Thursday, 12 January 2012

Testing Times

14 comments:

  1. And I thought it was cold in Istanbul!

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    1. The temperature was hovering around 0 at the time of recording. :)

      Naturally, the decision to film outside in these conditions was to provide a metaphorical backdrop to this somehwta bleak situation...

      Not really - the walk between buildings was literally the only free time I had all day!

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  2. I feel your pain, BTW. 'Gap fill, gap fill, gotta have a gap fill!' Sound familiar.

    Please don't let this get to you too much, you're not the only one who has learners whose lives are dominated by assessment that is seemingly there for the sake of it.

    Viva the revolution.

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    1. Not the only one I know...

      BUT

      ...the great change that has come around in my career as a teacher in recent years is founded on questioning the established ortder of things. Yes, many people are in the same situation; yes, many learners are virtual 'test subjects'; yes, changing things will be difficult but we still have to try!

      Are you with me comrade? ;)

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    2. A fairly-soon-to-come blog post (if all goes to plan and I get a good head wind behind me) will address an issue similar to the one you discussed in your clip. I'll keep you posted.

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  3. Brr... it does look cold! Why is it cold when it's so far down the south? It is the altitude?
    I see you're really getting into vlogging - a pro mike next? ;-)
    Testing sucks, doesn't it? Poor students, poor teachers. Testing had ruined my life, which would have, I'm sure, been completely different if it hadn't existed for me.
    The idea of portfolio is interesting, especially if it isn't restricted to written work - how can you ensure that it hadn't been done by someone else, or that help was given?
    Some people in our PLN do e-portfolios, I think. It was in RSCON3 where I heard about it - browse through the programme again. It could be Isil and/or Sigi Jakob-Kühn. And perhaps also Sharon Hartle.

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    1. It's cold because it's the middle of January! ;-)

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    2. Believe or not Chiew, this video was shot metres from where we recorded the iasku interview last June!

      Poor students, poor teachers indeed but, as I said to Adam above, why just accept these things as part and parcel of the system? Sure, I am a product of an exam-based education (although I did have 'coursework' factored into my final GCSE and A-Level results) and I turned out OK as did many other people I know but I strongly believe there is a better way to do things - I have a burning ambition to make someone who can do something directly about it see that.

      If one comes, more will follow ;)

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  4. Not quite the same situation but in my previous school (a sort of polytechnic equivalent), we noticed that everybody was teaching to the test and the students were learning purely for the test and nothing more - and if we repeated tests they no longer knew the contents (slight exaggerated but basically most students had only used their short term memories). A small project group was sent off to take a look at alternatives and then came back and instructed the rest of the team. Some debate involved but basically we all (almost all) agreed and ended up using portfolios. After nearly eight years the system is now finely tuned and working well. Some things 'have' to be in the portfolio but often students can choose themselves (in much the same way as a model chooses her best photos for in her portfolio) - they can, of course, ask for advice from the staff. The 'testing' is then also quite different - if you want to know then I'd be willing to put it in a mail (long story!). Again, as I said above - this is post-secondary, but nonetheless easy to translate to secondary and perhaps even primary education (in the Netherlands many of both types of schools already use the European Language Portfolio).
    Good luck with persuading your colleagues!
    Louise

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    1. Thanks for this insight Louise. I hope a change like the one you experienced can be brought about where I work someday. We are supposed to be using the ELP but, as I alluded to in the video, it was discussed and pretty much rejected (even though 'officially', we do it!)

      I feel it was never really given a chance. Of course, there will need to be adjustments and 'fine tuning' along the way but that is to be expected. And why do people worry about fine tuning a new system when the current one is so obviously flawed?

      I'd be interested in hearing that long story if you've got the time to tell it. :)

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  5. Thanks for this post, Dave. It reminded me of many staffroom conversations, debates, arguments. "Being taken seriously", by Jove I love that argument for testing. I don't think I would like to be taken seriously by anyone who does so because I give them tough and regular test. I'm afraid this is going to be a long battle but good luck with it. Here's a story from the Gulf about ongoing portfolios as an awful extra burden. Students had to put their written tests into their portfolios, which were basically a folder and each child had exactly the same things in them in exactly the same order so that the supervisor could check if they had done everything. Oh yes, and it made up 10% of their semester grade while the end of semester and the mid-term test were 70-80%. You can imagine their enthusiasm! The whole thing was an utter failure. When I suggested to my boss that we should perhaps first get the teachers prepare their own portfolios as basis for their ongoing evaluation I got pretty strange looks too. They also had files of certificates of pointless one-off PD courses and long articles they had never read printed off the internet. And this was their idea of a portfolio, I obviously wasn't very popular when I raised doubts about its usefulness. I think the first step should really be getting the teachers doing it, encouraging them to display, share and discuss each other's portfolios. If and when they learn the value of it, it will become part of the school culture. I takes forever but I am absolutely convinced it's worth it. I'm looking froward to finding out what happens.

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    1. Hi Tamas,

      You raise a point worth remembering - just introducing a portfolio system is not enough; it has to be implemented in the right way. The stiuation you describe is clearly not really helping anyone. In this case, and more generally in education, I think the desire from some quarters to have everything uniform and in the same order is allowed to dominate all too often. Change that and we can change the rest!

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  6. We started using portfolios this year in our Written English Discourse course (the one I teach), which include readings, writings, vocabulary and grammar work througout the year. Although it was a good idea, a number of issues arose that I'm not confident we've solved for the second semester:
    * giving autonomy did not work - student didn't know what to put into the portfolio aside from the assignments we'd normally have graded separately
    * not having checks throughout the year cause many to do everything last minute
    * it was an almost insurmountable amount of marking (i.e. assessment and feedback) all at once at the end for us

    So, I like the idea, but it needs more development. One thing that struck me though was, isn't a collection of work kind of like putting a bunch of smaller graded assignments together in one spot that you have to mark all at once instead of spaced out throughout the year?

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    1. Hi Tyson,

      Sorry but in the midst of assignment writing, I never got round to responding to this comment!

      As I said in the video, a portfolio would have to be done in the right way. ıt would be very easy for both teachers and students to get into the situation you describe and do everything at the last minute. Regular checks would be the key thus spreading out the checking and the feedback.

      I would also not be looking to implement something that is graded in a rountine way - that kind of defeats the point of getting away from a grade-driven system! On-going checks, on-going feedback and some overall comments at the end of a semester or the inclusion of a brief teacher's report are more the kind of thing I'm thinking of. :)

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