In this unit you will reflect on ways of monitoring, assessing and giving feedback on your students’ language and literacy development. You will learn how continuous monitoring, assessment and feedback can give you insights into your students’ progress, and how these insights can inform your subsequent lesson planning and teaching.
Examinations provide information about students’ achievements once or twice a year and generally focus on their reading and writing skills. However, there are opportunities to monitor, assess and provide feedback on your students’ progress in every lesson. ‘Feedback’ in this context means constructively informing students of their performance in respect of a particular learning objective and guiding them as to how to improve or build on this.
Monitoring, assessment and feedback can relate to many aspects of students’ listening, speaking, reading and writing development. By gathering information on your students in a continuous way, and identifying those students who are experiencing difficulty or those who are ready for further challenges, you can adjust your teaching to better meet the needs of everyone in the class. This unit shows you how teaching, monitoring, assessment and giving feedback can be integrated into your regular classroom practice.
What are your attitudes and practices regarding monitoring, assessment and feedback? Try Activity 1 to find out.
Together with a colleague, read the statements that follow. Decide if you agree or disagree with them either completely or in part. Give reasons for your views.
Teachers are usually too busy during their lessons to monitor their students at the same time.
Pause for thought
Read Resource 1, ‘Monitoring and giving feedback’. Annotate the document as you read it, noting the ideas that you already implement, the ones that appeal to you and that you could easily implement, and any questions that you have. Do this with a colleague and compare your notes, if possible.
Video: Monitoring and giving feedback
The next two activities – which should be undertaken on different days – invite you to purposefully monitor your students as they work.
Give your students some classwork to do independently and silently for approximately 15 minutes. A short textbook-based reading or writing activity would be ideal for this. While your students are working, stand back and observe them. Consider the following questions:
Divide your class into groups of five or six and ask them to do a short talk-based task. This could involve making up a story to accompany a picture or responding to a problem or a controversial question. The group discussion should last no more than 15 minutes. Remind your students how to work politely together, taking turns and listening to one another’s contributions.
Walk around the class, observing and listening to your students as they talk.
Consider the following questions:
Pause for thought
Activities 3 and 4 invited you to observe and monitor your students as they undertook language- and literacy-related tasks individually and in a group.
Watchful monitoring is one of the core skills of an effective teacher because it helps them gauge the extent to which their students make learning gains from the tasks they are set.
Whether such monitoring involves the whole class, small groups or individual students, the following question should be at the forefront of the teacher’s mind: how is this lesson being experienced and understood by my students?
In Case Study 1 you will read about two teachers’ approaches to student assessment and feedback.
Ms Asan teaches Class IV in a rural school near Indore.
Recently I finished teaching ‘’ (‘Bus ke niche bagh’, or ‘A tiger under the bus’).
I decided to follow this by testing my students’ spelling skills. I wrote ten difficult words from the lesson on the blackboard and asked my students to copy them out in their notebooks and prepare to be tested on them the next day.
The following morning, I read out the words in turn and asked my students to write them down. I took in their notebooks, marked their work and returned it to them.
Many students got full marks. Some made spelling mistakes and scored less well. I asked the students with the highest scores to raise their hands, then those with the lowest to raise theirs. I told those who did less well to practise writing the words again at home.
Mr Dubashi teaches Class V in a large school in Kanpur.
I wanted to assess my students’ spelling of the words they had encountered over the last few lessons. I began by announcing: ‘Today we will have a dictation activity.’
I asked my students to work in groups of four. I explained that I would read out five short sentences and that they had to listen to each sentence carefully before they started writing it out. I checked that everyone had understood my instructions. I then dictated the sentences, giving my students time to write them in turn.
When they had finished, I asked my students to discuss their sentences with the other members of their group, comparing their work and making any corrections if necessary. Finally, I told them to compare their sentences with those I had written out on the blackboard.
During the activity, I walked around the classroom and observed who was participating in the discussion, who wrote their sentence correctly the first time and who needed to correct their work subsequently. I noted these observations in my assessment book.
The next day, I described to the whole class the typical spelling problems I noticed in the activity the day before. I did this to ensure that those students who had had difficulties with the task were not made to feel exposed.
I now do an activity of this kind at the end of every topic. My students seem to look forward to it. I have found that it is most effective if I include a student with a higher level of attainment in each group, as they can support the others.
