteaching Delivery I was part of what I would call a finely- tuned example of assessment on a grand scale. My colleagues and I spoke of anxiety as it approached, (which was managed expertly by our tutors), but on the day of our assessment we realised that our fears were unfounded. I got though my personal “barriers to assessment”, similar in their counter-productive nature to those which plague the learner protagonist in Trudeau’s comics. It strikes me that this journal entry has been, more precisely, about a common fear of assessment, a fear that I have experienced to some extent at the setting of every deadline during this course. I am learning to deal with this fear, and the associated charge of “perfectionism” that I have received in feedback. It is possible that I may come out of this course with this fear significantly reduced, if not eradicated. It is part of the teacher’s role to select the correct method of assessment but to do this he or she must have an understanding of what repels learners from assessment
  3. 3. processes. Putting my feet in the shoes of one of my future learners, I am less likely to be scared by an assessment that has a clear focus in terms of aims and learning outcomes, and is well judged in terms of context, purpose and method.
  4. 4. Bibliography Trudeau, G. B. (2009) Doonesbury Daily Dose – 28 April 2009, [Online], Available: http://www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20090428 [29 July 2009]. Wikipedia contributors, (2009) Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, [Online], Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs [29 July 2009]. Žižek, S. (2009) The Parallax View, Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press.

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