Weekly Performance Self-Assessment for Students

This self-assessment on Blackboard should take each student no longer than five minutes each week.  By recognizing the weekly “energy”  they put into their learning, students should begin to see a correlation between this “energy” and their weekly academic achievement.

1.  True or False     I attended class each day this week.

2. True or False     I was in class from (8:00-8:55) each day without arriving late, leaving early, or leaving class to answer a phone call or use the washroom.

3.  True or False     I completed all assigned work for this class.

4.  True or False     I spoke English, watched American television, or worked on the computer in English a minimum of three times this week for at least 30 minutes each time.

5.  True or False     I studied English with a “study buddy”  at least once this week.

6.  True or False     I got  _____ out of _____ points ____ on this week’s quiz.

We’ll see if helping the students stay on target each week helps them reach their language goal a little faster and recognize more aptly the power they have over their own learning.

Seven Student Standards for Teacher Evaluations

As I wrote in a previous post, last semester I asked my students what they thought was important for them to be evaluated on, and likewise, what they thought instructors should be evaluated on.  They mentioned the following items:

  • clarity of lesson  – Does the instructor give clear explanations and instructions?
  • variety of activities – Does the instructor use a variety of activities to make the class interesting and to help all students understand the lessons?
  • course pace or speed – Does the instructor go to fast or too slowly?
  • homework – Is the quantity of homework appropriate?
  • use of technology in instruction – Does the instructor use a variety of technology in class in order to make the class interesting and help the students with different learning styles learn?
  • use of textbook – Is the text being used enough to justify its cost to the students?
  • teacher availability or accessibility – Is the instructor available and accessible to students after class for extra assistance?

I’ve chosen to use the Blackboard survey tool  through Lockdown Respondus Browser for delivery of my questions.  It allows the students anonymity and ease of access both inside the classroom and out.  It also provides me with easy record keeping of the responses.  I use the opinion scale/likert style of question followed by a short answer question so the students can give feedback if they wish to explain their answers.

My plan is to make this survey a weekly task for the students with the intent of improving my teaching, but even more so to encourage the students to focus on what works or doesn’t work for them in class so they can learn more about their individual learning styles.

Like the rubric I wrote about in a previous post, neither is this survey carved in stone.  I expect to make changes along the way as the need arises.  However, I intend for the survey to remain short and easy to complete.  I also need to make very clear to the students that I DO NOT want them to tell me how wonderful I am but rather how I can improve as a teacher.  Each week I will briefly report to the students what the group has told me, and how I intend to use that information.  I will ask them from time to time if they notice any changes in the class or my teaching based on their responses to the survey over the weeks.  I want them to trust that what they are telling me is valuable to me and ultimately to them.

Here are the survey questions:

1.  The instructor used a variety of instructional methods and activities to teach this week’s necessary competencies.
a.  Strongly Agree
b. Agree
c. Neither Agree nor Disagree
d. Disagree
e. Strongly Disagree
f. Not Applicable
2.  Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number one regarding the instructor’s use of variety of instructional methods and activities.
3.  The instructor was clear in her instruction.  In other words, it was easy to understand her explanations.
a.  Strongly Agree
b. Agree
c. Neither Agree nor Disagree
d. Disagree
e. Strongly Disagree
f. Not Applicable
4.  Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number three regarding the instructor’s clarity of instruction.
5.  The instructor did not go too fast or too slow, but moved forward at a comfortable pace for me to learn.
a.  Strongly Agree
b. Agree
c. Neither Agree nor Disagree
d. Disagree
e. Strongly Disagree
f. Not Applicable
6.  Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number five regarding the speed or pace of the class.
7.  The instructor used a variety of technology to make the course interesting and to help us learn English.
a.  Strongly Agree
b. Agree
c. Neither Agree nor Disagree
d. Disagree
e. Strongly Disagree
f. Not Applicable
8.  Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number seven regarding the instructor’s use of technology in class.
9.  The instructor made herself available to help us at a variety of times and in a variety of ways.
1.  Strongly Agree
2.  Agree
3.  Neither Agree nor Disagree
4.  Disagree
5.  Strongly Disagree
6.  Not Applicable
10.   Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number nine regarding the instructor’s availability or accessibility.
11. The textbook was used adequately to justify its expense.  In other words, this week I felt like the textbook was worth the money I spent on it.
1.  Strongly Agree
2.  Agree
3.  Neither Agree nor Disagree
4.  Disagree
5.  Strongly Disagree
6.  Not Applicable
12.  Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number eleven regarding this week’s use of our textbook.
13.  The homework this week was appropriate in quantity and valuable to my learning English.
a.  Strongly Agree
b. Agree
c. Neither Agree nor Disagree
d. Disagree
e. Strongly Disagree
f. Not Applicable
14.  Please add any information you wish to explain your answer to question number eleven regarding this week’s homework appropriateness.