Pause for thought
Ms Asan’s approach to assessment has the advantage of taking very little class time. However, it separates testing from other learning and draws attention to those students who do not perform well. Mr Dubashi’s approach to assessment takes longer, but actively involves his students in this process, incorporates talk for learning, is supportive of those who experience difficulties with spelling and provides helpful feedback afterwards. The spelling test is also more meaningful in that the words are embedded in sentences rather than being assessed out of context. This approach is more likely to result in long term learning gains.
Traditionally, assessment of learning has been considered solely the teacher’s responsibility. Increasingly, however, teachers in many countries have started to realise that students can and should be involved in assessing their own progress. Self-monitoring or self-assessment draws on the ability that students have to judge their own work and identify ways of improving it.
Now read Case Study 2.
Ms Mayuri is a teacher in Patna. Here she describes a self-assessment tool that she has used successfully with her Class V students.
When reading a teaching publication, I learned about something called a ‘marking ladder’. I decided to try it out with my students. In a marking ladder, the student collaborates with me to evaluate a piece of their writing. I set the learning objectives, and we both decide if they are met. [An example is shown in Table 1.]
|My story is set in an imaginary place or time.|
|It describes what can be seen or heard or touched.|
|There are make-believe characters.|
|I used special effects such as magic.|
|I used some made-up words.|
|I used adjectives to create atmosphere.|
|What I could do to improve my story|
With a marking ladder, the student first evaluates themselves (left-hand column) against the learning objectives that I have set. I then assess their work and give them brief written feedback (right-hand column). They then write out what they plan to do next (final row). This process not only engages students in monitoring their progress but gives them additional reading and writing practice.
I can use the assessment ladder with different areas of writing development, whether creative or information-based, and with students of all abilities, adapting their learning objectives accordingly.
Sometimes I pair an older or more able student with a younger or less confident one, to evaluate a piece of work together. My students keep their marking ladders in their exercise books so that I can review their progress over time.
Being involved in their own assessment is very motivating to my students. I have noticed improvements in their work as a result of our two-way written exchanges.
Pause for thought
Using the example in Table 1 as a guide, construct your own marking ladder for the area of writing development that your students are involved in.
Table 2 shows the beginnings of a marking ladder that assesses descriptive writing. You can adapt the ladder to whatever best suits your lesson.
|Writing task||Descriptive writing|
|I make it clear what is being described.|
|I include a variety of adjectives.|
|I use clear, precise language.|
|What I could do to improve my story|
Once you have devised your marking ladder, photocopy it and distribute it among your students. Explain to them how it works, using an example of a completed version if possible.
Try using the ladder over a period of a month or term, ensuring that all your students are given feedback over that period.
Pause for thought
Resource 2, ‘Assessing progress and performance’, provides more information and suggestions on effective assessment practice.
Video: Assessing progress and performance
This unit has focused on ways of integrating monitoring, assessment and feedback activities into your students’ language classes on an ongoing basis. Such practices can provide valuable information on your students’ evolving speaking and writing skills, enabling you to adapt your teaching to match the needs of individuals and the class as a whole. With practice, combining teaching, monitoring, assessment and giving feedback will become a natural part of your role in the classroom.
Improving students’ performance involves constantly monitoring and responding to them, so that they know what is expected of them and they get feedback after completing tasks. They can improve their performance through your constructive feedback.
Effective teachers monitor their students most of the time. Generally, most teachers monitor their students’ work by listening and observing what they do in class. Monitoring students’ progress is critical because it helps them to:
It will also help you as a teacher to decide:
Students improve most when they are given clear and prompt feedback on their progress. Using monitoring will enable you to give regular feedback, letting your students know how they are doing and what else they need to do to advance their learning.
One of the challenges you will face is helping students to set their own learning targets, also known as self-monitoring. Students, especially struggling ones, are not used to having ownership of their own learning. But you can help any student to set their own targets or goals for a project, plan out their work and set deadlines, and self- monitor their progress. Practising the process and mastering the skill of self-monitoring will serve them well in school and throughout their lives.
Most of the time, listening to and observing students is done naturally by teachers; it is a simple monitoring tool. For example, you may:
Make sure that the observations you collect are true evidence of student learning or progress. Only document what you can see, hear, justify or count.
As students work, move around the classroom in order to make brief observation notes. You can use a class list to record which students need more help, and also to note any emerging misunderstandings. You can use these observations and notes to give feedback to the whole class or prompt and encourage groups or individuals.
Feedback is information that you give to a student about how they have performed in relation to a stated goal or expected outcome. Effective feedback provides the student with:
When you give feedback to each student, it should help them to know:
It is important to remember that effective feedback helps students. You do not want to inhibit learning because your feedback is unclear or unfair. Effective feedback is:
Whether feedback is spoken or written in the students’ workbooks, it becomes more effective if it follows the guidelines given below.
