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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Assessment Principles and Methods in Teacger Education

Assessment Principles and Methods- Case study in teacher education | Using the reflective journal

The course chosen for this assignment is ‘Working with Diversity’,   It is a unit in the postgraduate school of Education aimed at teachers. The subject covers cultural diversity and its effect on society, having in mind that Australia is one of the biggest multicultural countries. One of the reasons behind this diversity is the rise in immigration and presence of international students. The presence of numerous people with diverse religions, learning methods and abilities, and who come from different cultures is continually expanding and learning institutions are now reflecting the diverse student body into the learning objectives.  This is because these several cultures influence the society in some way or other. The variety assists to build strategies which are suitable for the learners. This course provides contributors with new policies that could be applied in their work place.

One assessment involved in this course includes the students writing a reflective journal and it is this assessment that shall be observed and analyzed. The policies of this assessment follow strict procedures to make sure every student is treated the same. These polices are in place because they help the university manage each learning area with integrity. They engage the students deeply in the learning experience ensuring that they can assess their progress in addition to enabling the teachers adjust their teaching, customizing their methods to take care of each learner, ensuring that no learner is left behind. These policies keep RMIT a high standards institution and in line with every other institution.

1.1.    Learning Outcomes for the Course
The effects of learning this course will include students understanding and expanding their perceptions of globalization.  Also, they will achieve an appreciation of internationalization of education, and proportions of workplace diversity management.  Also, it improves awareness in thinking which affects the backgrounds and the personal approach and appears in their performance.
Moreover, this course provides students with the skills to analyze and assess the practice of diversity in sectors of education, schools, for example schools and university regarding the globalized world and link the educational framework to theories and concepts. This course exemplifies the production of this diversity in an educational context.

It is ultimately the co-relation between these learning outcomes and reflective journal that makes the journal a perfect assessment method. Through a journal, learners are required to analyze experiences, merging them with the available literature and learning objectives.

2.0    Assessment Methods:
2.1     The reflective journal: A Formative Approach
The student will complete a reflective journal similar to a personal weekly record of events. The writing should include a demonstration of how a student understands the concept of diversity in a classroom.  The duration of five weeks is allowed for the students to complete the work before the educator makes the final assessment. The methods include students to write the journal each week and then discuss it online.
The concepts to be assessed though the learning journals include the students conceptualization of what diversity is, in which the learners will expound on what they have understood diversity to be. Students would also discuss their experience of diversity in the learning context. In this area, they would explain how diversity affects them, revealing their attitudes towards persons of diverse backgrounds, religious beliefs and political views. They would discuss whether in their view, this diversity helps them become better, and if not, consider ways in which diversity is a positive concept especially in this era of globalization.

2.2    Blackboard Discussion Forum: A Formative Approach
The other form of assessment for the course is the blackboard discussion. This too, just like the Reflective journal, is a formative method of assessment, in which the learners are given the opportunity to argue points out with their fellow learners. As a formative assessment, it enables the students to understand their progress by gauging their responses against those of other learners. The discussion topics are posted weekly by the teacher and the students carry out their research by reading the course guide and other material. They then construct their responses to the teacher’s questions and reply to postings by other learners.

Validity of Discussion boards in the study process is enhanced by the idea that knowledge is never monopolized, but that even learners can contribute to the learning process. There’s also the possibility of the teacher guiding the discussions to ensure that learners do not veer away from the requirements of the course.

2.3    Case study: A Summative Approach
In addition to the reflective journal and the discussion, assessment for the course includes a case study. The case study topic is determined by the teacher and assigned to the students to work on during the study period and submit at the end of the course cycle. Learners are expected to take on an area and carry out a study.

The case study is a summative form of assessment, being submitted at the end of the cycle and also used to grade learners. Contrary to how reflective journals are used to assess the learners, the case study is not a continuous assessment, and is not entirely used to help students assess their progress, provide feedback to them and the teachers for any adjustments in the course. The submission is at the end of the course and therefore used to measure whether students have qualified for the certificate they have been studying for.

