Andrea Kucharski

LLED 412

4/23/98

Inquiry Project

Part II

 

 

Research into Practice: Creative Alternatives to Formal Writing and

Assessment Based on Communication

 

 

Following the completion of the first part of my inquiry project but prior

to my walking into State College High School, I received information from

who would become my cooperating teacher. Among other unexpected

qualifications of English 12 students as a whole was low writing ability and

reluctance to write. Having already conceptualized a three-week, creative

writing emphasized unit, my plans were immediately subject to change. Upon

arriving and observing for several weeks, what became disappointingly clear

to me was not only a lack of assignments involving writing but also, from my

judgment, an absence or severe limitation of any writing training in the

students' past. If I were to ascertain a level at which these particular

seniors write, I would approximate eighth or ninth grade equivalence.

Shocked, to say the least, I nevertheless designed a unit with some degree

of writing requirements, but, more importantly, with entirely different

goals and activities in mind.

So what do you do when the imaginary classroom crumbles (and I anticipate

it doing so in various ways from here on out)? What does one do who is a

firmly established conservative and who has always operated in accordance

with traditionalist perspective--meaning that "mastery" of the English

language took precedence when asked about my goals for English education? I

have found that adoption of an opposing or radically differing perspective

is not entirely necessary nor is it particularly healthy, in my opinion, to

put one's philosophy on the back burner. However, adjustment, or should I

say reprioritization, is crucial in that an educator's goals for his/her

students should never be constructed based completely upon what is

meaningful or important to the teacher. Rather reality and relevance must

be at the heart of what we do. Hence, my intentions evolved into what I

believed would warrant the greatest chance of communication regardless of

medium in this particular case. Only when I reflected upon the true and

utter significance of writing as I respect it as an author and educator did

I come to a crucial recognition. Writing is a vehicle for language and

creative expression as it has been appreciated throughout history. And

evaluation of writing is defined, ideally, by effectiveness of

communication. The beauty of the human senses is that communication can be

made possible in a multitude of ways.

Taking into consideration other factors such as personal interests,

customary practices of their teacher, and student motivation, I constructed

a multi-genre, non-thematic based unit which would be governed by

examination of narrative perspective, the constituents of these

perspectives, the subsequent messages they convey, and the ways in which we,

as individuals, relate to or appreciate these perspectives. The underlying

goal of the unit was primarily to generate awareness of the make-up of

perspective which operates as the foundation, the guiding force behind

communication whether the medium be written text, music, or film. Further,

the unit was designed to encourage communication of perspective of the

students' perspectives via group work, brief writing assignments, listening

assignments, and an overall inclusion of developments in students' point of

view throughout their lives. What the unit afforded me was an opportunity

to use a variety of subject matter in order to convey what I and they

believed to be not only relevant and stimulating message and material but a

route to deconstructing public, personal, and artistic perspective, thus

demonstrating a factor of the formula we have come to refer to as communication.

With regards to an application of my research and findings of the inquiry

project, it could be said that my situation was not one conducive to testing

the theories with practice. What I researched was, without my truly

acknowledging, theory of evaluation as an effort to find a formula to tackle

a very narrow scope of communication. My research yielded valuable insight

in terms of assessment technique but under very explicit

circumstances--these usually entailing formal writing and prior work in

order for comparison. Because the nature of the class and students was such

that writing was not prioritized nor consistently assessed, the option did

not exist for a writing-intensive unit. In this light, the inquiry project

was not suited for a point of reference. However, a very crucial element

that came to my attention during the construction of the project did prove

very appropriate and thus served as a unit guideline with regards to

evaluation, the proposed topic of my interest.

Without having come to a concrete decision about a proper, most useful, and

most thorough writing-evaluation method, I concluded in my inquiry project

that "evaluation measures must correspond to the process by which the

student has arrived at his/her writing creations." This determination

became apparent to me having examined the most prevalent and successful

practices of assessment; each of them seeming tailored to a particular area

of concentration. For instance, one would not choose to evaluate mechanics

with a holistic measure of assessment. The most significant concern of

evaluation incidentally is the lack of correlation between what is

designated as the emphasis or goal of the writing assignment and what

evaluation process is most appropriate in determining the worth of the

writing. Bearing this in mind, the way in which I evaluated not only the

writing I assigned but all evidence of effort to communicate was congruent

with what I communicated to my students as components of their grade.

Further, communication and perspective are born from creativity, and, in

this sense, my evaluation [a formula of points based upon participation and

evidence of interpretation and response] corresponded with my ultimate goal

of encouraging as much personal expression as possible. No assignment was

designed nor evaluated in terms of mechanical skills, style, length, or

language per se. Effort to convey their understanding and relation to the

material was rewarded. Effort to communicate what was meaningful to the

students whether it be demonstrated by writing or discussion was rewarded.

In this sense, I did happen to find application of an aspect of what

realizations the project yielded. I believe I touched upon a fundamental

priority of education and that this experience was made possible regardless

of the fact that I did not have the opportunity to implement a writing-based

curriculum. It is with faith in the recognition of the imperative link

between product and evaluation that I will, upon my becoming a real teacher

then void of the imaginary classroom syndrome, continue to connect the

processes of writing and communicating with appropriate and synchronized

evaluation methods. Anything less would be a disservice to my students and

would annihilate the purpose of goals.