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Module 3a: Informal and Formal Assessments

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So there’s such thing as informal and formal even when we are talking about assessments. Prior to reading this module’s resources, I thought that assessment can only be classified as formative or summative, as I learned from the previous modules. I then realized, once again, that this principle/practice can further be classified as formal or informal.

From what I have understood, formal assessment entails standardized tests usually rendered at the end of a unit, grading period, or class. Objective tests, usually multiple choice and essay type, serve this purpose. Informal Assessment, on the other hand, is those assessment practices which are done to gauge student performance at any point in time during the course. Examples of which are portfolios, journals, worksheets, and role plays, among others. Even the mere asking of questions to students can serve as an informal assessment to know if the students understand the lesson or if there are concepts that are unclear to them.

Compared to summative and formative assessments, which are focused more on the data gathered during the process – the interpretation of such to gauge understanding and student achievement, I think that formal and informal assessments, as categories, focus more on the method of obtaining data. I mean, when one is asked about the difference between the two, one would likely give examples of assessment methods that belong to each category, e.g. standardized exams for formal and portfolios for informal.

I still have to learn a lot as to the categories or classifications under assessment but so far, I am enjoying and appreciating the learning that I experience as a DE student of this course. Assessment, indeed, needs to have an in-depth study and careful implementation to serve its purpose.

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A First-Timer in an Online Group Work

istock_studentscloudxsmallI have been a DE student for more than three trimesters or one year now, but this is the first time that I get to work online with a group. First and foremost, I am a type of student who, most often than not, enjoy working alone or by myself. I think that I am more comfortable working alone because I get to consider only my schedule and my decisions in accomplishing the tasks. Even back when I was a ‘regular’ student, that is in a face-to-face learning environment, I prefer individual activities than groupings. This is perhaps because of my introverted characteristics. It’s not that I am too consumed with my thoughts, but it’s just that I feel being more productive when I am working alone.

However, I never expected that my perspective about group work is bound to change because of our first Assignment in EDS 113. We were tasked to create an Assessment Plan with several sections. It was emphasized that our participation is a must, free rides should be prohibited, and the bulk of our grades will be based on self and peer assessments. At first I thought that it would be easy to collaborate, what with the existence of very useful applications like Google docs and social networking sites with chat features like Facebook, Skype, and Google Hangouts. But when I learned that we have to make our communication visible to the teacher, and that we have to talk in our dedicated work stations, my concept of ease slowly faded away. I mean, the interface of our course site is good and I got used to it already, but I don’t think that chatting will be as easy as that with the aforementioned applications. Nevertheless, I got excited with the tasks.

My groupmates were very active during our discussions. However, our challenge is that we don’t get to be online at the same time. I understand that we have different responsibilities and schedules, so we really have to adjust and ensure active participation to be able to produce an excellent output. Producing drafts, responding to queries and the general brainstorming is really enjoyable. Everyone encouraged each other to contribute to the content and to not be afraid to share their insights. Ideas were polished and improved. If one does not agree with the idea of the other, she expresses it in a polite way. I believe that what transpired was a very productive collaborative activity among us. The task itself and the process may not be that easy, but I can say that I learned so much from the experience.

Looking into the actual task, it was not my first time to craft objectives, as we always do that back in college. The assessment part was the quite challenging one for me. There is multitude of assessment methods that we can actually incorporate and t’s naturally difficult to choose when you have a lot of choices. However, I realized that assessment should be based on the objectives. You cannot have a well-established and well-developed assessment plan if your assessment methods are not aligned with the objectives that you set at the very start of the plan. Misalignment or loopholes in the lesson plan can happen when the teacher does not consider this essential point. I learned in the previous modules that as a result of this, students being assessed might feel underestimated or at some point, the opposite might happen. Thus, it is imperative that the teacher ensures alignment not only between objectives and assessment, but also with the instructional strategies.

As I always say, the teaching profession is indeed a very challenging job. A teacher is not concerned with only one aspect of the process; everything should be considered. This is a tough call. A teacher should be very patient, resourceful, knowledgeable, and most importantly, he/she must be prepared for every demand of the field.

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Module 2: Assessment – Of Cycles and Kinds

In the second module, I learned that it is imperative that the assessment process be cyclical because it has to go back to start to fully maximize its benefits. What am I talking here? I realized that once the objectives of the lesson are derived from the goal of the course, the assessment method should come from there. The assessment should be based on what the teacher has set for the students to learn at the beginning of the class. When one makes a baseless assessment, then results are rendered unreliable and inaccurate. After implementing assessment, gathered data must be used to analyze whether instructional strategies are effective, and that institutional goals are met. Results should be used in order to improve, revise, or change instruction and develop the entire course. After that, the process begins again. When this becomes linear, improvements may not be realized.

On another note, I learned more about the three kinds of assessment: AS, FOR, and OF learning. A week before, I have actually watched the video resource on “Rethinking Classroom Instruction with Purpose in Mind” thus this lesson is not entirely new to me. Although I still get confused about the three, I’m glad I was introduced about these concepts. I realized that assessment does not only exist to gauge student learning at the end of the lesson/class/course, because it can also be done before and during the lesson. And more importantly, I realized that I was actually already doing each one of them in my experience as an online teacher. Nevertheless, I still need to read more to become adept with the assessment process.

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Module 1: Let’s talk about Assessment

Before taking up this module, I anyways interchange “assessment” with “evaluation” because I thought that their meanings are basically the same. But I realized that these two words or principles differ in meanings, specifically in their purpose and methods.

Assessment deals with the process of gathering data with regard to the acquired or learned knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the students. It deals more with the type of methods and instruments used in the assessment. Samples of which are objective tests and journal writing or eve mere observations specifically when assessing attitudinal change. Evaluation, on the other hand, serves as the summary of the assessment. This is when educational researchers and teachers say if learning objectives were met. Simply put, evaluation is the judgment on whether the class succeeded or not.

Assessment is a very important part of the teaching and learning process. It helps teachers gauge the effectiveness of their teaching style, methods, and media used. It guides them on how to handle the class better the next time and how to deliver a certain lesson more effectively. I realized that formative assessments must be given importance as well so that teachers can have a guide as they reflect in their delivery. This kind assessment can simply be in the form of question-and-answer portion at the beginning of the class. The teacher can ask what they know about a certain topic or how they feel about a certain issue. In this way, he/she can be sensitive enough in handling the class.

Looking into the perspective of the student, I can clearly remember my attitude towards filling out evaluation forms for my teachers. Back then, I thought that it would not have any bearing whatsoever to our class or to the teacher because people are doing that because it is required. I actually observed the same attitude with my classmates. Well, it’s different now that I am working in the academe. I realized how important for them those sets of evaluation papers are; the answers and comments given by the students. It is the basis for teachers’ renewal and promotion. Good comments are noted, adverse comments are given appropriate attention.  Teachers are asked to address these negative comments: why did their students say that, and what would they do in order to keep those from being commented again.

Well I guess, what I really learned from this module, aside from assessment being an essential part of the teaching and learning process, is that it is also imperative that the rationale of the assessment process be explained to students. In this way, they can be genuinely and holistically involved in it.