This week was focused on designing appropriate assessments, online or in class, aligned with learning objectives. I found the reading this week, quite thought provoking, in regard to potential means of assessment that I hadn’t considered and am considering integrating into the online section of my course.
First, let me give a brief description of the types of assessment in my Practical English course I teach. There are two formal assessments of the students’ communicative competence, a midterm and final. The midterm and final are similar. There is a speaking section, where two students are required to ask and answer 4-5 questions (chosen by the professor) based on topics from the textbook. They should maintain the conversation for about 8 minutes. There is also a paper based exam that tests there listening, reading, and writing skills. The listening and reading are multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions based on what they heard or read. The writing section asks students’ to write a paragraph in response to a writing prompt based on the topics in the book. The only difference between the midterm and the final is that the final is weighted more heavily, and the topics are different.
The assessments that I include in the online portion of my course are informal quizzes, discussion boards, and paragraph assignments. The quizzes are formulated so they resemble the formal assessments that they will experience throughout the year. It was encouraging to read about the study by Walker et al. (2014) which showed that students who took practice exams online performed better on in-class graded exams. This is an area that I greatly curious about, since as I mentioned I have chosen to move the listening and reading requirements online, and assess them there. I am also interested in revising or improving my questions so that they push learners to higher level thinking.
Finally, one of the most challenging aspects of EFL is connecting students’ language studies with real world application. The English speaking world and being an active participant in it, seems so distant to the students I am sure, no matter how much I try to bring it into the classroom. However, the opportunities for students to search out articles or pictures related to the topics we study online, and share them in our online community is exciting. I often encourage my students to be online tourists, and experience English that way. In an upcoming lesson we will study color, architecture and housing. I will ask students to post pictures from their homes or around their cities with a brief description. I will also ask students to participate in the online discussion next week by uploading an audio or video recording of their comment rather than just typing their response. I also liked the one-sentence summary idea and may implement that to get students to synthesize what they learned in the previous week.
There were a lot of good ideas presented in this reading, as well as some important areas of reflection. I look forward to implementing new and interesting types of assessments to engage learners and achieve learning objectives, as well as revise existing online assessments in this iterative design process.