Weekly Performance Rubric for Adult ESL Students

It is not uncommon for me to use rubrics to evaluate student projects.  But, as we’ve become increasingly concerned about our environment and our budgets, I’ve made every effort to run my class paperlessly by using technology.  Putting more online has also helped me and the students stay better organized and on task.  So, it was time to update my rubrics from paper to digital.

I was looking for an online rubric template which would eliminate paper, total scores, allow for easy modifications, and provide me with a duplicate of the individual rubric given to each student.  What I found was right in front of me on Blackboard, the course management system used by my college.  In addition to all of the above, Blackboard automatically sends a copy of the rubric score into the grade book, and even has space for individual feedback.

My plan is to use the rubric to evaluate the students’ weekly performance.  I have incorporated in it, together with the college and departmental core abilities and the course competencies, the skills that my last semester students valued and asked collaboratively to have emphasized in their performance reviews.

The rubric will change as our needs change, and I expect to have to do some tweaking sooner than later.  But, I am confident that weekly use of it will help my students better understand what the college and I expect of them for them to be considered successful in class and move on to the next level of education.

  Levels of Achievement
 Criteria   Novice   Competent   Proficient
Demonstrates level six (course)competencies as indicated on the syllabus 10 Points
Exhibits minimal understanding of new structures; frequent use of native language
20 Points
Demonstrates ability to use new structures correctly some of the time; infrequent use of native language
30 Points
Demonstrates ability to use new structures and vocabulary most of the time; always uses English in class
Participates in class: acts responsibly, values self and is respectful of others’ rights, needs, and opinions 10 Points
Participates when called on, but is usually unprepared,   frequently absent or late to class
15 Points
Participates when called on successfully some of the time
20 Points
Participates actively and successfully most of the time
Works productively and efficiently: completes daily work using  resources successfully, makes up work due to absences in a timely manner 10 Points
Takes tests but rarely completes other assignments; has trouble meeting due dates
15 Points
Takes all tests and completes most of the assigned work within given time frame
20 Points
Takes all tests and completes assignments by due dates
Works cooperatively: completes tasks, solves problems, resolves conflicts, provides information, and offers support 5 Points
Contributes minimally, accepts others’ solutions,
not dependable
7 Points
Completes most tasks, strives to participate and contribute, dependable
10 Points
Completes tasks, facilitates discussion, synthesizes information, valuable
Uses Technology: Uses technology taught including Blackboard to access course  materials, complete assignments, and take tests. 5 Points
Needs assistance with all technology including Bb
7 Points
Uses Bb but needs continual assistance with other technologies
10 Points
Uses Bb and new technologies independently
Demonstrates creative thinking: constructs knowledge, and develops innovative products and processes with or without technology. 5 Points
Does not yet show fluency, original thought or unprompted elaboration.
7 Points
Shows some evidence of fluency, originality, and spontaneous thought
10 Points
Shows consistent evidence of fluency, originality, and spontaneous thought

Resources used for this rubric in conjunction with the Milwaukee Area Technical College core abilities are:
1)  Blackboard Rubrics http://library.blackboard.com/ref/a86c3648-80a5-43cc-8fed-b3f5d24518ce/Content/as_r7_3_Instructor_Manual/rubrics.htm#Create
2)  Collaborative Work Skills Rubric http://course1.winona.edu/shatfield/air/grouprubric.pdf
3)  Core Abilities http://www2.honolulu.hawaii.edu/facdev/guidebk/teachtip/cor-abil.htm4)
4)  Penn State Rubric Cubed: Rubric Builder, Interactive Grading Rubric, Rich Feedback Generator  https://www.e-education.psu.edu/facdev/id/assessment/rubrics/rubric_builder.html  (No longer an active site)
5)  Rubric Use and Development http://www.bused.org/rsabe/rsabe05.pdf
6)  ToGa Learning http://togalearning.com/2011/09/13/rubric-descriptors-for-information-literacynets-benchmarks/

