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The Challenge of Evaluation in Bi-Level Courses

Essay by   •  June 5, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  996 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,785 Views

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Several factors increase the challenge of evaluation in bi-level courses such as CLU3M or HSP3M. Firstly, the presence of diverse abilities in the classroom present a challenge around the use of uniform assessment practices. Secondly, while diverse ability exists, largely in the area of literacy and numeracy, the teacher must maintain a fair and equitable process of evaluating student achievement where resource and support may be minimal. Thirdly, teachers must evaluate with the knowledge that the resources for the courses are often directed to only one stream, usually the University level students. Additionally, in the case of HSP3M, as an open course with no prerequisite, the diversity in ability may be even wider, when taking into consideration new immigrant and ELL students who may struggle with the context as well as the content of the courses.

Our ER group examined the challenges of teaching an open Civics course with a classroom of diversely-abled students. As a group of educators we formed consensus on the major themes of engagement, differentiated instruction, and creating meaningful connections for students through alternative means to the traditional pencil and paper tasks. These challenges naturally shift over to the assessment and evaluation processes. Understanding the task of teaching to a bi-level group is akin to considering the needs and goals of an open class. Ross and Berger assert that

"...all students should have access to other instructional practices, particularly constructivist pedagogy that promotes deep conceptual understanding. Small- and whole-group classroom discussion enables students to share ideas, detect errors in their thinking, and elaborate their thinking. But students who have low status tend to talk less and are taken less seriously by their peers, depriving them of the benefits of classroom discussion" (2009, p. 468).

Extending these considerations to the practices of assessment and evaluation, teachers in a bi-level course must account for differences in ability, status in and out of the classroom, cultural lens, personal perspective, etc. Strategies that Ross and Berger note for the improvement of performance outcomes during assessment and evaluation include allowing more time, reading items aloud, and ultimately finding accommodations that support the lower level students while not inflating the performance of the higher functioning students (2009, p. 469).

On the question of minimal support, bi-level subjects provide an opportunity for students outside the academic stream to access a wider curriculum. The classroom will be filled to the maximum with a composite student profile from low applied, on IEP to be accommodated with one to one instruction from time to time, to the very high level, independent university bound learner. Often, there are no resources to support a student with an IEP, especially where one on one support might have included an Educational Assistant in a special class, unless the teacher extends their self beyond reasonable limits. These drawbacks in the system, and ultimately the oversights of the Ministry in its planning of the curriculum often fall on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. Essentially, the

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