Targeting Assessment to Improve Performance Mariana Bevilacqua Moreira, MSc email@example.com Pan-American School of Porto Alegre (PASPOA), Porto Alegre, Brazil
Assessment is crucial to education. Teachers must use assessment data to help guide their instruction in order to meet the needs of all learners. Educators who embrace this will be better prepared to meet student’s diverse needs through differentiation and students will certainly acquire the benefits and rewards from increased learning and achievement.
Educators can improve achievement for all of their students by applying formative assessments, i. e., the information about student learning which is obtained and used to modify instruction (Douglas G. Wren, 2008).
External standardized tests that feature so prominently on the school landscape these days, well-designed classroom assessment and grading practices can provide the kind of specific, personalized, and timely information needed to guide both learning and teaching (McTighe and O’Connor, 2005).
Moreover, assessment must be used as a tool to evaluate each student’s level and then to establish the needs of each student individually if successful differentiation is to be achieved. Teachers can successfully use results to design and implement instruction to provide each student with the information, skills, lessons and activities that will enable them to develop as a learner. (McTighe & O’Connor, 2005).
Undoubtedly, assessment is becoming increasingly important in elementary grades, not only because administrators and parents want more detailed information about children’s early literacy achievement and progress, but also for teachers to get acquainted with students´ performance.
With the goal to identify student´s strengths and weaknesses, an Internal Portuguese Language Standardized Test pool was designed to enable teachers to use a systematic assessment tool that allows: (a) improvement of learning performance outcomes, (b) better judgment on teaching practices and knowledge building processes, (c) identification of skills required to acquire knowledge and learning (d), targeting individual needs of each student, therefore determining individualized instructions, (e) checking abilities and disabilities to positively intervene in the learning process, (f) developing an evaluative culture that encourages systematic control over the process and results for teaching Portuguese language, (g) developing an assessment instrument designed to assess, analyze and modify Portuguese Language teaching processes, (h) to provide administrators with qualitative and quantitative database that contribute to improvement and reorientation of teaching methods and (i) familiarizing students to participate in an evaluative performance exercise in Portuguese Language, as there is no standardized test in Brazil, for all grade levels, every year.
Therefore, the aim of this article is to present the development of the Internal Portuguese Language Test (IPLT) to depict its main features and to discuss the IPLT as an instrument for supporting and working closely with classroom teachers in order to improve learning. The teaching of Portuguese Language, according to the National Curricular Parameters (PCN) from the National Institute of Studies and Research on Education (INEP), Brazilian Ministry of Education, should be focused on the social functions of language such as reading; this requires the competence to construct knowledge at different levels of understanding, analysis and interpretation. The selection of the descriptors for the IPLT is based on a national reference matrix routinely used nationwide in standardized Portuguese tests and it is also aligned with our school standards.
The descriptors indicate general skills expected from students that are a reference for selecting items necessary in evaluation.
Regarding Portuguese language texts, it is important to consider the diverse interpretive strategies according to students´ advanced age and school grades.
In general, IPLT is mainly comprised of a section of Reading Comprehension and another one on Grammar Usage. The Reading Comprehension section is divided in three main topics (Table 1-3), where: D1, stands for Reading Procedures (11 descriptors), D2 stands for Reading Comprehension (6 descriptors) and D3 for Reading Interpretation (8 descriptors), while Grammar Usage has one main topic (D4) with 25 descriptors.
Table 1. Reading procedures and descriptors Topic D1- Reading Procedures (Grades)
D1a. To find explicit information in a text (G1-G8) D1b. To infer the meaning of a word in a text (G4-6) D1c. To identify the theme or topic a text (G2-G6) D1d. To identify the genre of a text (G2- G5, G7, G8) D1e. To identify the usage of punctuation of text (G4, G7, G8) D1f. To differentiate letters from other graphic signs (G1) D1g. To establish relationship between sounds and graphic representations (G1) D1h. Read words (G1) D1i. Read sentences (G1) D1j. Identify rhymes (G1) D1K. Recognize syllables (G1)
Table 2. Reading comprehension and descriptors Topic D2- Reading Comprehension (Grades) D2a. To identify text elements, its actions and characteristics (G2- G4, G6- G8) D2b. To identify the narrator of a text (G2- G8) D2c. To identify and correlate parts of a text D2d. To identify time and place in a text D2e. To identify the pronoun in a text (G3, G4, G6- G8) D2f. To recognize the topic by graphic aid (G2)
Table 3. Reading interpretation and descriptors Topic D3: Reading Interpretation (Grades)
