So, partly because in my supervisor’s classroom observations, she encouraged me to get more creative in my teaching styles, and try more student-centered methods (I do so love to lecture and she wants me to get away from that), and partly because I am taking this topic in class on formative-summative and traditional-alternative assessments, I got a bit braver this quarter and devised extremely student-centered instruction plan with an alternative assessment in the end.
It was so hard. Harder than I thought. I lost a lot of sleep, and I almost got sick.
To think, I was expecting to do less, because it’s student centered. I told them from the start to do their best because they will be teaching themselves. So in my head, that should mean I’m not teaching them as much, right? But the level of preparations and step by step guiding, feedback, guiding, feedback loops took at toll on me. I have yet to sit down and reflect on the whole process because although they have already finished their final projects and are now preparing for their quarterly exams, I have yet to check them (tomorrow, I will do it. I have to get this blog out of the way first, because it is already two weeks late).
Let me explain. The idea is, for their final alternative assessment, they, my 10-11 year old Grade 5 students, should come up with a book, which narrates the story of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. One book for each group of five students, and each student will be assigned two pages which will focus on just one event. Put the five event pages together, and the group will have produced a book. That’s the end goal.
To get to that goal, all the students who will be focused on one certain event, for example, the Agony in the Garden, all those students will be grouped together to read and discuss and learn the event. And for me to see if they learned it well, plus for them to teach their classmates the said event, they have to present a report to the rest of the class about their event. This reporting is the formative assessment (assessment AS learning) which will allow me to see what they read and learned from the Bible, while working together on their assigned event. After they do their oral report, I would ask them questions and give them feedback, and then they have to write a group report on what they had shared with the class. This written report is partly formative and partly summative, because it is graded, but it also serves as a way for me to see if they were able to take their learning and my feedback and write a proper report about it. And if not, I should be able to tweak the instruction plan, or at least give them further feedback, to get them to their end goal.
So we’ve scaffolded their understanding of their individual event through a collaborative activity which is the group oral and written reporting. I take their group reports, check and comment and grade them all, and because I want this to be an assessment FOR learning, I photocopy each report with my comments 6 times each, so that each student can look at the group report, see my feedback, and learn from them. ALSO, I make them do a self and peer assessment on this activity, but that’s for a different blog post.
I then return the group reports, and make them sit down to individually make their own two pages contribution to the final book project. This is a summative assessment (assessment OF learning) which I will be grading individually. When they had finished their pages, they will sit with their final project group, put their pages together to produce their book with the five different events in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. The book is also a summative assessment, the grade of which will be the same for all members. And this step of the project has a separate peer and self evaluation form, which is part of their individual grade as well.
It was a loooong process, and somehow in my head at first it all made sense. My supervisor approved it, so I guess it was sound. But I had to really hustle with the feedback, and the photocopying, and their self and peer evals were part of the grade, so I had to tally those, and there were all these glitches, such as, what will you do about students who were absent when the group was supposed to sit down and put the book together. I can’t give them the group grade because they didn’t work on the book. I had to take the absentees and have them make another book. Which makes some books incomplete, and the absentee book has some pages that tackle the same event.
While I was stuck in school over time, photocopying hundreds of pages of group reports, neglecting my other duties to my other grade level students (I also teach Grade 3), my homeroom duties, even my mommy duties, I kept asking myself, why am I doing this? Why didn’t I just stand there, lecture them on the events, and then give them an exam to see if they got it? Why am I pouring all my time and energy to the photocopier just so that each student gets a copy of the group report? Why am I putting myself, and them, through this long and tedious process? Will they learn better? Will they be better people? Will they love God more?
I still don’t know all the answers to all these questions, especially since I haven’t actually checked the books they put together. I also don’t know if I will ever do an activity like this again. But I will say this. I could see when I observed the different groups work together, that the students who usually have a hard time learning from my lectures and taking my tests, were really able to learn from their groupmates and display learning in their group and individual activities that I don’t usually see when I teach and assess them in the traditional style. Their grades get pulled up in group works. The smart, masipag, and competitive ones tend to just want to take upon themselves all the work of the group because they want to make sure they maintain their high grades, but since time constraints make it impossible, they learn to (because I step in and make them) delegate tasks and guide and help.
I learned that 10-11 year olds are not yet very efficient in working on their own. And they have to be given clear daily, weekly, and end goals to ensure they work within time constraints. I learned (well, I’m still learning) that sometimes you have to let your students get noisy, because it means they are communicating and working on something together. But that I also have to be right there with them every step of the way, to make sure they stay on track.
On formative-summative assessments, I learned that in order for an assessment to be truly formative, you can’t just be able to give feedback after the task, you also have to have some wiggle room in your instruction plan for adjustments when the plan isn’t working. And that summative assessments, especially alternative ones, have to have clear objectives and rubrics to guide the students to what we want them to produce.
I still prefer traditional assessments. They’re easy to make and easy to check. But I feel confident that as long as I am brave enough to keep trying to make alternative assessments that challenge me and my students to be better, soon I will be more comfortable in giving these types of projects, I will develop an arsenal of alternative assessments that I will know exactly what to do and how, and my students will benefit from these activities in great ways beyond the traditional type. In the meantime, I try and learn.