Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:55 AM
ELL Strategies for Everyone!
When I read Methods and Strategies: Alternate Assessments for English Language Learners. I got excited by the ideas presented here! The author used drawings and interviews to assess her ELL students, all while supporting their acquisition of the English language through journaling, reflections and time to practice their English explanations with their classmates before interviewing with the teacher! Fantastic! This teacher chose a year-long theme for her classroom - the ocean (because they were only 10 miles from the beach!). All of her students had some experience with the beach, and, lucky her, she was able to take her students on multiple field trips to the beach for specific experiences and study! I have always wanted to do the same type of year long theme, only using the Amazon rainforest, but I certainly could not provide the same hands- on experiences that she did!
This teacher assessed her ELL students (and I would use this for all students) four times a year by having them draw a picture of what was in the ocean. As the year went on, and they began to learn more and more about marine life, landforms and equipment used to study the ocean, the drawings became more and more detailed and sophisticated. These drawings were accompanied by a follow-up interview, called Draw Talk. During this interview, which the students had already been given time to practice with their peers, the teacher was able to glean even more information about the student's understanding. I love this whole idea and I will use it with ALL of my students!
Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:53 AM
Objectivley Scoring project-Based Assessments
I read the article Beyond Paper and Pencil Assessments, and was immediately struck with two conflicting thoughts...one was how informative these product-based assessments would be and two, how difficult they would be to score! I completely agree that our current "high stakes" assessment tool for science is adequate, at best. Who are the high stakes for, anyway? The students or the teachers? That is a whole other subject! I know that I have students today who would excel in a performance based assessment like the ones described in this article, but would merely make an average score on a pencil and paper assessment due to many factors, including poor study skills and difficulty with the language. I also began to feel a little stressed when I looked at the sample performance assessments that were suggested! My first thought was "Who is going to obtain all the materials needed for each activity for every teacher giving this assessment?" You understand how this works. The first year of implementing a new idea like this, and everyone is on board, and the system purchases equipment for everyone. Then the second year, teachers change grade levels or leave for some other reason, and the materials somehow go with them or get lost. The system cannot replace these items every year, so the new teacher is left scrambling to find these items on his/her own. Some will succeed, some will not. Now we have inconsistencies, which you cannot have if these assessments are to be used as a standardized measure.
Now we have to talk about scoring these things! The rubrics provided are okay, but not great, even by the author's own admission. Even after repeated testing and comparing different assessors and their scores, inconsistencies were found and there was simply too much subjectivity involved. Some teachers feel that spelling and grammar are less important in science, whereas others place more importance on it. I wish I knew the answer here. I think we really need to look at the very long range goal of science instruction, which we have been discussing in class every session: making our kids "science literate". Helping them become adults that can identify and solve a problem using sound practices and experiments. Perhaps science should not be included in the "high stakes" testing world, but inquiry-based science instruction be required every year, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.