MY EVALUATION PHILOSOPHY
My evaluation approach
My evaluation approach is learning-centered. My evaluation strategies promote learning rather than performance. Learning entails primarily intellectual and personal changes that students undergo as they develop new understandings and reasoning abilities. To me, grading becomes not a means to rank but a way to communicate with students about their learning process.
I emphasize formative feedback over summative and I help my students develop metacognition skills so that they can constantly reflect about their own learning process.
I conceive evaluation mainly as formative and I provide feedback all throughout the course. I firmly believe that students learn by doing and even failing. So, I create a learning environment, where students encounter safe yet challenging conditions in which they can try, fail, receive feedback, and try again without facing a summative evaluation.
My ultimate goal is to help my students develop strong metacognition skills so that they can think about their own learning process and use the standards of the discipline to recognize shortcomings and correct their reasoning as they go. Metacognition is the ability to be aware of one’s own learning processes. It means being able to recognize whether one is learning and how to improve one’s learning.
I always ask my students to think about metacognition as their "inner coach," their awareness and knowledge of how they learn and how they will control their learning process. For this purpose, I provide my students with both general strategies and discipline-specific tools to be able to control and monitor their own progress.
Students have different learning styles, they are generally in different positions of –Perry’s model of- cognitive development, and they usually have different perceptions of knowledge. Thus, I design different evaluation tools and I combine various assessment types in all my courses. For example, I resort to class-room tests, papers, projects, class participation, oral presentations, portfolios, and take-home final exams.
My course syllabi extensively inform my students about the evaluation tools, the evaluation criteria I will use, my expectations for each evaluation component, the grade weight, and dates. I also go over these expectations several times in class. I have also included a section about frequently asked questions about my evaluation policy on my website.
For each test, I do one or two review classes, where students bring questions and comments. We go over the questions on the test bank, and I discuss any topic which may need further explanation. I also give my students a question to work either individually or in small groups similar to the ones that may be on the test. They work with the syllabus and I write the evaluation criteria on the board. Then, students read out their answers and other students comment on those answers based on the evaluation criteria. I also give my feedback on those answers.
Additionally, I give my students some answers which I wrote for them to grade according to the evaluation criteria as if they were me. This gives students ample opportunities to practice for the test and to know exactly what is expected of them.
I do a similar activity for their term papers. We go over the expectations and evaluation criteria. They practice writing individually and in small groups and they both give and receive feedback to and from their peers. I also provide them with papers I wrote for them to review and grade.
When I design my courses, I always start from the end. First, I plan where I want my students to be at the end of the course. I think of the kind of intellectual and personal development that I want my students to enjoy in this class, and what I want them to be able to do when they finish the course.
Then, I carefully design the class activities which will help them reach those goals. Finally, I design evaluation tools –both formative and summative- which will permit me and my students to assess whether they have reached the course objectives and learning outcomes. For this purpose, I decide on the evidence I will need to collect about the nature and progress of their development. In other words, I align the course objectives and outcomes, the learning activities, and the assessment.
I strongly believe that students should have an active role in their evaluation process. As far as compatible with Departmental, Faculty, and University polices and standards, I try to adopt co-evaluation practices, where I share –at least part of- the responsibility of evaluation with students. I try to promote many opportunities during the term to allow students to negotiate some aspects of their evaluation. For example, after every test I devote the whole or part of the class where I return the tests for students to read my comments and feedback, and to discuss them with me.
I also always work with test banks created by the students. Every four or five classes, I ask my students to contribute questions to the test bank. They work in small groups and they discuss what they think were the most important topics and issues dealt with in the prior four or five classes. Then, they propose questions for the test bank. If the questions have a general consensus they are part of the test bank. Finally, for the tests I choose questions from the test bank. The purpose is threefold. First, it helps students reflect critically on the topics we have discussed. Second, it gives them more control on the evaluation instruments. Third, it democratizes the already asymmetric professor-student relationship, which is so pervasive in the North American college classroom. The result is that test bank questions are generally challenging, rigorous, and intellectually stimulating. Many students perform with excellence in the exams as they have taken ownership of an important part of their evaluation process.
Challenging evaluation tools
All my evaluation tools have in common the fact that they are challenging and demanding. I truly believe that I have to challenge my students in order to promote deep learning. So, I design evaluation strategies and instruments that challenge students and which take them out of their comfort zones, by proposing activities that require high level critical thinking, critical academic reading, and writing skills. My evaluation strategies also require hard work and extensive in-class and outside class preparation. Students not accustomed to this extensive preparation may show resistance and discomfort. I encourage my students to discuss their feelings about the evaluation and at the same time I urge them to be accountable for the individual contributions to their learning process and development.
I always return papers and tests in the class immediately following the deadline for the submission of the paper or the day when the students wrote the test. While this is a challenge to me given the number of students I have in all my courses, I find that providing immediate feedback helps my students understand their learning process better.