articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Teachers Talking Forum
May, 1999


Active Assessment in the Philippines

Feny de los Angeles-Bautista
teachfen@philonline.com

This interview explores issues of assessment with a very experienced teacher from the Community of Learners School for Children in the Philippines. Marissa J. Pascual is also a trainer for the UNICEF-assisted Multigrade Education Programme.






Marissa J. Pascual
Grade 6 Language Arts Teacher
Middle School Coordinator

Questions:

How do you go about assessment?

How do you integrate the work of assessment into further learning?

What do the changes in focus mean to you?


I usually maximise the first few weeks of classes for gathering valuable information about my students' current levels through a variety of ways.

OBSERVATION

961028 I have learned over the years that a lot of important information can be gained from simple observations. This valuable information is very useful in helping me set individually appropriate objectives and choose activities that are suited to my students' needs and capabilities. I usually list down what I need to observe about a child or a group of children for each week. Knowing my focus for the week allows me to plan my activities and my schedule for observation. Knowing what to observe and when to observe enables me to do my work more in a more systematic and efficient manner.

During the first weeks, I always find it important to observe children in varied reading situations - reading independently during silent reading time; reading with a group of children during literature group shared reading; reading orally in class or to a peer or adult in class; reading to look up specific information about a given topic. It allows me to gain information about my students' ability to construct meaning from text, apply fix-up strategies (e.g. using pictures and context clues, sentence structure, substitutions) when they encounter new and difficult words in text, self correct and react critically to what they read.

These initial observations also allow me to see how the child views reading and how he views himself as a reader. At the start of the year, I also ask them to answer a questionnaire that allows them to reflect on their attitudes towards reading as well as how they view themselves as readers.


Diagnostic Tests for Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, Mechanics of Writing

The results of these assessment combined with the information I got from my observations help me decide what adjustments to make in the curriculum that I initially prepared for the class during the summer. It helps me determine the lessons that I need to teach to the whole class or to particular groups of children in the immediate weeks.


First Month Writing Portfolio

The students' initial entries in their writing portfolio also provides valuable information about their current writing abilities. Their initial entries consist mostly of their outputs during creative-writing activities and short reports they prepare after they do research for other subjects. Again, this helps me determine what lessons to prioritise as well as determine student groupings for the first quarter.

During the year, I make use of both informal and formal methods of assessment. Informal methods are usually built-in to the daily classroom and school activities. Every teaching-learning activity that I provide each day involves a process of evaluating a student's ability to accomplish a task and fulfill an instructional goal.

I observe both the process and the outcome of my students' participation in an activity or while working on an assigned task. For example, looking at results of short exercises after a mini-lesson gives me an idea whether I need to re-teach a particular concept using a different method or give the child more time to do practise exercises related to the lesson. Going over their writing portfolio also allows me to see if they are able to apply grammar concepts taken up in class. Again this informs the decision-making process regarding subsequent learning experiences or strategies.

Since my students' needs and abilities vary as well as the pace in which they accomplish their work, it is necessary to take these into consideration when planning the lessons and activities that I would provide in class. To facilitate classroom management, an important investment is to determine who among my students have common needs and strengths and then group them accordingly. This enables me to plan my day/week more efficiently while ensuring that their current needs are met.

I also use formal methods of evaluation in class. These include short tests or quizzes, individual tasks and projects ( e.g. writing projects, research paper), group projects in addition to the tests given during the Quarterly Assessment Week.

A student's achievement level and school performance is always based on a combination of both built-in/informal evaluation and the more formal and periodic evaluation. In this sense, evaluation is cumulative. I also take into consideration my students' investment in the teaching-learning process based on their potentials. After every quarter, I summarise the strengths and needs of each child in my class. I set new objectives for the succeeding quarter and plan new activities that will enable me to meet my objectives. I also revise my groupings as needed.

For me, the evaluation process is not complete without bringing in the input of my students. At the end of each quarter, I give out self-evaluation questionnaires for them to answer as well as hold individual conferences to evaluate a quarter's work together, revisit goals and set new ones for the subsequent quarter. This part of the evaluation process is important to me because it provides me with an opportunity to help my students learn about themselves and their capabilities. This becomes part of the basis for setting new goals for the subsequent quarter. During conferences, I ask a student to bring out his task folder, notebook, writing portfolio or writer's workshop folder and other projects he had worked on during the quarter.

Over the years, I have come to learn that every bit of information that a teacher can gain about a child at different periods within the year - whether through informal or formal means - must be carefully validated and revalidated before one makes important curriculum decisions. For instance, getting good scores in grammar exercises is no guarantee that the child has already mastered a particular skill. In my experience, there have been many instances when a student would be able to get a perfect score in a grammar exercise but would have difficulty applying this concept when writing his composition. When there is a disparity between a child's performance in exercises and in compositions, I have found it helpful to provide more opportunities for group compositions with a teacher serving as a facilitator. This allows me to model the use of a particular grammar concept during composition-writing.

As a teacher, it is important for me to always reflect on whatever new information that I gain about a particular child or group of children at any given time. I always try to analyse the implications of the new information. For instance, if there is a pattern observed in the errors that a student makes in reading or in compositions, it can signal that this child may benefit from reteaching a particular concept or that he may require follow-up activities to master a particular skill. Every new piece of information sets me to thinking about what help my students need and how I can best help them.



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