Sunday, 18 October 2009

Authentic Assesment for Literature?


To test or not to test the literature component? That is the question. Not a straightforward issue this, you will agree with me. Besides, I am probably using the term 'test' too loosely. Let's get some definitions out of the way before getting into a deeper discussion but before that a sip of the aromatic nescafe I just made for myself...

A test measures something and is used in assessment.

Assessment is a a process of gathering evidence of what a student can do. It provides feedback on a student's learning process to encourage further development.

Evaluation is the process of reinterpreting the evidence and making a judgement of a student's perfomance. This involves making informed decisions e.g.s giving a grade or promoting a student to a higher perfomance.

Let's look at the major differences between Traditional and Authentic Assessment:

Traditional -------------------------------------------------- Authentic

Selecting a Response ------------------------------------ Performing a Task

Contrived -------------------------------------------------- Real-life

Recall/Recognition -------------------------------------- Construction/Application

Teacher-structured -------------------------------------- Student-structured

Indirect Evidence -----------------------------------------Direct Evidence

(http://www.jonathan.mueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm#attributes)

Some examples of authentic assessment that can be used are role play and drama, concept maps, student portfolios, reflective journals, utilising multiple sources of information, group or indivicual projects, oral presentations, literature discussion groups, reading logs, etc. These activities will definitely encourage engagement with the texts and engagement is important in literature.

For the literature component in school which will see the introductiion of new texts beginning 2010, which asessement is fairer to our clients? Do we use traditional methods which encourages rote learning (don't forget the context questions for example) or do we allow students to 'contruct' responses? Are context questions all our students can do? Do MCQs encourage problem-solving skills, social skills and deep understanding amongst our children? Perhaps authentic assessment is the way to go for the literature component in Malaysian schools. As a teacher of 22 years, I would like my students to be able to 'show' me what they can do and going beyond the text will definitely allow this. If my students engage themselves in a project on 'The Fruitcake Special' for instance, this would involve multi-tasking skills such as gathering information, selecting information, eliminating, problem-solving etc. This would be more genuine and meaningful than say answering 10 MCQ questions at the end of the term to test your understanding of a short story you have learned.On top of that, the skills that they employ will be useful beyond the schooling years. This is after all the purpose of education- to prepare students for life after school and not just to get a string of A's!

I think we need to put an end to testing discrete knowledge and instead allow for engagement with texts and reconstruction of knowledge and skills. We should allow our students to surprise us with their latent abilities and creativity instead of controlling their responses via contrived exam-based questions such as MCQs and context questions. Authentic assessment will provide the opportunity for exploration and a richer learning experience. Was it Paul Black who said 'If you want to change teaching, you must change assessment'? I read this somewhere and totally agree with him. Imagine what authentic assesment can do for Malaysian teachers who are known to be exam-oriented! Teachers will have to change their teaching methods and embrace 'new' methods. Perhaps this is what we need as teachers of English..a breath of fresh air...Let me know what you think people. The last time I posted something serious, no one responded =( Come on put on those thinking caps and let's hear from you!!

***An afterthought-
I can't help thinking of one young teacher (just started teaching) who wrote in his/her evaluation form after a course I conducted-'The activities are fine but at the end of the day, the students have to answer exam type questions'. How many more beginning teachers face this dilemma? I mean you're trained to be creative and innovative in IPGM or universities but face the stark reality in schools i.e teach to pass exams. I wonder how many teachers' dreams have been dashed?

17 comments:

  1. Salam Pn. Rahmah,
    It's about time we explore a better alternative to gauge students' understanding and interests towards the English Literature Component. Not saying that MCQ is a bad assessment method but in the context of learning acquisition, we are merely testing students' background knowledge on the texts and less emphasis was put on students' thoughts and reflections towards the literary texts. It would be interesting if students were able to express their ideas and comments via other medium: oral presentation, journal writing, songs or multimedia presentation. Perhaps, we ought to make authentic assessment a criterion in passing the English Language paper?

    p/s: Is it true that novel will be part of the new component next year?

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  2. hi there,
    hmmm the first comment i received on that posting! thanks fazleen. i couldn't agree more with your comments although authentic assessment can be time-consuming, costly, etc. etc. Are we not putting more burden on teachers? Authentic assessment really means school-based you know..that's you and me yaa..maybe we ought to test literature in plbs and ulbs eh? what say you?

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  3. and yes we will have novels too..

