February 19, 2021

Using Your Evaluation Time Productively (Part 3 of 3)

The Teachers’ Corner:

Today’s blog is entitled “Using an In-Class Student Assessment Folder”.  It is the third entry in a series of three on the topic of using your marking time productively.

In blog entry #11, posted on February 12, 2021, I explained the use of the “Error Ladder” as a way of teaching grammar and as an aide to students in trying to avoid making the same errors time after time.  In this final entry, I am expanding using the “Error Ladder” technique to something I called the “In-Class Student Assessment Folder” which includes the “Error Ladder.”

Briefly, the “In-Class Student Assessment Folder” is simply a collection of all assignments and tests that a teacher has marked and handed back to the students.  Those assignments contain very valuable information emanating from the comments teachers have made on the assignments and, more demonstrably, the level of performance assigned in the form of a mark or grade.  That grade could also have the information I talked about in blog entry #7, posted on January 15, 2021, with means, medians, modes and range of marks for that assignment — again for the student to be able to compare himself with his classmates for purposes of decision-making.

In addition to “codifying” a teacher’s comments and the marks a teacher has assigned, if used properly the “In-Class Student Assessment Folder” can provide the student with a good deal of information on areas where he/she has done very well but also where there are consistent patterns that result in lower grades than the student would have preferred.  For instance, if three tests contain, in a teacher’s comments, statements about adding more specific detail to an answer or the need for a better opening or closing statement in each paragraph, the student can learn to focus on these particular shortcomings in the upcoming test or assignment.  In a more general sense, too, the range of marks should remind students of the topics or units to be more carefully reviewed when coming up to a summative assignment or to a formal examination.

To help students encode information, in addition to the “Error Ladder” I devised something called “A Student Reminder Sheet”.  After each major test or assignment I asked the students to review the materials and to add to the cumulative list one or two reminders of items that they wanted to include in an answer or wanted to avoid the next time (not including the grammatical errors that were part of the “Error Ladder”).

In an attempt to ensure the use of both the “Error Ladder” and the “Student Reminder Sheet” I let the students have both with them when writing a test — and suggested they take out the whole file when they were completing a major assignment.  I also advised them strongly that, when proofreading their answers, they scan them as well for the entries on both the “Error Ladder” and the “Student Reminder Sheet.” 

The task of keeping the “In-Class Student Assessment Folder” is certainly made easier if a teacher is  fortunate enough to teach all his/her classes in a single room.  When that was not an option, I kept each class’s folders in a box I carted into the class when I was handing back tests or assignments.

Clearly this kind of technique was more suitable for students in the Intermediate and Senior Divisions (Grade 7-12 in Ontario’s terms) but I am certain that the teachers in earlier grades, always known for their creativity, could devise alternatives that would work for younger students.

Did it work?  All I can say is: “I believe it did” if only because I saw most of my students using both the “Error Ladder” and the “Student Reminder Sheet” when writing tests and preparing assignments.  I did feel that the errors I taught were in decline over the course of the year and they were heeding my comments on later assignments.

What I do know is this:  I felt much better that I was able to confirm for myself that my hours of marking were not entirely wasted.  I was doing the best I could to direct students to learning from their mistakes — and my marking.  The rest, of course, was up to them.

Dr. Dan

If you are looking for more resources on this topic, a short eBook on these techniques (and individualized coaching if you wish) can be purchased from our website.