Working toward Self-Evaluation

Working toward Self-Evaluation

Patricia Cranton (Penn State University at Harrisburg, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-745-9.ch001
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Abstract

I have not met many educators who say that they enjoy the assessment and grading of learners’ work, or find it rewarding. In my research on authentic teaching, when I asked participants what they did not like about teaching, the most common response was that they did not like grading. It was not that they minded giving feedback or comments; most people found giving feedback to be a natural and satisfying part of their practice, but they did not like “giving grades.” They worried about fairness, subjectivity, and the power inherent in being the one who judges the work of another person. They worried about “giving grades” acting as an obstacle to a genuine relationship with their learners, and they worried about students being focused on “getting grades” rather than learning.
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1.1 Kinds Of Evaluation Of Learning

Instructional design and evaluation texts have long described the different kinds of tests available to educators (multiple choice, true-false, essay, short answer, and the like) and advised us on when to use each. There is nothing new here. But perhaps we can look at the same thing through a slightly different lens and incorporate self-evaluation into the system.

1.1.1 Objectively-Scored Assessments

Objectively-scored assessments are those for which two people grading the test using an answer key, will get the same number of right answers. Included as objectively-scored tests are multiple-choice, true-false, and some short answer tests (such as fill-in-the blank tests where there is only one possible word or phrase considered to be right, or problem-solving questions where only the answer and not the work leading to the answer is evaluated). Checklists sometimes pose as objectively-scored assessments, but two people using the same checklist and observing the same performance do not necessarily come to the same conclusion.

Objectively-scored assessments are sometimes called “objective tests” since they look objective, but this only exacerbates one of the greatest potential weaknesses of this assessment strategy—they have the illusion of objectivity, and therefore it is difficult to critically question the strategy in general or even one instrument in particular. Our social world is still primarily built around the notion that “objective is good,” that rational is better than irrational or extrarational, and that we should be striving to nail down the right answer in our endeavors. It is this thinking that leads people, including educators, to value objectively-scored assessments. However, there are some things to consider here. Some person (educator or subject-matter expert) chooses which content areas to evaluate. Someone chooses which questions to ask. Someone formulates the actual questions. And someone creates the key that contains the right answers. In each of these steps, subjective judgment is involved. This is not a problem per se, if the person creating the assessment is knowledgeable in both the subject and test construction practice, but it is not objective in the way that we are led to believe. When we realize that no evaluation of learning is completely objective and therefore can be critiqued and questioned, then we become open to understanding and improving the evaluation process.

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