Learning and Assessment

In this part of the assignment, I am going to write a review of the views of learning and assessment that I have developed at this stage. I am going to justify the appropriateness of my views for the curriculum area that I am involved in.

In our school, we have adopted the ‘Target Oriented Curriculum’, and I am now teaching English in primary 5 and primary 6. I would follow the curriculum that is prepared by the Education Department. Basically, the pupils learn the materials that are task-based in the textbook. I would design some communicative activities for them. I believe that learners do not just learn the language forms, but also what they should do with these forms when communicating with others. In other words, I believe that learners have to be provided with ample opportunities to use the language for communicative purposes.

For the assessment, we have adopted the formative and summative assessment. As Black describes,

Summative assessment serves to inform an overall judgement of achievement, which may be needed for reporting and review, perhaps on transfer between years in a school or on transfer between schools, perhaps for providing certificates at the end of schooling. Such test results may also be used for judging the achievements of individual teachers or of schools as a whole. Formative assessment is concerned with the short-term collection and use of evidence for the guidance of learning, mainly in day to day classroom practice. (Black, 1999, p.118)

In our school, there is a summative assessment at the end of each term to judge their overall performance. Besides, we would also give marks to the worksheets that they complete in the classroom as a formative assessment. Therefore, teachers may collect evidence on what the learners have achieved. The assessment would enable teachers to know the progress of the learners.

Moreover, we emphasis the important the learners in primary schools develop competence in using the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing in order to use English effectively. As Gardner claims that good teachers ‘have always realized that different approaches will be effective with different kinds of students. Such sensitivities to individual differences can become part of the teacher’s competence and can be drawn upon in the course of regular instruction as well as during assessment.’ (Gardner, 1999, pp.102-103) We assess those four skills as well to encourage opportunities for learners to perform and demonstrate their achievements since pupils’ ability of acquiring these four skills may be different. In other words, we may use various kinds of assessment in order to cater the learner’s differences.

However, from my point of view, formative and summative assessment does not help the pupils in their learning. Besides, there is a negative impact by using the formative practice. As Black describes

The giving of marks and the grading functions are over-emphasized, while the giving of advice and the learning function are under-emphasized.

Pupils are compared with one another, which highlights competition rather than personal improvement. Such feedback teaches pupils with low attainments that they lack ‘ability’, and that they are not able to learn. (Black, 1999, p.119)

For instance, the pupils are asked to finish a certain amount of questions within a certain amount of time in an assessment and then the teacher would give a pupil a mark, for example, seventy-eighty out of one hundred, after marking the assessment. Pupils do not learn from the marks. The pupils do not know their strengthens and weakness by looking at the grades. In other words, pupils may not learn with that feedback. Furthermore, the pupils would compare the marks with the others. Hence, this does not really enable the learners to acquire the knowledge.

Sometimes, I also notice that some pupils may understand what I teach them during the lessons. In addition, they can finish the homework by themselves without the help of the parents and other pupils. They are interested in doing projects such as phonic books, which is a project done by a group of pupils to find out the rhyme words within a passage. However, their results in the summative and formative assessment may not be satisfied. As Gardner explains,

Formal tests are especially friendly to those individuals who possess a certain blend of linguistic and logical intelligence and who are comfortable in being assessed in a decontextualized setting under timed and impersonal conditions. Correlatively, such tests are biased against individuals who do not exhibit that blend of intelligences, those who strengths show up better in sustained projects or when they are examined in situ. (Gardner, 1999, p.114)

Some pupils may not perform well in the summative and formative assessment since the pupils do not have the intelligence. On the hand, they would do better if the projects that they have done are being assessed.

Thus, I have identified a small ‘section’ of the English curriculum area which involves two weeks’ teaching time and which includes a sequence of learning activities that linked with assessment for my P.6 pupils. I would give a brief overview of these learning and assessment activities, and then report on my own practice during this time period.

I have designed some activities that the pupils can practice the four language skills, the listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. The topic that I choose is the ‘The food from around the world’. First of all, I prepared the conservation that they could ask their classmates about the food that they have eaten, such as sushi and pizzas. As Boulay describes,

‘One of the main aims of the research described here has been to explore, in a more direct way, the use of collaboration to foster metacognitive understanding among pairs of students interaction with the computer system.’ (Boulay, 1999, p.253)

Since our school has established a ‘Multi-media Language Centre’, I tried to ask the pupils to practice the listening and speaking skills through the computer software as they are doing pair work with their neighbours. While they were practicing the conversation in the language centre, they could record it at the same time. So, the teacher could obtain a record of the activities done by both learners as a formative assessment. It develops collaboration between learners in computer learning.

Secondly, I adopted the problem solving skill in the reading lessons after reading the article that is written by Hiebert et al,

The teacher bears the responsibility for developing a social community of students that problematizes mathematics and shares in searching for solutions. A critical feature of such communities is that the focus of examination and discussion be on the methods used to achieve solutions. Analyzing the adequacy of methods and searching for better ones are the activities around which teachers build the social and intellectual community of the classroom. (Hiebert, 1999, p.159)

He introduced the problem solving skills that enable the pupils to learn. Although this is one of the skills in teaching mathematics, during the story-telling period, instead of reading a story to them, I created some problems, such as asking them if they were one of the characters, what are their opinions. The story that I chose was about a customer who wanted to get a free pizza played a trick on the owner of the pizza shop. Then I divided the pupils into groups and asked them what they would do if they were owners of the shop. Then I observed their performance and gave marks to each group and I also asked them to give marks to the other groups as a formative assessment. I hope that they could learn from their peers and took advantages of the others’ ideas. This would also rise their interest in reading the story.

