My return into the world of numbers and letters

It has taken me a while to adjust back to letter grades.  I attended an nontraditional college in Ohio were faculty provided us with narrative feedback at the end of course rather than a letter grade. I felt that this philosophy was really focused on assessment rather than evaluation. I appreciated it as a learner, and really soared in that environment. For me, I took off the achievement based test experience, and transferred learning into a process and experience.   When I moved into graduate school and encountered letter grades again, I recall being in survival mode. No longer was my opinion or the instructor’s opinion important, it was numbers that took center stage.  As a learner,   I took little time to reflect on what I should be learning and attempted to move from assignment to assignment. It did not help that most instructors did not refer to their syllabus beyond their first day.  Little did I know that I would become an instructor, and I would agonize over learning objectives and assessments just like those before me.

Upon further reflection I fear I have fallen into the same formula in my own practice where I articulate the goals of the course and introduce the objectives, but I rarely refer back to them as the course proceeds. I don’t think there has been a time where I linked the learning objective directly to an assignment didactically for the learner.  Normally I just focus on the rubric that has been created for that assignment to guide the learning and grading process. Of course the rubric is aligned to the goals, but I have to wonder, what would happen if I offered both the learning objective and the rubric intentionally linked for the learner when assignments are given and graded?

The course that I have proposed is the second in a series that addresses graduate writing.  In its current form, assignments receive a grade after multiple revisions.  Each revision stage has a rubric.  The end goal is to create a journal that consists of individual academic journal articles that the students have written as well as two collaboratively written articles.  This final product is also assessed through a rubric.  At all stages we are addressing concerns of audience, organization (micro and macro), selecting sources and avoiding plagiarism.

I already feel comfortable creating formative assessments for this course. Already in the in classroom experience we use pre-assessments, include discussions as assessment, and ask student to recall information on a regular basis. This course in particular is reviewing and expanding what was learn in the semester before, the formative assessments work very well.

Along with formative, this course already supports self-assessment well.  One of the typical activities in a language learning classroom is self-editing where the learner is able to use the rubric developed by the instructor to edit their product.  This allows them to critically think about their language selection and organization in the context of instructor expectations.  I think one area of growth would be to include broader self-assessments focused on the language learning experience itself or a post self-assessment where they reflect on their abilities after the course.

I think the course needs improvements in diagnostic feedback and authentic assessment. We do use class time to check in with our learners, but I really like the idea of adding anonymity into the process so that they are not concerned about “the teacher knowing”. I could imagine surveys at the end of each class to see if they understood the objectives of each class.  At the same time, our classes tend to be very small, at times 5 students, so it hard to maintain this safe space.  In the areas of authentic assessment, I recall some of my previous posts on content-based instruction.  For a long time researchers have understand the deep motivation residing in language learning mirroring the reality.  However, here in the ELSP, we serve a huge number of disciplines which limits how many real experience we can recreate without excluding some students.  As a compromise, we aim for general academic English tasks and attempt to provide the learners with skills they can apply in their own fields.  I imagine the online space is an area that I can create more genre specific exercises, or learning objects,that can address this need.

21 thoughts on “My return into the world of numbers and letters

  1. Mackenzie,

    I’m glad to hear that someone else has confessed to leaving course goals and objectives by the wayside after the first day. I spend a lot of time thinking about them and writing them, but never mention them again! In part, I think it’s because many of my own teachers/professors did the same thing, so I’m just repeating my own experience. But I think the other issue is that as the teacher, I assume that the goals/objectives are so obvious they don’t need to be articulated. But that is a dangerous assumption to make, because what seems transparent to us as teachers is often as clear as mud to the students. I’ve set the same goal for myself–to be more explicit in my alignment of goals/objectives/assessment with the students.



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