Assessment musings

If anyone’s out there, I would love your thoughts here. I’m in a new program that runs on 7-week sessions (I’m a little more used to semester-long programs). Students spend two sessions in each level before they (ideally) advance to the next level. They have to average a C in both sessions to move forward.

So, here’s what I’ve been struggling with: 7 weeks is short. Really short. I’m finding it very hard to figure out how to fit everything I want to teach into 7 weeks. That will come with time, I’m sure.  Assessment, however, is plaguing me.  The grades I give my students determine whether they advance in the program; therefore, these grades ought to be a fair representation of what my students have accomplished. But, how much can you accomplish in 7 weeks? And if you have one bad week, you’re in a bit of a pickle. One bad week in a semester is fine. One bad week out of seven could potentially ruin your grade.

I feel like I’ve been giving a LOT of assessment (homework, quizzes, tests, etc) so that a student’s entire grade won’t be determined by that one speaking presentation he bombed. But I also feel like I’m cramming in too much assessment into a seven-week period. Is there a balance? All this grading is wearing me out.  Is there an answer to my question?

Any advice/thoughts are welcome.

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7 thoughts on “Assessment musings

  1. You are continually making informal assessments to determine needs and adjust the day to day and weekly curriculum, I assume. In addition, you could be developing units or projects that last about one and a half or two weeks, perhaps, and giving scores on each piece/step along the way as well as a summative score and a major quiz with more weight. Also, unconsciously or consciously, you need to make your own judgment on whether the back and forth between you and each student is getting clearer and more advanced as time goes on. I’m not sure if this answers your question. As you know, a formal assessment system can get completely out of hand and end up marginalizing the teacher’s own observations about student development and progress. If you know something in detail about the overall curriculum, for example how one level differs from another and what the targeted competencies are, then you can work these into your calculations. Generally lots and lots of little scored items along the way and a gigantic number of total possible points, like 1000, is usually going to work out O.K. Also, be thankful for this “problem.” 🙂

    • I read the original post again and realize that there might be a need to get students to evaluate their own and each other’s work more often. You can do this with surveys, for example. How was this activity for you? Evaluate your effort. How could you have done better? What is the most important thing you learned? This kind of self-reflection is just as important as teacher-generated evaluations.

  2. I like the idea of having the students evaluate their own work. I think my assessment is working and not marginalizing the students, as you say, but I still feel that I’m a little overwhelmed by it. Part of it is working within a grades-based system, where students expect an A because they’ve put forth a lot of effort. I constantly feel that I have to justify my evaluations to the students. Perhaps being more open about how I evaluate them will help with some of this. I often wish we didn’t have to give grades because I don’t like that that becomes their primary motivation, not the learning itself. I’d rather be able to write up a detailed and honest evaluation of each student’s abilities than assign a letter grade, which is vague and likely to be misinterpreted by others.

    Thanks for the feedback – lots of good food for thought here.

    • I like rubrics, letting students know the key points and aspects and required pieces, but also I say be thankful for the “problem” of the emphasis on teachers’ grades. And again I believe that projects with several components stacked to arrive at a product/experience are very good for keeping the students’ focus on the learning challenges and less on a final score. I like it when the grades seem an afterthought.

  3. Thanks. And yes, I am grateful for this problem in some ways because it’s not a problem I’ve encountered before. And that is a much bigger problem.

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