Fortnightly Focus #10 – assessing writing
Although it is Wednesday and two weeks’ after my previous fortnightly focus post, there is definitely a large amount of procrastination going on as I write it! We’re in exam week at Active Language and as well as a pile of marking to do, I also have three sets of reports to write…so I’ll try to make this brief and then undoubtedly look for something else to do, like the dusting!
Here are my thoughts on three different approaches we can take to marking learners’ writing and some advantages and disadvantages of each. These are very general comments, as in each case the response of the learners to the different style of assessment will depend on many factors, such as their level, age, interest in learning English and motivation to improve.
Old-school – learner hands in text, teacher grabs a pen and marks it
- You can do it anywhere – on your commute, in the staffroom, on the sofa
- It’s a quick and effective way to highlight either errors (to encourage self-correction) or language used well
- As you will probably give it back in a subsequent class, learners can immediately ask for clarification if corrections or comments are unclear
- It’s a tangible record of progress and learners can easily refer back to previous work to improve the next time round
- It could be a lot of work for the teacher depending on how many classes you have and how often you set written tasks
- Less motivated learners need to be trained in appreciating the work which goes into marking – perhaps some sort of follow-up activity when the corrected text is received?
Totally techy – Learner emails word document to teacher, who replies with feedback in the form of a Jing video plus returns a corrected or annotated version of the text
- Paper-free…gotta love those trees 🙂
- In Word, it’s easy to annotate the text using the track changes option
- Responding using Jing allows the teacher to comment on the text and point out strong and weak points whilst speaking
- It also provides learners with an audio commentary on the text thereby practising other skills
- How aware will learners be of the corrections made?
- It is perhaps less likely that they will refer to this text when working on a subsequent one
Peer assessment – learners are given a guided task to correct a classmate’s text
- If learners are well prepared for this task, it means less marking for the teacher
- It makes learners more aware of how texts are marked and, especially important for exam preparation classes, allows them to get inside the mind of the marker and gain a deeper understanding of what he is looking for in a good text
- It makes learners aware of more language – a teacher would be unlikely to rephrase a correct sentence in learner’s text but through peer assessment they will read the language their peers are using
- The learners may still want the teacher to look at their texts as the ‘voice of authority’ on corrections
- Learners need to be trained to be critically constructive – they may feel less comfortable receiving a low mark from a classmate
- It needs to be seen as a valuable task for learners to take time to do it well
I’m going to leave it there for now as I would like to get some reports written before #ELTchat tonight! So, a bit of a repeat for this fortnight’s focus as I’m going back to basics with classroom management with my tricky 10-year-olds – baby steps in each activity, with copious amounts of points…let’s see how it goes! There are only ten of them in the class, but the range in level, motivation to participate and ability to control themselves is incredible.