Using praise and positive language
When we are praised and encouraged, we generally feel a great deal better than when we are criticised or corrected. Reinforcement and positive language is motivating for the whole class and for individuals of all ages. Remember that praise must be specific and targeted on the work done rather than about the student themselves, otherwise it will not help the student progress. ‘Well done’ is non-specific, so it is better to say one of the following:
Using prompting as well as correction
The dialogue that you have with your students helps their learning. If you tell them that an answer is incorrect and finish the dialogue there, you miss the opportunity to help them to keep thinking and trying for themselves. If you give students a hint or ask them a further question, you prompt them to think more deeply and encourage them to find answers and take responsibility for their own learning. For example, you can encourage a better answer or prompt a different angle on a problem by saying such things as:
It may be appropriate to encourage other students to help each other. You can do this by opening your questions to the rest of the class with such comments as:
Correcting students with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ might be appropriate to tasks such as spelling or number practice, but even here you can prompt students to look for emerging patterns in their answers, make connections with similar answers or open a discussion about why a certain answer is incorrect.
Self-correction and peer correction is effective and you can encourage this by asking students to check their own and each other’s work while doing tasks or assignments in pairs. It is best to focus on one aspect to correct at a time so that there is not too much confusing information.
Assessing students’ learning has two purposes:
Formative assessment enhances learning because in order to learn, most students must:
As a teacher, you will get the best out of your students if you attend to the four points above in every lesson. Thus assessment can be undertaken before, during and after instruction:
When you decide what the students must learn in a lesson or series of lessons, you need to share this with them. Carefully distinguish what the students are expected to learn from what you are asking them to do. Ask an open question that gives you the chance to assess whether they have really understood. For example:
Give the students a few seconds to think before they answer, or perhaps ask the students to first discuss their answers in pairs or small groups. When they tell you their answer, you will know whether they understand what it is they have to learn.
In order to help your students improve, both you and they need to know the current state of their knowledge and understanding. Once you have shared the intended learning outcomes or goals, you could do the following:
Knowing where to start will mean that you can plan lessons that are relevant and constructive for your students. It is also important that your students are able to assess how well they are learning so that both you and they know what they need to learn next. Providing opportunities for your students to take charge of their own learning will help to make them life-long learners.
When you talk to students about their current progress, make sure that they find your feedback both useful and constructive. Do this by:
You will also need to provide opportunities for students to improve their learning. This means that you may have to modify your lesson plans to close the gap between where your students are now in their learning and where you wish them to be. In order to do this you might have to:
By slowing the pace of lessons down, very often you can actually speed up learning because you give students the time and confidence to think and understand what they need to do to improve. By letting students talk about their work among themselves, and reflect on where the gaps are and how they might close them, you are providing them with ways to assess themselves.
While teaching–learning is taking place and after setting a classwork or homework task, it is important to:
The four key states of assessment are discussed below.
Collecting information or evidence
Every student learns differently, at their own pace and style, both inside and outside the school. Therefore, you need to do two things while assessing students:
In all schools across India the most common form of recording is through the use of report card, but this may not allow you to record all aspects of a student’s learning or behaviours. There are some simple ways of doing this that you may like to consider, such as:
Interpreting the evidence
Once information and evidence have been collected and recorded, it is important to interpret it in order to form an understanding of how each student is learning and progressing. This requires careful reflection and analysis. You then need to act on your findings to improve learning, maybe through feedback to students or finding new resources, rearranging the groups, or repeating a learning point.
Planning for improvement
Assessment can help you to provide meaningful learning opportunities to every student by establishing specific and differentiated learning activities, giving attention to the students who need more help and challenging the students who are more advanced.
Except for third party materials and otherwise stated below, this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licence (http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/ by-sa/ 3.0/). The material acknowledged below is Proprietary and used under licence for this project, and not subject to the Creative Commons Licence. This means that this material may only be used unadapted within the TESS-India project and not in any subsequent OER versions. This includes the use of the TESS-India, OU and UKAID logos.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce the material in this unit:
Table 1: adapted from Symons, V. and Currans, D. (2008) ‘Using marking ladders to support children’s self-assessment in writing’, Campaign for Learning, http://www.campaignforlearning.org.uk.
Every effort has been made to contact copyright owners. If any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.
Video (including video stills): thanks are extended to the teacher educators, headteachers, teachers and students across India who worked with The Open University in the productions.