In chapter twelve of the skillful teacher, Brookfield (2006) writes a section called the-level of required learning is inappropriate. Brookfield says that “It’s easy for teachers to misinterpret students’ levels of learning readiness, particularly if there has been no attempt to use some kind of classroom assessment tool to find out what and how students are learning.” I agree with this quote. As an instructor I must understand my students’ level of knowledge before proceeding to the next step. My students must have a clear understanding of the rules, instructions, outcomes and content in order for me to move on. So how do accomplish this?
Thomas R. Guskey a Professor at the University of Kentucky explains this well in his article- How classroom assessments improve learning. Guskey said, “When teachers’ classroom assessments become an integral part of the instructional process and a central ingredient in their efforts to help students learn, the benefits of assessment for both students and teachers will be boundless”. So what does this mean? It means that we must utilize the benefits of assessments and design our lessons around them. Assessments are used to guide improvements in student learning and provide feedback to the instructor. These must be continuously done throughout the course to maximize its purpose.
This semester I’m teaching a course called process operation 201. The course consists of five units which focus on equipment and procedures in the oil and gas industry. At the beginning of the semester I completed a pre-assessment to determine the knowledge of my students. This helped me determine what they do and do not understand. This was a verbal assessment to see if they understood common industry terms like heat exchanger, sampling, P&ID’s etc. After analyzing the data I was able to come up with a good starting point.
Within the first few weeks of teaching, I realized that the prewritten assessments that were created have a much higher English level than what my students have. My ESL students have a difficult time understanding many basic English words, so having an assessment that caters to an advocate English speaker makes it difficult for me and my students. To fix this problem I had to options. Option one which is to recreate the assessment which consists of a validation committee (This could take weeks), and option two is to teach them new English words that are on the assessment. I decided to pick option number two, to save time.
This is a prime example where assessments are wrongfully used. Assessments should give me validity of my students’ knowledge and skills, rather than creating extra stress and confusion. It should help them succeed in the classroom and give me a better sense of their abilities. This form of assessment is difficult to use when monitoring my students throughout the semester. In order for me to gather appropriate data, I go beyond the formal assessments and conduct frequent verbal assessments to ensure they are on track. This provides me useful info when guiding them in right direction.
My college understands that this form of assessing is a problem. Lucky enough they are at the beginning phase of recreating a new curriculum. The program was originally developed for students with higher English skills. This has been a problem for years, so I’m happy a change is coming down the pipes. Until then……I will try my best to help each student thrive!!