Exploring Assessment: Oral Summative
I find assessment to be one of the most challenging aspects of teaching. Since I began student teaching, I have been experimenting with various types of summative and formative assessments. The following sample is one attempt at refining my practice.
I think a standard written exam is more beneficial to the teacher than a learner. The teacher has concrete evidence of the student's progress and can use this evidence in a formative way in her future lesson planning. The student, however, is stuck with a piece of paper which they may not want to see again, if the grade is bad, or may not feel the need to see again, if the grade is good. Whereas valuable skills of time management, historical writing, analysis, and critical thought should all have been employed in producing a written response, the student is hardly aware of their progress in these skills because the teacher's response to them is summarized in a rather detached letter grade.
Whereas I do not intend to completely give up written assessments, I decided to take advantage of Ruth's presence and expertise and your, dear cohort, feedback to try something different and assess the students orally.
These were my goals:
- To provide the students with an opportunity to speak intelligently about history for a substantial (or so did the two allotted minutes appeared to be) time period.
- To encourage the students to speak in a structured manner and support their arguments with evidence.
- To provide the students with a sense of agency in their learning process by asking them to create assessment questions in the form of a study guide.
- To use technology while creating a study guide and uploading it on the web.
- To try to break the anxiety barrier between the teacher and the student. I'm not that scary. C'mon.
- To assess students' understanding of the unit and its essential question.
The class before the assessment was dedicated to creating a study guide. The students were divided into groups of two. They were asked to generate a list of five essential questions and five essential understandings for a specific section of the unit. I deliberately used the language of EQs to check for students' understanding of the term: since I write an essential question before each class, I wanted to make sure the students fully understood the concept and its utility in organizing information.
Here is a list of questions the students generated in one section of the class:
- Explain the difference between ethnic cleansing and genocide
- Why were the Armenians used as a scapegoat by the Turks?
- What were Ataturk’s man goals?
- What were Reza Shah’s main goals and how did he differ from Ataturk?
- What are the effects of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia?
- Why was Palestine so controversial and how did the Balfour Declaration influence the outcome?
- Why did Africans expect that Europeans would give them independence?
- What are the pros and cons of colonization?
- Some colonial powers made reforms, were they successful? Why or why not?
- What was “Pan-Africanism” and what was its significance
- What was Guerrilla Warfare?
- Why did the revolution in Russia inspire others to fight for their beliefs?
- What is Comintern and what did it establish?
- Who was Ho Chi Minh and what influence did he have on Vietnam?
- Who was Gandhi and what did he push for?
- What was civil disobedience and how did Gandhi use it?
- What is Zaibatsu and how did it affect the economy of Japan?
- What was the reason for the Nationalist and Communist parties to create an alliance in China?
- What was the significance of the Long March and what kind of warfare did they use?
- Who are Mao and Chiang Kai-Shek and what were their goals and beliefs?
- What was the majority of China's population like? (education, wealth)
- How did the Nationalist Party break up from the Communist Party in China?
- How did Latin American countries make most of their profits?
- How was the U.S. involved in Latin American economy?
- What were the effects of the Great Depression on Latin American economy?
- What kind of political regime did most Latin American countries have?
Before the end of the class, the students uploaded their questions on the class's website to be used as a review guide. I explained that the assessment's questions would be drawn from the study guide, and the students, although nervous, responded well to the idea of being the conductors of their own test process.
Here is the link to the class website: https://sites.google.com/a/brown.edu/history-10/study-guide
The next day was the assessment day. Here is the lesson plan for it.
I cut up the review guide into strips of paper with a question on each. I folded the strips and put them into a basket. To make matters even more exciting, I put one blank "SURPRISE!" strip into the basket and explained that whoever would draw it would need to speak with me about any subject of her choice and would receive an automatic "A" for the exam. The chances of getting the blank paper were 1/26 in one section and 1/24 in the other. Nobody drew the surprise strip in the first section; the last girl to draw the question out of the basket drew it in the second class, to much excitement of everybody invlolved.
After the questions had been drawn, the students spent ten minutes consulting their notes and study guides in preparation. I told them they could take notes when they prepared their answers but would not be able to use them while talking with me.
In addition to the question the students pulled out of the basket, they were asked to reply to the essential question of Unit 2, which was: "Is there always a nation in nationalism?" In their responses, they were asked to connect the essential question with the question from the study guide.
