The following four-step process will help you plan a small action research project to explore your questions about assessment, implement action plans for designing performance assessments and providing feedback to students, and collect information to assess your instructional innovations. Before you begin this section, you can go to About Action Research for an introduction to the process of designing and conducting action research projects. If you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project from any one of the eight workshop sessions as an assignment.
If you would like to focus on assessment for your action research project, use the following questions and examples to help frame your thinking and shape your project.
- What issue concerning assessment do you want to describe, document, and investigate? For example, you could look at ways of simultaneously assessing multiple goal areas of the national standards. You could look at ways of designing rubrics that address students' creativity and risk-taking with language, as well as their grammatical accuracy. You could also look at assessments that capture students' abilities in areas that are not typically assessed, such as academic content knowledge in a content-based lesson, involvement in the target language community outside the classroom, or the ability to make cultural and language comparisons. This will be the focus of your action research project.
- Why is performance assessment important to you as a teacher? How have you planned performance assessments in the past? How do you want to change that approach and why? If you have not carried out performance assessments in the past, why not? What has been your experience with designing informal and formal assessments? What has been your experience with rubrics? Are you satisfied with the ways in which you provide students with feedback during assessments? Why or why not?
- What is your research question concerning assessment? The research question will help you investigate your area of focus and understand it better. For example:
- How could I use rubrics that capture student creativity and risk-taking with the language? How should I develop these rubrics, and how would they differ from what I am currently using?
- How would my students react to performance-based assessments? How do they feel about these assessments as compared to traditional textbook chapter tests?
- How could I involve my students in setting performance criteria and identifying important task components for a rubric for a particular task?
- If my students were allowed to suggest assessments, would they select traditional types of assessments or would they select performance-based alternatives? How would student performance differ on self-selected assessments versus traditional assessments?
- If I worked with other teachers to develop end-of-unit summative assessments that provide comparable information across levels, how could this information be used to help assess our program's curriculum and articulation?
- What is the action plan for carrying out your project? Depending on your action research question, the following are some questions you might ask yourself to help you develop an action plan:
- How will I go about developing the rubrics I need?
- What questionnaires might I develop to query students on their assessment preferences?
- How long will I collect information on my project, since students may need time to get used to a new procedure?
- How will I record student performances on assessments so that they can be easily compared over time?
- How will I prepare students to discuss their views on assessment in pairs or small groups? How will I observe their discussions?
- What information will you need to collect to answer your research question and assess your project? For example, you could take field notes of critical incidents, ask a colleague to assess videotaped student performances and later compare their assessment with your own, use student questionnaires to gauge reactions to your rubrics and assessments, or gather information about several student performances over time. You should have at least two sources of information.
- How much time will you allot for your action plan? That is, when and for how long do you plan to collect information before you're ready to begin analyzing it? Develop a timeline for implementing your action plan.
- After collecting your information, how will you analyze it? That is, how will you organize and review the information you have collected to understand it better and help you answer your research question? For example, will you use percentages based on responses to a questionnaire, summaries of interview data, or comparisons of rubrics ratings over several administrations of a performance-based assessment?
- How will you display the information so that it can be shared with others? For example, you could use charts, graphs, and/or tables. The goal is to organize your data in a way that presents a clear description of what you investigated and answers your research question.
Note: The final step of the action research project is to reevaluate your teaching practice based on your research data. Because it takes time to complete an action research project, it may not be possible to do this step during the course of this workshop. However, if you are taking this workshop for credit, you will need to complete one action research project during or after the course of the workshop to submit as an assignment.
If you are taking the workshop for graduate credit, submit your completed action research project on any one of the eight session topics.
- Based on what you learned through your data analysis, how will you rethink your assessment practices? What changes will you make to your lessons the next time you design assessments? If you had to research your classroom assessment practices again, what changes would you make to your action research plan?
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