-Effective strategies to evaluate writing
Through my past research, I examined several ways to evaluate writing without stifling creativity or inhibiting further writing. I hope to assess and foster student writing at the same time.
To incorporate my learning into the classroom, I plan to use several of the strategies introduced in my paper:
Limited and Positive commentary
Using the first two strategies, I will evaluate journals and literature circle roles to find "value" in the students' writing. Additionally, a handout of Evaluation Standards will be distributed so that the students know what I am looking for in their writing. However, this project will be given a final grade by my cooperating teacher. (See handouts 1 & 2)
Since the above writing assessment is ultimately not in my hands, I decided to extend my topic of evaluation to include the Multicultural Projects. The students will receive an Evaluation Standards handout for this project which includes written, visual and possibly audio requirements. (See handouts 3 & 4) This assessment includes Self and Peer Evaluation, also. (See handout 5)
With the journals and role write-ups, I will see if the students utilize their chance to revise their work. I will also see how my feedback effects the student's revisions. For the projects, I will place an emphasis on the students' evaluations of themselves and their group members. Their own comments will play a large role in determining their final grades for this unit.
Once in the classroom, I realized evaluation as well as teaching must be centered around the students and the individual. As usual, things did not go as planned. For the journals and role write-ups, I was only able to provide initial feedback on the journals; my cooperating teacher decided the roles would all be handed in at the conclusion of the unit. At the end of each week, however, the students were responsible for answering one journal question (handout 1). I then read over the journals and provided mostly content based commentary. I pointed out good insights and well-written explanations. I also included questions that would clarify the students' ideas or make them probe more deeply into the issue at hand. Seeing some papers with a continuing mechanical problem, such as noun-verb agreement, I would also include a note about the error.
Unfortunately, a few students chose not to hand in a draft of their journals. We decided to give students credit for handing in a draft, but not a grade. We hoped that collecting and giving credit for the journals would prod the students to complete a first draft, however, a few were not concerned with losing credit. They, therefore, did not take advantage of the chance to revise and lost points because of it.
On the other hand, my positive feedback did seem to help several of the students improve the content of their journals. The writing was clearer and more in depth. Comparing their draft and final copy, I was impressed with the material in the revised journals. Most of the students also corrected their minor mechanical errors, but a few did not and I take the blame for some of these mistakes. I did not make it clear to the students that I was concentrating on the content, not the spelling and grammar. Misunderstanding my intent, I think several of the students assumed their mechanics were solid because I did not correct anything. In the future, I will clarify what my objective is in providing feedback on papers to be revised.
For the Multicultural Projects, evaluation functioned a little differently. Because they worked in groups, I felt that self and peer assessment was essential. My cooperating teacher also emphasized that the students needed to be given individual grades to ensure student accountability. Although I was skeptical of this idea at first, I realized that individual grades would be more beneficial for this project. Some of the groups consisted of five members, and it would be nearly impossible to accurately assess all of them with one grade. Additionally after reading the students' evaluations of their groups, I found that not everyone deserved the same grade.
I also learned that a "final grade" is not always final. As one can see on the handout for the project (#3), the students needed to hand in a project plan and mock-up for ten points each. As I graded the plans, I found that many students did not complete the sheet to my satisfaction. For whatever reason, the directions or expectations may not have been clear. So the next day, I redistributed the project plans with questions and ideas that I had formed, and gave them a chance to improve the plans and their grades. This "second chance" allowed the students to more fully express their ideas and gave me an opportunity to give them the grades I had hoped to give.
Lastly, I concluded that exception can be the only rule to teaching and evaluation. The students requested and received an extension on their projects until Monday, April 20th. I received all of the projects except one and despite their lateness, I will not penalixe them. The one group member, who cajoled the others into doing a musical project, was absent from class everyday of group work. The other students have both arrived in America from Poland and Africa within the last two years. Upon the due date, the first member did not have any work completed, and the other two had made great progress over the weekend. The amount of work they completed on their own was exceptional, because neither writes or speaks English with great ease. To the best of their ability, they had tried to fulfill the absent partner's duties. The group had special circumstances and for these reasons, the students were granted a one day extension.
In conclusion, I am not sure how to effectively evaluate student work. I do, however, know that exceptions must often be made and rules must sometimes be broken. The students seemed to react well to me as a teacher and an evaluator, so hopefully I am on the right track. To evaluate my own ability and learning, I had the students assess me as a teacher (handout 6). I was pleases with their feedback. All in all, my pre-service teaching was a great success. I learned to teach and be taught, to evaluate and be evaluated. And as for literacy education, I also learned that no rule is fool-proof. If I can help my students to like reading, to like writing, to like communicating, then I am moving ahead as an educator.