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Assesment Pass - Fail - Maybe

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I teach in a classroom setting as well as on the snow. The pass, fail, maybe concept is not new but it has always bothered me.

In short, “Assessments should not be a Pass/Fail status. They ought to be a barometer by which you measure what your students have achieved and whether instructors need to alter the course or re-teach. Assessments need to be only about helping the student grow.”

Help me, what do you think? Is an assessment in a classroom a measurement of whether the student meets the “grade” or only a process used to help the student grow and or a means to gauge the classroom content and the instructor? Is an assessment only a way to measure what we need to re-teach? Is this a change in our culture? Do we do the same thing in our ski teaching? I note the Asian & European cultures desire a different approach to ski teaching from our approach in the US.

I hope this "peaks" more than a little interest.
post #2 of 11
There's a difference between assessment and evaluation.
Assessment provides a way to measure students' demonstration of learning. It helps us answer the questions: "How much did they learn?" and "How well did they learn it?" and "How well did we teach it?"

Evaluation is the process through which teachers judge the quality of work -- their own or their students'. There are two types of evaluative strategies: 1) Formative evaluations, which involve a continual stream of reflection and feedback, and allow the educator or student to continually adjust and improve their work while it's ongoing. 2) Traditionally, teachers have emphasized summative evaluations, where feedback is gathered only after instruction has been completed. Both strategies are necessary to provide for effective curriculum assessment and student education.
Assessment and Evaluation Defined

Assessment is the act of gathering information on a daily basis in order to understand individual students' learning and needs.

Evaluation is the culminating act of interpreting the information gathered for the purpose of making decisions or judgements about students' learning and needs, often at reporting time.

Assessment and evaluation are integral components of the teaching-learning cycle. The main purposes are to guide and improve learning and instruction. Effectively planned assessment and evaluation can promote learning, build confidence, and develop students' understanding of themselves as learners.

Assessment data assists the teacher in planning and adapting for further instruction. As well, teachers can enhance students' understanding of their own progress by involving them in gathering their own data, and by sharing teacher-gathered data with them. Such participation makes it possible for students to identify personal learning goals.

This curriculum advocates assessment and evaluation procedures which correspond with curriculum objectives and instructional practices, and which are sensitive to the developmental characteristics of early adolescents. Observation, conferencing, oral and written product assessment, and process (or performance) assessment may be used to gather information about student progress.
(Some info gathered in a Google search of Assessment Evaluation.)
post #3 of 11
In the late '90s I developed an assessment tool for PSIA called the Professional Development Portfolio to support candidates' preparation for their evaluation in Certification Exams. Unfortunately, the notion that frequent assessment leads to success at evaluation never really caught on.
post #4 of 11
Originally Posted by nolo
In the late '90s I developed an assessment tool for PSIA called the Professional Development Portfolio to support candidates' preparation for their evaluation in Certification Exams. Unfortunately, the notion that frequent assessment leads to success at evaluation never really caught on.
Goal orientation versus the joy of the journey, do you think?

I actually have the Portfolio, Nolo.

I'd rather improve both my skiing and my teaching over time and receive insight and assessment along the way. It is nice, however, to have my thresholds acknowledged by standardized evaluation. It gives me a chance to pause and celebrate, which is vitally important.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
There's a difference between assessment and evaluation

Actually the words are interchangeable in my dictionary and in fact cross reference each other.

The point is, in all levels of education today, Pass/Fail grading if you will, is not acceptable. Teachers are being asked to “grade” the student with “new” symbols that will not hurt the student’s feelings, both children and adults. Haven’t we taken this a little too far? If a student doesn’t measure up isn’t it the student’s responsibility to either make changes or accept they just can’t cut it. Maybe they simply don’t have the talent it takes to be a brain surgeon. Are we beyond the pale in asking our students to accept responsibility?
post #6 of 11
Actually the words are interchangeable in my dictionary and in fact cross reference each other.
In educational practice, the words have acquired different meanings than common usage.