These were the grading criteria sheets each student received:
Accuracy of information ______________________ out of 10 points.
Examples (at least 2) ______________________ out of 10 points.
Eye contact ______________________ out of 10 points.
Coherence of arguments ______________________ out of 10 points.
Response to Unit 2 EQ ______________________ out of 10 points.
At the end her exam, I asked each student to assess herself. Then I filled out the grading criteria, and we compared our scores.
These are the average scores for the assessment:
50 out of 50 in Group 1
46 out of 50 in Group 2
Although I believe the scores were an accurate representation of the students' degree of preparedness for the oral assessment, I do not think they fully reflect student proficiency in the content of the unit. Thus, here are my questions:
- Were my grading criteria too loose?
- Should I have used a written component as part of the assessment?
- Should I have used a more formal component, like multiple-choice questions, which the students would have done without consulting their books?
- Was the assessment an adequate way to finish the unit?
- Should I have graded the group work of the previous day, when the students generated their study guides? And if I should have, what criteria should I have used? I'm not sure how to assess the quality of essential questions, and I don’t think introducing Bloom's Revised Taxonomy would have done the trick…
I believe the students practiced and demonstrated important skills while preparing for the exam, and I believe they have met the goals I had set. But the grades look inflated, and I'm not sure what I could have done to avoid that.
The next day, I asked the students to respond to three questions in their entrance tickets. The questions were:
- Did the assessment teach you any valuable skills?
- Why, do you think, we did it?
- Shall we do it again? Do you have any suggestions?
Here are their responses.
Did the assessment teach you any valuable skills?
- The assessment did teach me valuable skills, instead of just memorizing and spitting back information we were able to talk about it and observe different points of view.
- Yes, public speaking skills.
- It taught me how to speak about history.
- Yes, it taught me new skills, one was how to back up my argument with examples or reasoning.
- Yes, it taught me skills like thinking on my feet and being able to explain the significance of the topic that we went over in class and getting to connect it back to the unit essential question. It wasn't very nerve-racking; it was worth it. It gave me practice for real life.
- Sort of.
- The oral assessment did teach me how to use correct vocabulary. It was not worth being nervous about, however, because we've been taught and learned about these things many times before the assessment.
- They taught me how to make better eye contact and come up with supporting ideas for my opinions when I am talking to someone face-to-face and not just writing like we usually do. It felt like an interview, and it prepared me better to have proper conversation. It wasn't it to be nervous.
- Yes, the assessment taught me to make eye contact and to relax. It was worth being nervous about because I got a great grade and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.
- Yes, it taught me how to explain things and talk in front of someone.
- I think the preparation for the oral assessment taught the most, not only about the material itself but about how to give simple yet complete responses.
- The oral assessment did teach me good skills. It taught me how easy it was to speak one on one with a teacher. It was not worth being nervous about at all. It was quick and easy.
- Yes, it taught me to keep eye contact! It was not worth getting worked up about, it was very easy.
- I didn't participate in the oral assessment, but it is important to practice speaking in awkward situations because it is an important skill to have.
- I thought the oral assessment taught me how to formulate my thoughts and opinions in an easy way. It was not something to get nervous about because we studied beforehand. I enjoyed expressing my opinion and I thought it was very helpful to have the oral assessment.
- I didn't learn any new skills but I was able to practice some old skills during the oral assessment, which helped me improve these previously learned skills.
- I can't tell if it gave me good skills because it's the same speaking and organizing skills as debate. It wasn't worth getting nervous about but I can't help but get nervous.
- The oral assessment taught me to look people in the eye and say what I know. This was worth getting nervous about.
Why, do you think, we did it?
- To be able to talk about reasons and topics and points of view instead of simply answering short questions. History doesn't consist of short-answer questions, it consists of people communicating and sharing knowledge.
- To bring a new kind of assessment to our minds, to change things up.
- I think we did this assessment because even though we only had to answer one question, we had to be familiar with all the topics because we didn't know what question we would get.
- I think we did this so that it would be more one-on-one and so that we wouldn't be nervous in front of the whole class.
- I think that we did this assignment to challenge ourselves in coming up with an answer to a certain topic to see how well we could openly talk about historical ideas and connect them back to a bigger picture.
