M4_María: Feeling Learning for Real

I learned a number of new things from the Assessment readings for our M4. Firstly, I thought about self- assessment, an idea I have worked into some of my courses in an attempt to foster student agency in the learning process. For instance, when I was phasing out the weekly papers as the enrollment numbers swelled in my classes, I tried having them write the paper for the last day of class every week; we then rotated each paper, so every one of them read everyone else’s, added comments, and assigned a mark of check, check minus, or check plus. Including their own. That way they were able to assign themselves a ‘grade’ without contemplating the “what if the professor does not agree with my self-assigned grade?” Students benefitted from this exercise, but I deleted it when I dropped the WR tag from my courses and I got more and more students. I am considering that perhaps a version of this with the VT contributions may be a possibility.

Although I am not completely in the heutagogical realm (as a lifelong learner of foreign languages, including English, I give every new word a kind of moratorium until I feel comfortable using it), I appreciated tremendously both the concept of learning-centered assessment and the life-long learning. I have always set a very high standard for my courses by desiring that students enrolling in them do NOT learn for a test, or for a pretty conversation in a board room (where they prove they can say gazpacho and mean it, too), but by aiming for a long shot grasp of every concept they entertain. I seek for students to know the difference between mise en scene and mise en abyme, between something “absurd” and the Theater of the Absurd, between dress and costume, or between traveling and zoom, not merely to prove to me in a test that they know, and immediately proceed to forget it and about it, to toss it as soon as they delete that seminar file in their computers and throw away their papers.  I want them to know, deep down, that their lives have many a mise en scene moment (when they gesticulate and raise a voice to make a point, for instance) as well as mise en abyme moments (when they don’t know what to do with themselves after a depression bout, or the death of a loved one); that they engage dress every morning, but turn to costume for a party or an interview; that they don’t get the lack of logic of their mothers telling them to clean their rooms when they go back home for the holidays, but that they’ll never forget Artaud and La orgástula. And that if their own optical and mental cameras can travel, zoom, and establish great raccord in the movies they are developing in their lives, perhaps there’s hope for a richer poorer world.

Now, how to have this all work in a learning-centered assessment world? First of all, I no longer give tests, and if I do, they focus on their own articulation of an interpretation, not on multiple choice. Even when they are asked by me to show they are familiarizing themselves with facts in their daily discussion, reviews, reaction papers/chats/videos and the final performance project (using elements of vocabulary, grammar, audiovisual elements, languages, and performative expression learned through the semester), I take into account, and I tell them this beforehand, their voice, their take on things, their individual reading of performative pieces. Some students agonize over this, because they are still not ready to let go of their high school models, when they were told what to do; to those, I underscore that I do not accept them to come to my office asking “what do you want me to do/say/write/think?” They are to come to my office to ask questions, to test theories, to engage discussion about these facts they are learning, and then go home and read and write more on them.  Not the easiest pedagogy, especially when standardization and inside-the-box-thinking are so overrated, but in the end, at least for some students, it works really well. I’ll keep searching for more sources about this.

3 thoughts on “M4_María: Feeling Learning for Real

  1. I like the idea of having students self-assess their essays. Sounds like they will be able to learn a lot when evaluating their peer’s work and comparing it with their own. Did you find that most students were able to make fair evaluations? Did you use their grades as the official grades? I had students self-evaluate their daily class participation in the past, and discovered that they differed a great deal in how modest or not so they were. I had to only use their assessment as a reference, and resign grades of my own. Nonetheless, the method was effective in promoting student awareness of participation and helped make the class more engaged.

    It is interesting to learn a little a few terms in dramatic theory. Is the difference between “zoom” and “traveling” in that the camera physically moves towards the object in traveling, while in zoom the camera stays where it is and changes in the configuration of the lenses cause the object to appear closer? I wondered if the traveling student would be a better learner than a zooming one – in the end, at least the background remained in focus for the traveler, while the zoomer had a completely blurred image. On the other hand, the zoomer had a steadier vision. Just making some guesses while being fascinated. 🙂

    1. Yu Li, thanks for your comments. The self-assigned grades are a reference for me to take the room temperature, but I do not factor them directly, numerically in their course grades; in other words, they are rewarded by receiving assessment feom themselves and their peers, and I review these roubds of assessment merely to let them know that there may be further commentary, or not, from me. It worked with 12- and up to 18 students, but beyond that, it becomes busy work and it is a bit self-defeating. Thinking about it now, I could work on this again with them, and have them rotate their papers maybe five-six times, instead of the twenty check marks…
      As fir the zoom-traveling, yes, exactly as you say. Love the figurative turn of the screw you mention, namely, relating content to student focus or lack thereof as signs of learning, or not. Thank you for helping me think like that.

    2. Yu – I often have students write self-evaluations for participation grades, but only half-way through the semester. They write a paragraph stating the grade they would give themselves and the justification for it, and I respond with a paragraph explaining the similarities and differences in our views. Generally, they grade themselves lower than I do. And for those who think they’re getting an A when they’re getting an F, it helps to put expectations on the same page before final grades come in.

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