This post consolidates the range of topics studied in a doctoral-level Curriculum & Instruction course at the American College of Education. Topics are contextualized within an online English as a foreign language (EFL) course.
Assessments and Lesson Objectives
Assessments are a variety of tools to measure student achievement that measures the acquisition of skills (Great Schools Partnership, 2014). Placement assessments are used to determine how to group students and place learners within their learning pathway. Diagnostic assessments ‘diagnose’ what learners know or can do at the start of a period of study. Formative assessments measure learning progress and can take place repeatedly throughout a period of study, while summative assessments measure learning gained by the end of the period of study. Benchmark, or interim, assessments are used to compare performance against a set of performance standards.
Here’s how it all fits together within the context of online EFL private tutoring company:
Potential students are given a trial lesson with a teacher. Throughout the lesson, teachers gauge which level of trial lesson to focus on and adjust as needed. If it was a successful trial lesson, parents sign a contract and students take a live placement/diagnostic assessment to place learners within their learning pathway and identify what they can and cannot yet do. After the student is assigned a level, they can begin studying. Informal formative assessments are given at the end of every lesson by the teacher to rate the specific skills based on learning outcomes. Formal formative assessments in the form of quizzes are administered twice per unit. Summative assessments are given at the end of every unit and include a Project-based performance assessment. Benchmark assessments are given four times during their course. Finally, the course ends with another version of the placement/diagnostic exam to determine student progress.
Open-ended assessments ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes/no. For example: What did you do last weekend? Selected-response assessments include true/false, multiple-choice, and matching questions. Both of these types of assessments have clear, correct answers. Performance assessments are different.
Performance assessments give learners the opportunity to perform and demonstrate their understanding of the content, yielding evidence of learning (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). There is no one, correct answer and students are tasked with applying what they’ve learned rather than merely recall information. Within the Understanding by Design framework, performance assessments can be used for any subject or discipline and should include 21st Century Skills.
Here’s an example of a performance assessment in an online EFL course:
In a unit with the Big Idea: We are responsible for the environment, and Essential Questions: How does environmental change affect us? And How can we rebuild after a natural disaster?, students focus on the concepts of Cause & Effect and Problem/Solutions to support critical thinking. The performance assessment asks students to ‘Create a 200-word front page for a daily newspaper. Include a heading, subheading, and a text of a real environmental event that happened in the past. Predict if the same event can happen again in the future. Include evidence to support your prediction’.
Effort grades do not assess academic achievement, but the behavior students put forth to complete an assignment or curricular unit. These grades can be compared with participation grades, which also assess behavior, but through academic participation. Bean & Peterson (1998) make the case that participation grades should be adapted for introverted students who aren’t necessarily comfortable with participating in a live class discussion or debate. By including behavioral assessments, teachers can have a more holistic view of student learning progress, rather than only assessing academic performance. This allows teachers to better support learners.
How does this fit within an online EFL course? I’m glad you asked:
During informal formative assessment checks, teachers also rate learners in terms of engagement and participation. Other teachers who teach the same student are provided with the most recent few feedback responses to better adapt their instructional style. If behavior issues continue and become an impediment to learning, their Student Care partner can communicate with parents to start a dialogue about how to best support the learner. Learners also self-assess their own effort through a reflection meter at the end of each unit.
(An effort reflection meter)
Learner self-assessment includes metacognition skills that are also a part of self-regulation skills (Shatri & Zabeli, 2018). By consciously reviewing one’s performance and providing evidence leads learners to become more self-aware of learning as a process as well as how they best learn. There is debate as to whether students should be present in parent-teacher conferences. I believe that they should be involved in the dialogue and that learners are encouraged to self-assess their own learning. Together with parents and the teacher, they can formulate a plan with definable goals, if necessary. Student-led conferences can engage underachieving learners by allowing them to prepare for, and lead, the conference.
You guessed it! In the context of an online EFL course:
Learners are asked to self-assess their performance at the end of each unit. For lower levels, this includes a simple Likert-like scale with emojis. For higher levels, learners discuss the learning objectives they achieved with their teacher. While teachers do not have conferences with parents and students within my educational context, Student Care partners spend time each month reviewing student progress with parents.
(An objectives achievement reflection scale)
A growth portfolio is a lot like a performance assessment, they both gauge a learner’s progress in a non-traditional way. While performance assessments are based on discrete skills within a limited time frame, a growth portfolio encompasses growth over a larger period of time and can include performance assessments and self-assessments. Growth portfolios should include evidence of progress in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, teamwork, and career (ASCD, 2021). Key stakeholders in growth portfolios include teachers, parents, and administrators. As with any assessment, it is key to share a rubric that will be used in grading beforehand to best aid in student achievement.
And in an online EFL course:
Performance assessments can be included in a growth portfolio, along with sections dedicated to reflecting on self-learning and metacognition. Parents and teachers would be able to access this portfolio throughout the course and it could be used at the end of the course to better gauge individual student growth.
Let’s just jump into the online EFL course:
An online Student Progress dashboard was created to both educate and inform parents about their child’s English language acquisition journey. To ensure that the assessment instruments were valid, the Content Validity Index (CVI) was used by a group of experts. In terms of reliability, Cronbach’s alpha was calculated for each section within summative assessments. The closer the calculated alpha is to 1, the more reliable the instrument. Collecting the data, analyzing it, and interpreting the data is a process that all educators should be familiar with. Making data-driven decisions in the best interest of learners is the end goal in mind. Google Sheets, used in this case, allows my team to calculate assessments and adjust if necessary. Graphs can also be created for meta-data about all assessments.
(This Cronbach’s alpha is 0.86)
(Sections of the student progress dashboard)
The goal of assessments isn’t just to create and administer them to quantify student achievement. It’s really about owning the entire process end-to-end, which includes adjusting the instrument. Remember, the end in mind is making data-driven decisions to promote the growth of learners.
How are you supporting your learners through assessments? I’d love to hear below in the comments!!
ASCD. (2021). Chapter 1. Determining the basics of student portfolios. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100046/chapters/Determining-the-Basics-of-Student-Portfolios.aspx#:~:text=A%20growth%20portfolio%20demonstrates%20an,identified%20educational%20goals%20and%20purposes.
Bean, J. C., & Peterson, D. (1998). Grading classroom participation. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1998(74), 33-40. https://doi/10.1002/tl.7403
Great Schools Partnership. (2014). Assessment. The Glossary of Education Reform. https://www.edglossary.org/assessment/
Shatri, Z. G., & Zabeli, N. (2018). Perceptions of students and teachers about the forms and student self-assessment activities in the classroom during the formative assessment. Journal of Social Studies Education Research, 9(2), 28–46.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD.