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For this paper I using the data that I collected for module one on my school, School Number 8, in Paterson, NJ. The information that was collected gave me a comprehensive idea of the types of assessments that are given to Ells. The school serves students from kindergarten through the eighth grade. The total student population is 507 students. Of those students 91% are Hispanic and 43.2% have limited English proficiency (2017). Using guiding principles presented by Hurley and Blake (2000), I will evaluate the assessments in your evaluation framework and their appropriateness for ELLs.
Evaluation of Three Assessments
Though my school utilizes varying forms of assessing students, for the purpose of this paper I selected three: reflection journals, group projects/presentations and think-pair-share. Each one of the assessment strategies above are used to check for a student’s understanding or lack of before, during and after the lesson. Frequency and the type of assessment are equally important when checking for student understanding.
The first of the assessment strategies is journal reflections. Students write their reflections on a lesson, such as what they learned, what caused them difficulty, strategies they found helpful, or other lesson-related questions or comments. By reading student work teachers can identify class and individual misconceptions and successes on the lessons given.
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Journal reflections checks all the boxes of the guiding assessment principle created by Hurley and Tinajero (2001). This type of assessment especially focuses on the guiding principle that states the assessment is helpful to “teachers in making instructional decisions by revealing insights into the effectiveness of one or more of the following: teaching methods, classroom environmental features, selected materials, grouping strategies, learning of the content” (Hurley, & Tinajero, 2001). Simply put using reflection journals as part of the classroom routine for assessments helps the teacher by showing them exactly what information the student understood and what content needs to be retaught, while at the same time reducing the students affective filter being that they are writing their thoughts on paper and not saying them in person which can be an intimidating situation for anyone.
This is my favorite assessment strategy because students are partnered with peers that have varying levels of English proficiency. This allows the students to learn the content all the while giving them the opportunity to practice their English language skills in an environment where they feel safe (Tutor, Aceves, & Reese, 2016). I usually do not assign group presentations until at least mid-year where I have a better understanding of the class learning style as well as the individual learning style and ability of each student.
Reviewing the guiding assessment principle, I noticed that this particular assessment is greatly beneficial to students, the school and the parents because it grows out of an authentic learning activity such as creating maps and written reports, that requires students to perform real-world application tasks.
For this assessment style students take a few minutes to think about the question or prompt presented. Then, they pair with an assigned partner to compare thoughts before sharing with the whole class. This assessment has a specific objective linked purpose, which is to give students a chance to discuss what they know with their peers and talk about what questions they still have on the topic to then present them to the class as a whole (Hurley, & Tinajero, 2001). This assessment is aligned with state standards and is used a form of alternative assessment.
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Some advantages of think-pair-share assessments are that preparation for this type of assessment is generally easy, the student can ask different levels of questions to demonstrate their critical thinking skills. The teacher can walk around the classroom to assess student understanding by listening to the group discussion and then collecting responses at the end. This type of assessment can sometimes motivate students who otherwise would not participate in class.
Based on my evaluation the assessment that I consider most appropriate is the journal reflection. My reasons are: this is a type of informal assessment that can be built into the classroom routine, the students can use the journal to monitor their own progress as self-learners and the journals can be used as concrete sources of information for both the student and the teacher to see the learners’ progress over time (Hurley, & Tinajero, 2001). Reflection journals are tools that teachers can use to identify aspects of the learner’s performance and provide corrective feedback that can be used to guide the learner.
Proper implementation of reflection journals is key in order to adequately assess the learner. The student must be provided with clear expectations of what the task is and a timeframe in which it has to be completed, asking the student to provide examples of what they learned and what they were confused by is a good way to ensure that the student develops a detail oriented work ethic. Secondly, and what I believe is most important, the student must be allotted time to reflect and self-assess their performance.
Using information from the Guiding Assessment Principle and my own experience in the classroom, the assessment I consider least appropriate for ELLs is the think-pair-share strategy. Though I utilize think-pair-share in my classroom, I have noticed that the students are never fully engaged in the discussion with their peers, either they do not like who they are paired with, do not feel like participating or introverts, this then causes levels of anxiety that are not conducive to a safe learning environment. This assessment has a specific objective-linked purpose but without at least 90% student engagement the assessment will not properly evaluate the students as a whole (Hurley, & Tinajero, 2001).
With the growing ELLs population teachers need to not only know their subject areas, they need to know how to teach a student whose first language is not English, how to evaluate student learning and how to utilize the students background knowledge to create lessons that produce learning. Proper assessment of ELLs helps teachers create instructional plans that develop the student’s language and content learning.
According to my evaluation utilizing the table of the Guiding Assessment Principle by Sandra Hurley and Josefina Tinajero (2001) I can confidently say that the three assessments: journal reflection, group projects/presentations, and think-pair-share are all appropriate to utilize in the ELL classroom for checking content knowledge and English proficiency understanding for each student.
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