- To see how well you have been teaching and for you to see how much information we can collect and study and then present in a short period of time.
- We did it to test public speaking skills and to prove to us that talking is not that hard.
- I think we did the assessment because you wanted to see how well we can have structured ideas and thoughts and present them to you properly. I think you wanted to see how well we react when talking and not just writing.
- I think we did this assessment in place of playing jeopardy. It was a new way to review material we have learned. Also, it taught me great skills.
- I think we had an oral assessment because you wanted to see if we knew what we were talking about and if we were able to put it into words.
- I think we had an oral assessment because it is a direct way for the teacher to see how well we are doing.
- I think we had an oral assessment because you could tell how much we did and didn't know.
- We had an oral assessment so we could experience an one-on-one situation, esp. b/c my generation is so bad at 'in person' conversation.
- Same as #1, speaking is important for college/job interviews, and it is important to get practice.
- I think we had an oral assessment because you want to know our true opinions and answers on different topics. I also think having an oral assessment helps you really think about the question.
- I think we had an oral assessment to think further about the topics we learned and to get more practice in some skills.
- I think we had an oral assessment so we can learn not to depend on others or their notes to learn what we need to focus on while taking notes.
- To prove that we have retained the information you have taught instead of repeating it back.
Shall we do it again? Do you have any suggestions?
- Yes, you should do it again. One suggestion would be having the door closed. A large contribution to the stress was having your classmates listen in.
- Yes, it was fun and simple. No grading oneself.
- I think we should do it again because it was a good way to wrap up the chapter. I don't think we should do it for every chapter, though, because I would miss jeopardy.
- Yes, I actually prefer this to jeopardy. Although jeopardy is nice, I feel intimidated and put on the spot a little. This is good for me, but doing more of these would be nice too.
- No, I do not have any suggestions. I think the timing was fair (1 minute) and it helped to gain a bigger understanding of the chapter.
- No, we shouldn't because some people found themselves being put on the spot. I would rather play jeopardy or do a short open-note handout where the questions are there for us to answer.
- Yes, it was nice. But I think everyone should have a minimum of 3 min/2 min and that's it. Also, get 5-10 minutes to study before the first person goes.
- No suggestions because the exercise prepared me to have structured conversations with teachers and prepared us for how to act in an interview.
- Yes, I think we should do it again because I enjoy the formal way of being assessed as opposed to playing jeopardy. Perhaps a good balance of both would be great.
- Yes, I thought it was a fair way to see if people had paid attention and to see where everyone was.
- I think we should do it again because it is an easy, non-stressful way to get a grade.
- Yes, we should do this again because it helped me learn more and actually retain what I learned.
- I like the oral exam/assessment we took, and I think we should have one again.
- Even though it was uncomfortable for a lot of people, it was good practice so we should do it again.
- Yes, I think we should have another oral quiz because it really helps me understand the topic and I like expressing my opinion.
- Yes, I think we should. It helps you practice previously learned skills and improve on them, and you get an overview of the topics.
- No, because I am not a fan of speaking and getting graded because I forget what I am going to say.
- Yes, we should. In my opinion, it is easier that the test.
Overall, I believe the assessment was a successful and important learning exercise. It was integral to the students' learning and provided them with an unconventional way of demonstrating their skills, which would be important in their future academic studies and in life in general. I hope to improve upon it and use it in the future.
My presentation did not go as well as it could have.
First, it was too text-heavy. I was not sure how I should present the process that guided my methodology in a coherent manner, so I put everything there was to say in writing: student work, their feedback, my reflections, questions, and observations were all written down. In the end, the amount of text was overwhelming.
Second, there were too many moving parts in the presentation. I had the handout for everyone, I went on-line to show the website and the work the students did on it, and there was a lesson plan to go with everything. It was difficult to see the core of my reasoning behind all these components.
Due to the above two, I blabbered. I think my English becomes more verbose when I lose sight of my arguments, which is not a good thing in teaching. Whereas my colleagues persevered and tried to follow my ideas, adolescents would have given up on my presentation as my speech became more convoluted.
After the presentation and during the rehearsal for the TRP, I was especially cautious about the lessons I learned during my Micro-Teaching. I was judicious about the amount of information I could present in a short period of time and I was selective of the components I would include. I thought the Micro Teaching presentation helped me to stay focused and speak more cohesively when I delivered my TRP.