This week I was able to actually observe some lessons taught by one of my cooperating teachers. Based on the lesson I observed this week and what I’ve seen in the past, my teacher uses a lot of questioning techniques to assess her student’s knowledge. In some cases, mostly the same students answered her questions, because only a select few students actually volunteer and raise their hand. She would also just call on students to answer questions, especially for the questions that were assigned as homework, under the assumption that all students have completed the homework. She did not seem to have a system for checking each students’ homework individually, so she only assessed her students informally through questioning and answering.
I talked to my cooperating teacher about the different assessments they utilized and was very surprised by the answers she gave me. As far as assessments go, they are mostly crafted based on the workbook that they use for English instruction. Additionally, she has the older students produce writing samples sometimes. She showed me an example of an assessment she gave the third-year students, which had them write a letter to a “pen pal” with basic details about their friends, family, school, etc. For most of her assessments, the scoring is very straight forward, because they are either right or wrong. For the writing assignments, she said she assesses for completion and correct grammar as well as the required content, but she does not use a rubric or anything of that sort. She told me that there are two periods for assessments and get two final marks per year, in January and July. Students are assessed every 4 months. For each of the assessment periods, students take 3 written tests and 2 oral tests. Usually, at the end of the two periods, you do a final test to assess material covered over that whole period. I was surprised by how little assessments are given. How do they gather enough data to be able to complete students’ progress reports with so few assessments? What if students aren’t good takers? I feel like this system puts too much pressure on students to perform on their assessments.
My teacher said that she uses student assessments to see how well students understood instruction. If students make too many of the same mistakes, she will revisit the areas that they struggle with. She told me she once tried to re-administer the same test a week later, but it did not work very well and the results did not improve. She has her students revise their assessments to reinforce the material, and she has them translate the sentences for meaning and to see the grammatical and structural differences between the sentences when in English and Italian. Additionally, I was surprised to learn that 3rd-year students are allowed to use their dictionaries during an assessment.
In addition to the assessments that are administered through the school, after middle school, the students have to sit for state exams. They have to take assessments for all subjects in written form and orally. Many of the third year students have been talking about how worried they are for these exams. I’m not exactly sure what the outcome of these exams determines but they are clearly very important.
Overall, I feel like there is a lot of weight placed on assessments, which is really different from what I’ve seen in my past placements. Again this may be a difference that arises due to grade level since I’ve mostly worked with younger or intermediate grades. For my CI 407 class, we completed the whole child project, which involved us having to look at multiple different assessments and consider the students’ backgrounds and cultures to assess the student as a whole. I feel like what I’ve seen done here is the opposite of that. My teachers don’t even know all of their students’ names let alone intimate details of their life, meaning that their evaluations are based solely on students’ performance on tests. I am curious to see how the students perform when they are assessed like this.