What age students are you talking about? I went to a college that had grades but didn't communicate them to the students unless their work in a class was below the C standard. After the semester, a pink slip in the mailbox meant you had a six week assessment in that class and it had better be passing, or you would be invited to leave the college. I never found out what grades I made in my classes until 6 weeks after graduation. Like any system, we students became accustomed to it. Its purpose was to remove grades from the forefront and focus students on learning.

I went to another college that had adopted Oxford's "don rag," where the student's instructors would meet to discuss said student in a conference room, to which the student was invited to audit. Yikes!!! That was sort of like the post-certification exam interview.

Educators are forever trying to find the perfect system to reward and reinforce student learning, we might as well call it El Dorado.
post #7 of 11
What we try to do in ski teaching (I think) is set up the environment where the assessment and the evaluation are ongoing, and pleasant. Working with both process and results, while making each compelling and fun, it's a wonderful environment for effective learning. I don't think ski teaching has always been this way, and sometimes it's still not. But the model of the past 30 years or so, based on guest satisfaction and interests has led naturally to the a more pleasant program.

How do we do it? I don't know how all do it. But I do it by managing the criteria for success in each task. In other words, in recreational sports where there is no real investment (other than ego-investment), the standards can be all over the map and respond very effectively to reality. Once students realize that they can vary their criteria, they have a much easier time with realistic and relative assessment and evaluation.

It's too early in the morning for me to be talking like this. I just hurt my brain.
post #8 of 11
I was particularly frustrated in law school with the grading system. There is 1 exam per semester per class and that is your grade. After my first semester, I went to my contracts teacher to discuss the particular grade I had received. He really could not explain to me why I got that particular grade. I believe there was some quota system or bell shaped curve model where statistically most of the people ended up with a C or so. There was no feedback on why you received the grade you did, how you could do better in the future and I am not sure whether the exam reflected how much people knew about the subject.

I do not believe that the grades I received in law school meant much of anything. I received higher grades than I probably deserved in several classes. There was no clear standard for anything.

The law school grading system was in sharp contract to undergraduate school where the tests measured whether you knew the material and could apply it to various test problems. There were no bell shaped curved grading systems in the science classes. If everyone got every problem right, everyone got an A.

I guess my point is that pass/fail may very well work in certain situations.
In the right situation, pass/fail can give students the freedom to learn, explore and understand without the resulting pressure of getting a specific grade. If there are going to be specific grades, then the standards and meanings for those grades should be clear for the student to understand.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Weems is absolutely right; we have made the classroom and the snow room much more pleasant for our students in the last 20 years or so. I ask, in our attempt to be pleasant, has the accountability of both the student and the teacher been compromised? Maybe a better way to put it is the teacher/instructor compromising the real education of the student in an effort to present a more pleasant environment. I am sure we all have war stories of a teacher or professor dividing the class for grades, or not revealing grades until it is too late for the student to recover, or simply giving a pass/fail without the student understanding where and how they measure up to absolutely anything.

The education system today has tweaked itself to the point; we are behind the rest of the world. Maybe accountability isn’t so bad after all. Understand of course, our students need to be respected while educated. Are we doing our students a disservice by not insisting on accountability in the classroom and on the snow? Do we tend to let things slide rather than ask for optimum? I saw the other day in the paper where the British have come full circle and are back to the 3 R’s with a simple grading system of A’s etc.

What say you?
post #10 of 11
Just for clarity, are we discussing the assessment and/or evaluation of clients in some or all of the:

a. which ski class do they belong in?

b. "here, have a certificate for being such a good skier" goal setting (Japanese model)?

c. deciding what to teach them?


Are we discussing the assessment and/or evaluation of ourselves and other qualified or pre-qualified instructors?
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Pick your interest if you like. What peeked my original question if you will is in teaching, not just ski teaching mind you, we seem to have decided accountability of the student no longer matters. Pass/Fail is out and little symbols of nicety are in. The more I think about it, the more I believe we do the same on the snow. I actually started the question from a classroom setting. Unfortunately, many do not have the classroom setting on a yearly basis to see the changes.
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