Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sharing the Expertise

Date: 23 October 2009 (3-5pm)
Venue: Dewan Kuliah, SM Agama Kluang

Once again I returned for a talk in SMKA Kluang.. (this is my 5th year I think). Madam Hasnidah is a good friend and Miss Rafkah was my x- student, so turning them down was very difficult..As a matter of fact, the talk was supposed to be held before Ramadhan but had to be postponed due to certain matters. I was happy to be with the 96 students and as usual, they were responsive and focussed. 96 is such an ideal number unlike my school where we have 172 candidates this year. All the best in your SPM boys and girls!

Pasir Gudang Date

Date: 22 October 2009 (Thursday)
Venue: SMK Dato Penggawa Timur, Pasir Gudang

A total of 167 SPM candidates from the district of Pasir Gudang attended this talk as part preparation for their SPM. I obliged as Rocky, the secretary for the district English Panel has asked me three years already :). I don't do many talks- about three to four a year usually but since we have been good friends for a long long time, I agreed to do it. The talk was fine except for my sore throat and the microphone but the students were rather quiet. I had the chance to meet old friends like Hafizah (how confident she is now!) and Jalina (who has been keeping a low profile all this while...) Well, no more Jalina, Rocky will catch you some time. Then I got acquainted with Aratha, the MC, whom I thought was very friendly and lively. All the best to the Pasir Gudang students!!

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


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?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Friday, 16 October 2009

Skor A1 Seminar

Date: 10 October 2009
Venue: Dewan Kuliah 1, UTM Skudai

The SKOR A1 seminar organised by DX Factor and Persatuan Mahasiswa Islam, seminar went well today although some students were late. I found the students had a good sense of humour although I know that for many, English is their weakest subject. One student was honest to admit that he found English difficult and he could not really understand what the teacher was teaching as his English proficiency was really low. I tried to give him some confidence and advised him to concentrate on Paper 2 and to try his best. This seminar had all the good intentions but having it in October was rather late. The organisers should look into the matter and organise an earlier one next year. To the participants who came, all the best in your upcoming SPM!!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

12,000 hits and growing!

Thanks for the support. I hope to upload and share more materials in the future. Blogging is soooo addictive but time-consuming :) If only I don't do anything else, I will probably blog the whole day :)(this coming from an addicted blogger). To those who have benefitted from my blog and have left me comments and sent me emails, thanks very much. I love the professional interaction and sharing. To those who are still shy, well, there's no reason to be. To those who conveyed to me that they were inspired by what I write, I hope to inspire more.

*Do leave your comments on how I can improve my blog thanks.

Reading Club 4

I'd like to share this book that I've just completed. Although this book was published in 1999 and I am one of her fans, it was only last week that I managed to get my hands on it! Although I've read her other novels like Village by the Sea and Cry, the Peacock, this one has eluded me for some time.. Anita Desai is without doubt one of my favourite Indian writers. This book is about the web of family conflict and it is set to move your emotions. Anita captures two backgrounds- India and Massachusetts, America and shows how the characters deal with the intricacies that life has presented them. Uma, the older daughter of an Indian family dedicates her life to the demands of her parents and she is tied to the Indian household, whereas her brother, Arun, is bewildered by his life in an American college and the new surroundings. I love her interplay of language and the richness of her style and subject matter. There is a lot of depth and Anita does not worry about driving her message to her readers- it is reflected very effectively through her choice of words and style fo writing. Definitely a good read!