The validity of the case study method is many times questioned due to the fact that only a single case is carried out by the learner. However, the validity of a case study can be guaranteed by making sure that the assessment measures performance against all or the major goals and objectives of a course.

3.0    Assessment Approach: Application of the Reflective Journal
In order for the student to successfully write the reflective journal, ample reading of adequate journals and articles are encouraged to reflect knowledge of this topic.  Encouragement of reading newspapers and watching television programs is also promoted to help widen the students in an array of areas.  The reflective journal is considered as a collection of weekly personal opinions as well as a compilation of professional and academic experiences. It is reflection of the student thoughts about events around the world which connects to his/her daily occurrence and observations. These ideas and thoughts are formed through the online discussion board, face to face conversations and the interesting referencing.

The reflections will be triggered through the use of a topic of discussion, distributed among all the members of a group. Learners will be encouraged to make professional arguments through use of adequate illustrations and proper argumentative approach. Application of learned concepts in real-life situations as well as use of day to day experiences will be encouraged, to give the discussions a realistic approach.

4.0     Strengths
4.1    The Reflective Journal
The student found that by providing a disciplined approach to writing the journal, the learning was retained easier. It became like a diary and the student expressed enjoyment for this type of method. Reading a lot of literature to weekly entries also disciplines the student to keep writing and learning. The journal could include a reference from newspapers, television programs, and workplace documentation. Moreover, illustrations and arguments in general should not be cut and pasted from online tutorials or discussions. This makes students think creatively and also develop their writing skills.

Another thing we see from this mode of assessment is that the learners are adequately involved in the assessment process, and that they understand the requirements of the process. The learning journal tasks will be explained to the students to help them understand not just what is required of them, but also the learning objectives for the week and assignment.

The holistic nature of the method is seen in that the assessor will learn about the learners’ attitude, the level of understanding, achievement of the objectives in addition to the fact that learners clarify their thoughts as they pursue the tasks in the journals. All these are not fragmented concepts, but will be integrated in the same task, unifying the process and giving a clearer picture of the learning progress to the teachers

This process will also be authentic because other that just reflection about one person’s learning experience, the journals will be coupled with a peer to peer discussion of the journal entries. This gives a very genuine learning experience, because learners will definitely show their diversity of opinion, a point from which the teacher can guide further discussion to show for instance the importance of diversity. Authenticity will also be guaranteed through the use of learners personal experiences. This means that the learners will have to genuinely examine themselves, their opinions, attitudes and conceptualization of the journal tasks.

Finally, the tasks will ensure that the students use their time productively. This is contrasted by many other methods through which a learner can be examined by a one sitting exam. On the contrary, writing weekly journal tasks ensure that throughout the five weeks, learners will use their time productively, reflecting on their experiences and reading the course material.

4.2    The Discussion forum
The major strength of the discussion forum is that it gives the learners an opportunity to put their thoughts and learning processes to the test, by placing them side by side with those of their fellow learners. In this sense, the learners will see their weaknesses in the learning process and will be encouraged to improve.
Discussions are also an integral part of the learning process. It affords the learners to understand concepts that may have been elusive during their studies. Areas which the books may have been vague, or the learner may not have been attentive in during exposition by the teachers can be understood through the Discussion with other students.