Lastly, instead of giving pupils grades and correcting the written exercises, I adopted the peer assessments. Besides, I asked the pupils to keep all the exercises in their portfolios. As Gardner claims that,

‘Our process-folios, however, are instruments of learning rather the showpieces of final accomplishment. A PROPEL process-polio contains full process-tracing records of a student’s involvement in one or more art works.’ (Gardner, 1999, p.112).

I also think that assessing their achievement in learning is more important than only giving them grades. Thus, during the writing lesson, I asked them to write few sentences about the food and the taste that they have eaten and the country it comes from. Then, I asked the classmates who sat next to them to correct it. Later, the pupils kept all their drafts and feedback from their peers and comments from teacher in portfolios.

In this part, I am going to analyze and reflect my curriculum practice corresponds with intentions. I will also evaluate the theoretical understanding and actual practice.

First of all, for practicing the listening and speaking skills with the help of the computer software, as Boulay mentions, ‘In most collaborative learning situations, with or without the computer, students are just asked to learn together. It is considered natural for the more able students to help the less able.’ (Boulay, 1999, p.253) I notice that the more able pupils would help the less able pupils in classifying the texts. Sometimes, in the pair work, the pupils would correct the other’s pronunciation when practicing the conversation. However, I have raised a question that the collaboration will not happen if most of the pupils in my class are less able pupils. It would merely success in the mixed ability class.

Secondly, I find that pupils were willing to express their view when the problem had been raised. It highlights the inquiry process of the pupils. As Hiebert claims that,

‘Clearly students can benefit from having access to relevant information; they would make very slow progress if they were asked to rediscover all of the information available to the teacher. On the other hand, too much information imposed with a heavy and undermines students’ inquiries.’ (Hiebert, 1999, p.159)

The reading lessons were not boring and routine any more. Pupils are involved in the lessons. They found that lessons were more interesting and they have the motivation to learn. However, some of the pupils were hard to express themselves in English. They only gave a comment in a few words.

Thirdly, peer assessment in the writing exercises would help the pupils. I found that the pupils would check their pieces of work carefully since their classmates would correct it. In addition, they would go to the library to read books as well as find more information about the topic that they learnt. However their checking sometimes is not accurate. Some pupils could not find out the mistakes that were shown in pieces since they were making the same mistakes.

Lastly, there is a limitation as it was stated in the ‘Review of Education System Reform Proposals Consultation Document',

'Learning is by no means limited to the classroom. Libraries, museum, learning resources centres, public and private institutions and the countryside (such as Nature Education Paths) can all be good venues for learning to take place. Therefore, we should go beyond the confines of the classroom in designing learning activities, and make better use of the other learning venues.' (Education commission, 2000)

It would help pupils to learn if they were in other venues. However, there is a problem that more teachers were required to take care the pupils. In other word, the ratio between teachers and pupils should be decreased. I could not bring the pupils out without the help of other teacher. Furthermore, owing to the large number of pupils in a class, I could only observe a small number of pupils within a period. It was not so fair for those who were assessed earlier than the others. For those who assessed later could obtain more opportunities to practice.

This assignment reviewed my developed learning and assessment. Learning involved only communicative approach beforehand. Using single approach was not sufficient to arouse the pupils’ interest in learning. Whereas, only the results of assessment were considered but the achievement of the pupils was neglected. On the other hand, the pupils were more interested in learning English when the theories were applied in those learning and assessment activities. The pupils felt that learning was more meaningful. It was easier for the teachers to assess the learning abilities and attitudes of the pupils. In addition, the assessments were objective and reliable because the data is collected from different circumstances, such as observations. The assessments are not merely marks but reflect what pupils have achieved during learning. However, in practice, there were many constraints that made the theories not apply so efficiently in the actual classrooms. The constraints included learning difference among pupils and too high ratio between teachers and pupils. I hope that the quality of education was improved through these learning and assessing activities.

 

References:

EDUCATION COMMISION (2000), Learning for Life Learning through Life Reform Proposals for the Education System in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Government Printer.

BREDO, E. (1999) ‘Reconstruction Educational Psychology’ in PATRICIA MURPHY, Learners, Learning & Assessment, Open University Press.

GARDNER, H. (1999) ‘Assessment in Context’ in PATRICIA MURPHY, Learners, Learning & Assessment, Open University Press.

BLACK, P. (1999) ‘Assessment, Learning Theories and Testing Systems’ in PATRICIA MURPHY, Learners, Learning & Assessment, Open University Press.

Hieber et al, (1999) ‘Problem Solving as a Basis for reform in Curriculum and Instruction: the Case of Mathematics’ in PATRICIA MURPHY, Learners, Learning & Assessment, Open University Press.

Boulay et al, (1999) ‘design of MIST – a system to Help Students Develop Metacongition’ in PATRICIA MURPHY, Learners, Learning & Assessment, Open University Press.