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This Summer’s Research Course for ESL

Once again this summer I am teaching a six-week advanced ESL project-based course that uses the writing of an abbreviated scientific research paper as its primary activity.  I teach this course with the support of a psychology instructor, Peruvian-born Dr. Marco O’Brien, who kindly volunteers six or seven hours of his time to talk to the students about issues in psychology and guide them as they develop good, narrow research questions of their choice into six-part scientific research papers.  Most of my students have never done research before and are intrigued and excited by the idea.   This “honeymoon” lasts about two weeks when reality sets in, and they find out how much work this project really is.

In previous summers, our class spent most of its time in the college library where my students and I had the availability of reference items and a librarian or two. This summer, due to budget constraints, our regional campus library is closed, so my students are only using the library databases to search for their information.  I use Blackboard to manage our course and am able to make many resources available to the students on the class site, including a link to our library online resources, so the students can continue their research from home in the evening if they are able (and willing).  A few students have gone to neighborhood libraries (hurray!), but most are sticking to the databases.

Also new this summer, along with writing the paper, I have asked the students to keep a research journal and maintain a collaborative vocabulary wiki. Students are assigned a minimum of two journal entries per week of free writing about their research, i.e., notes to themselves to follow up on, their doubts and anxieties about the project,  their frustrations about not finding what they need, and finally their joys and triumphs as they see the light at the end of the tunnel and the successful completion of this task that they thought would never be within their reach.

The vocabulary wiki assignment is to write a minimum of two new words a week with the definitions.  Other students can add to their definitions, correct errors, or write sample sentences using the words in context.  I am then taking the words from the wiki and putting them on online flashcards via Flashcardmachine.  This is what our cards look like so far:  Research Vocabulary 2011

Students also have to write their paper using American Psychological Association (APA) formatting.  Some students still hunt and peck at the computer keyboard.  “How do you set the margins?”  “I don’t know how to double space!” “How do I write a citation with six authors?” “Why do all my pages say page three?”  I don’t have Microsoft Word at home.”  Etc.  Part of this project is also that they have to use the tools they’ve been given to find the answers to those APA questions as well as their research question.  They can certainly help each other, and yes, I know it is a lot.  But, I also know they can do it.

Every summer at about the third week I tell myself that this is the last time I’ll teach this course.  It is too difficult.  The time is too short. What was I thinking?  Then a star student turns in a pretty good introduction of two to three pages in length.  Then another introduction comes in.  Then I get a paragraph or two from students who after two weeks told me they still didn’t “get it. ”  The second drafts come in and they are better than I imagined.  The final copy comes in for Dr. O’Brien and me to review, and along with it comes a look of trepidation, accompanied by a sigh of relief and finally a glimpse of pride as I tell them how proud I think  they should be of the work they did for this class.

At the end of this summer’s six weeks, I am confident that I will see that this has been my best class yet.  They’ll hand in their papers and give their oral reports.  Yes, we will lose one or two students along the way, and there will be another one or two who don’t get the paper done. Those will probably be the students who are not planning to go into the college and who are learning the language more for social and job-related reasons than for academics.  Will they learn something during the six weeks without completing paper? Absolutely!  Will they come back again next summer to try it one more time? Very possibly.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

After our six weeks are up and the students have finished this class and the two others they are taking concurrently, Test-Taking Strategies, and ESL Math, they take the college entrance exam, the Accuplacer. Some pass it; some don’t. Regardless, most see that they are much closer to being accepted into the college than they had dreamed.  Some will start their college studies immediately in August, but most will realize that going to college is a reality for them and that it IS time to start saving their money for those college courses they had dreamed of taking one day–and it will become a priority for them and their families.

Oh, one last thing…this summer my students and I are doing this class paperlessly! The students turn their drafts (and final papers) in electronically through Blackboard, they are checked for plagiarism through Blackboard, I review them via Microsoft Word, and return them to their owners also through Blackboard.  At the end of the course as usual, I’ll ask the students if I can use their papers as models for next year’s research students just like the models they have used this summer, and I’ll save those papers on Blackboard for next year’s class. Then in June 2012, I’m sure I’ll start this process all over again, and, no doubt, at least temporarily, that will be the last time I ever teach this course!