Tag Archives: not merely a test or a job

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.