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  4. 'The activities are fine but at the end of the day, the students have to answer exam type questions'. How many more beginning teachers face this dilemma? I mean you're trained to be creative and innovative in IPGM or universities but face the stark reality in schools i.e teach to pass exams. I wonder how many teachers' dreams have been dashed?

    well, for me this so true..
    i mean, from students context, we dont really have any other choices but to study to pass the examination.
    that is the problem with our education system.=exam-oriented.
    i've read in one blog that even when it comes to writing too the teacher asks the students to memorise any essay. Only then we can pass the exam easily.(of course not me because personally, the essay part for both a and b are quite easy, i love it when it comes to narrative essay- u should read my spm essay.. i made it so dramatic and really 'menyedihkan', and i got both A1 including gce'

    hrm.. i think the ministry should organize more conference or discussion regarding this issue. we should really look at the impact of it.

    how can we produce many creative and innovative people if the system is already not really accurate?

    probably it all starts with minds.
    thank god the ministry have put the limitation of taking the subjects for SPM, if not, probably there will be someone come out with result of 30 As.

    i believe if i were in your position, i could afford to do nothing but to still using the ways to make sure the students pass the exam which is by answering exam type quests.

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  5. I agree that it might be time-consuming and challenging. Apart from that, we also need to set an appropriate yardstick to assess the students effectively. This is where MOE comes to the rescue ;) I honestly think literature assessment should not be rigid or fixed. Yeah, doing it via pbls/ulbs might work. Whether it's a burden or not, it depends on the teacher's attitude towards the change. There's two sides to every coin.

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  6. Salam,

    This comment is not related to the topic discussed. I just want to know how many action research that a GC needs to produce annually? Thanks, Kak Mah.

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  7. hey rozaidi,
    you have definitely matured hehe.tx for your ideas!

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  8. salam juk,
    hmmm i assume you're a gc too? well, if u go by the 'terma rujukan' (which is not specific enough and has not been updated for years!), it's one a year but to be frank, i think you can do conventional research as well or innovations. i'm doing a write up on an innovation i did this year. welcome on board :)

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  9. That's true, kak mah. I am a newly-appointed GC DG44. I did apply for this post in 2007 after being forced by my principal. I did give much hope either as I didn't do well when I was in UM..Hmmm..2nd class lower only. But as luck would have it, I was offered this 'glamorous' post last month. So, I need to learn a lot from an experienced GC like you. Thanks.

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  10. sorry... I didn't give much hope either...

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  11. congrats juk! 'glamorous' job eh..am not too sure about that hehe

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  12. am an english teacher in rural pahang. for sure the assesment for the new literature component will be done in rural areas coz the result will not come out as PREDICTED. Anyway plis help me to carry out your high class teachers decision with any guidelines, moduls, teaching aids and anything that can help me. I just completed teachng aids for lit comp form 4 and your genius guys changed it.

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  13. salam mossczafar,
    first of all u are not the only one affected by the change. secondly, the cdc has to change the texts because they have been used since 2001- too long for the same texts. thirdly, if u read my blog carefully, you will realise that the cdc is coming out with a teacher's guide to help u deal with the new texts. you will also be glad to know that the texts are not as 'heavy'. do check out my blog for further information. meanwhile, welcome thanks for dropping by.

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  14. SALAM PN RAHMAH

    THANKS FOR THE INFO AND TO CDC THAT WILL COME OUT WITH ALL SORT OF THINGS TO HELP TEACHERS IMPLEMENTING THE NEW LIT COMP. AS U SAID IT IS NOT "HEAVY". YEAH TO U AND YOUR SM SAINS AND CONVENT STUDENTS BUT I AM NOT BEING NEGATIVE, HOW ABOUT STUDENTS WHO ONLY HAVE SOME TOUCH TO ENGLISH ( NOT SAY ENGLISH LITERATURE )IN THEIR LIFE. WILL Rumpelstiltskin OR QWERTYUIOP BE EASY TO THE RURAL STUDENTS? TO ME CDC IS NOT FAIR. THEY ONLY THINK OF STUDENTS OF URBAN SCHOOL OR PRIME SCHOOL LIKE YOUR SM SAINS AND CONVENTS. TO RURAL STUDENTS THEIR COMMENT WILL BE THEY ARE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH (LAZY) AND THE TEACHERS ARE NOT DOING ENOUGH. MY PROPOSAL TO YOU OR ANY GC FOR ENGLISH SPEND 3 MONTHS IN RURAL SCHOOL AND YOU WILL HAVE A GOOD EXPERIENCE OF BEING A TEACHER. TEACHING IN A SELECTED STUDENTS SCHOOL IS NOT CHALLENGING ENOUGH. THEY CAME TO U WITH GOOD GRADES. OTHERS MAY SAY THAT I AM A FRUSTRATED TEACHER BUT WEAR MY SHOE AND YOU WILL FEEL THE COMFORTNESS!!!!!

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  15. thanks for yuoru comments moss

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  16. can you plis give me some hint as when the courses for teachers (for the new lit comp) will be held at the state level? specifically pahang.

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  17. salam moss,
    i was told november during school hols. Sorry don't have exact dates. The state JU's will be trained first then, they will train the dixtricts. That's how it's done usually

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