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Category Archives: record keeping

By Peter Preston, Poland

Teachers do calculate the average score from tests, but then nothing serious is done with it. Even when the average score is close to the pass mark little statistical comment is made about the glaring problem that this represents. For example, if the average and the pass mark are the same and the population is normally distributed around the average, this means that 50% of the students fail. Can it be considered acceptable for 50% of the candidates to fail an end-of-the-year examination or even worse an end-of-the-course examination?

In fact at our college the last third-year UoE exam failed 80% of the students. Now you would think that a statistically-minded person would immediately start asking questions about validity of the exam. Construct validity – did the items set test the points intended to be tested? Course validity – did the items tested figure in the course syllabus? Is there a proper tie-up between the course syllabus and the test specifications (if the latter exist at all)? Did the distribution of correct responses discriminate between the weak and strong candidates? Were the items either too easy [not in this case] or too difficult? Is there any objective reference to competence standards built into the teaching programme? To ask just a few relevant questions.

I would love to hear that other institutions do use statistical analysis of exam data and look at the variance between different exam sittings using the same exam or different ones, but I wonder if small institutes can ever bring together the required expertese to carry out such work either before the exam goes live or afterwards. It would be great to conduct a poll on this matter to try to assess the use of statistics in the analysis of exam data at as many institutes as possible.

Peter Preston's students in Poland

My own experience inclines me to believe that exams are in fact not so much an educational evaluation of the work being done as a policy instrument to give face validity to the programme. As such one does not need to worry about the quality of the exam since one can adjust the results before publication. Or in the case of my institute the exam can be repeated by order from above until the teachers get the message.

I do not like the cynical manipulation of exam data, so having good quality statistical information and quality control of all documents involved in the course would be the start to a reevaluation of the course and teaching methods. By accurate assessment at the beginning of a course it should be possible to predict the level students could get to after a given number of teaching hours, taking into account the realities of life. By keeping proper statistical records over a few years one would accumulate powerful information. This is what insurance companies do to calculate their premiums.

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>By Frank Holes, Jr

Starting your class on the right foot each day is very important to both you and the students. There are certain expectations you will have, be they required materials (texts, folders, gym clothes), basic supplies (pencils/paper), or behaviors (on time, in seats, working on opening activities). You are going to want these expectations met every day.

We designed a simple set of 5 rules to start out every class. These are easy to remember and easy to keep track of. Several of our teachers use a variation of the 5 rules to start their classes, and you may feel free to adapt these to your class. These are the rules I use in English class:

Rule 1: Students must be in their seats when class begins. In some schools, classes begin (and are dismissed) by a bell. Some classes begin at a specific time. Still other classes are started by a
particular signal from the teacher.

Rule 2: Students must have a writing instrument. Again, different teachers have different expectations, be it pencil or pen or whatever. For me, it doesn’t matter as long as it s dark enough to read. I only balk at silver, gold, white, or any other light or fluorescent color (hot pink or yellow for example).

Rule 3: Students must have their folder out on their desk. Each of our classes requires students to keep important papers, notes, and other course artifacts. Some teachers allow students to keep these, and others provide a location in the room for folders.

Rule 4: Students must have all required materials for class that day. To reduce the number of times students ask me about what they need for the day’s class, I will either write the materials list on the board or put it on the class announcements on our TV (watch for the article on creating a class cable TV network our upcoming March issue).

Rule 5: Students must be working on the class warm up activity. In English class, students write out Daily Oral Language (DOL) sentences, practicing proofreading skills. On the edge of each day’s entry are the numbers 1 through 5, making it easy to grade. All you have to do is circle the appropriate number.

Again, we give each student a daily grade of points (1-5). Some teachers have only four rules and one rule is worth 2 points. You can change up and set your own rules and create an easy to grade set of points to fit your own classroom.

After a few weeks of practice, the checking of daily points becomes a student job. One student from each group (the RECORDER) gets the weekly responsibility to check the students’ daily points and circle the proper number. The teacher is freed up for other activities, and you only need to spot check through the room. This way I can record the daily points only once every two weeks and they are already tallied up for me.

Find Frank Holes, Jr.’s website at: www.starteaching.com/writing.htm