D3a To infer implicit information in a text (G2-G8) D3b To identify the conflict of the plot (G5, G7, G8) D3c To point a fact from its opinion(s) (G4-G8) D3d To link cause and consequence (G3, G5-G8) D3e To Identify effects of irony or humor in varied texts (G2-G8) D3f. To recognize different ways to treat information in the comparison of texts that deal with the same theme (G4-G7) D3g. To identify the thesis of a text or establish a relationship between the thesis and the arguments offered to support it (G8) D3h. Differentiate the main parts of the secondary ones of a text (G7)
Table 4. Grammar usage and descriptors Topic D4 – Grammar Usage (Grades)
D4a. Article (G2-G5) D4b. Verbal modes (G3-G8) D4c. Synonyms and antonyms (G2-G5) D4d. Nouns (G2-G5) D4e. Syllabication (G2- G5) D4f. Phonetics. (G4) D4g. Spelling. (G2- G8) D4h. Phrases and punctuation (G2- G8) D4i. Pronouns (G2- G5) D4j. Studies of prepositions (G5, G7) D4k. Graphic accentuation (G3-G8) D4l. Adverbs (G5) D4m. Adjectives (G2-G5) D4n. Types of subjects (G6) D4o. Classifications of subjects (G7-G8) D4q. Verbal agreement (G6) D4r. Verbal complement (G7) D4s. Connective studies (G7) D4t. Coordination studies (G7-G8) D4u. Sentence/phrase/period (G8) D4v. Adjective subordinate clauses (G8) D4w. Adverbial subordinate clauses (G8) D4x. Crase (G7) D4y. Substantive subordinate clauses (G8)
Using IPLT, G1-G8 students have been tested twice a year, in early August (Semester I), and Semester II, after instruction at the end of the school year, around June. The tests have a distinct number of questions according to the student’s grade and the number of questions may vary accordingly. For instance, in G1 there are 21 questions while G8 has 36 questions. Each descriptor has three questions, one difficult, valuing 2.0; one medium, valuing 1.5 and one easy valuing 1.0. The coordinator teacher (MBM) created the question pool (over 1.700 samples) and with the support of the Brazilian Studies team, established the question weight for the tests. The IPLT was first applied in 2013 to upper Elementary School and since 2014 from G1 to G5. Last year, Semester II (2016-17) G6-G8 students and newcomers were also tested. The IPLT is online, generated by randomly selecting questions from the pool (random block function), and presented to the student every time the test is taken. When all tests are carried out, final reports are built by TOTVS, the software used at our school (TOTVS S.A., São Paulo, SP, Brazil), and are available for displaying in both, desktop and web applications or can be exported in a variety of formats including PDF, Excel, Word, HTML and general image formats. User-friendly reports can be customized and help teachers to plan accordingly, students to learn, and administrators to guide, based on report interpretation.
Table 4 presents an example of an Individual Report. From this report, teachers can gain information regarding growth from Semester I to Semester II, reveals how much growth has occurred between testings’ events. Another important piece of information is the percentile, location of a score in a distribution of the students in their class and in their grade level (A & B).
Table 4- Report 1- Individual Report
Table 5- Report 2- Class Report
A classroom report, with detailed data about the scores of each descriptor that allows teachers to use them to differentiate instruction and pinpoint individual student needs is shown in table 5.
Assessment is the most important part of the completely teaching-learning process. Bevenutti (2002) pointed that evaluating is mediating the teaching/learning process, is to offer immediate recovery, is to promote each human being, and is to vibrate with each student independently of his or her slow or rapid progress and achievements.
Assessment is part of human life in any activity that is carried out in any professional category. In education, systematic evaluations ensures what was learned, and the result shows to standardize teaching, offering quality and opportunity for all. This evaluation process encompasses a reflection on the quality of the schoolwork, the teacher and the students and verifying how they are developing.
The IPLT evaluation process encompasses a reflection on the quality of the school, teacher and student performances and allows validation on where and how they are developing. Furthermore, it provides specific, individual, a clear picture of where the student is and consequently allows for more comprehensive and individualized teaching planning and instruction. Moreover, higher-level reports give administrators the context to guide improvement across entire school systems.
Therefore, IPLT should be regarded as a process to evaluate learning and serve as a basis for new projects between teacher and student. It is important to have planning, structure, objectives and goals to follow as well as being part of the general process.
Wren, D.G. (2008). Using formative assessment to increase learning. Dept. of Research, Evaluation, and Assessment, Virginia Beach City Public Schools 6 (1), 1-7. McTighe, J., O’Connor, K. (2005). Seven practices for effective learning. Educational Leadership 63 (3), 10-17. Tomlinson, C.A. (2000). Differentiation of instruction in the elementary grades. Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. ERIC Digest EDO PS-00-7. Tomlinson, C.A. (2006) How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms, 2nd ed. Summer: Best of Educational Leadership 2005-2006 63, 13-19. Benvenutti, D. B. Avaliação, sua história e seus paradigmas educativos. Pedagogia: a Revistado Curso. Brasileira de Contabilidade. São Miguel do Oeste- Sc: ano1, n 01, p,47-51, jan. 2002.