4.3    Case studies.
Case studies are an important aspect used to grade learners, enabling the assessor to see whether the learner has achieved the learning objectives. They accomplish this by having the learner accomplish a study that constitutes a real problem.
The learners’ ability to apply the learnt strategies and concepts is a holistic view of the level of achievement of the learner. It shows whether the learner is ready for graduation and the job market or not. Correct observation and analysis of the findings thereof

5.0    Weaknesses of the Assessment Methods
The weakness of this type of assessment however is that without a critical mind the reader could easily be persuaded. Therefore, there is need for extra tuition in order to assist the student to develop an analytical thought process; otherwise the learning objectives of the literature review section might not be achieved.
Furthermore, it might not be suitable for students who have other responsibilities such as a part time job or those that are parents.  This is because the overall assessment takes up a lot of their time in actually reading a variety of texts, writing the 600 words and presenting an in-depth dialogue with other learners on a weekly basis. In this regard, would one not just prefer shorter methods, which would still be adequate for self assessment? The obvious resort would use of multiple choice questions or short essays after a week or two.

The other problem connected to reflective writing is that many learners find it extremely difficult or boring to write. Having to sit down every week to analyze read material and personal experience, then latter discuss it with peers is a very useful concept, yet many learners fail to cope with it either due to poor writing or analytical skills. All in all, it is still evident that whatever method is used, learners need to develop their skills, because that is what learning is all about. It would therefore not be appropriate to substitute this method on this ground.

For grading purposes, this assessment method appears difficult, because of the two parts that are involved. The teacher would have to track each student’s posts and comments in the journal and the discussion forum to gain an overview of each learner. This isn’t easy, and students almost always get feedback from their fellows. This peer to peer feed back may not be adequate, therefore demanding the teacher’s deeper involvement in the entire process.

6.0    Observations on the Assessment Methods
Overall, the administering of an assessment to include a reflective journal was a relaxed approach to learning. Following completion of the reflective journal it was clear that the assessment was valid. It clearly demonstrates the students’ learning because it was regularly documented in the journal.  Such information is very vital to the teachers in determining whether to adjust learning methods, or to the faculty in assessing the appropriateness of the course.

The Discussion Boards on the other hand gave learners a further possibility of interacting among themselves and learning from each other. This is to enrich the learning process through peer to peer learning and teaching and diversify the learning atmosphere. The learners are encouraged to gain self confidence in the fact that they too have constructive ideas that can positively be applied.

Whereas the Reflective journal and the Discussion board are formative, being used as a continuous assessment model, to help the learners observe and evaluate their progress, the case study is normally used as a summative method

7.0    Recommendations
It is recommended that more time should have been allowed to really give the students a broader opportunity to explore some of the ideas obtained from the readings. Also, students wrote the journal weekly which many times prevented involvement in the discussion boards. This is because a lot of time is required to carry out the reading, analysis and writing of the journal. We must have it in mind that many of these learners are engaged in other social, economic and political affairs. For instance, some of the learners are parents, others have taken up part time employment and therefore find the amount of time required overwhelmed.
It is also recommended that the learners carry out more than just a single case study, in order to measure their levels more accurately. This will give a better view of the learning process.

The performance of learners should be determined through all the methods. This is because, as we have noted above, the journal and the discussion uses a lot of learners’ time and mental resources. They have to exert themselves every week to meet the requirements of the weekly tasks. Such a step would not just help measure students’ progress more adequately, it would enhance the method, making the learners more deliberate and ensuring they benefit from using the method in their learning experiences.

8.0    Conclusion
To conclude, this report focused on “working with diversity’ course at RMIT.  The report briefly touched on the objectives and concepts as well as the reasons behind the study of this course. This is a course that in the long run prepares the learners for their role in the global village, enhancing their skills and opening their minds to embrace diversity.

The report further discussed the reflective journal, Discussion Boards and Case Studies  as assessment tools, and their application in the course. These tools are seen to be very advantageous, strongly communicating their strengths and ability to fulfill all the requirements of assessment. The methods are valid, holistic and ensure proper self assessment and proper use of time. The advantages and strengths of the methods speak more strongly than the weaknesses, proving that they are appropriate not just for this course, but also for lots of other courses.

The object of this report, which was to evaluate and critically look into assessment methods, was met by analyzing the reflective three tools, through their application in the course Working with Diversity the report has further looked into various observations in the application of the methods and has made recommendations to better the methods.

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