Q:As teachers,the ‘authority’ in class,we have many opportunities to give feedback to our learners.My question is “How can we encourage our learners to give us feedback on how much they value what we ask them to do ...

QUESTION:  As language teachers, the ‘authority’ in class, we have many opportunities to give feedback to our learners.  My question is “How can we encourage our learners to give us feedback on how much they value what we ask them to do and how they feel when interacting in class?”  

ANSWER:  We thank you for this question.   When we ask learners to ‘evaluate’ their involvement in class, we are helping them develop some of the most vital critical thinking skills and, at the same time, we can benefit greatly from their feedback by our reflecting on that feedback to improve the quality of our teaching.  Please read the attached article to get some practical activities for learners to evaluate.

[This article is to be to be published in the book: 

Αξίες ζωής στην Εκπαίδευση: Παιδαγωγικές και μεθοδολογικές προσεγγίσεις 

για δια ζώσης και εξ αποστάσεως εκπαίδευση, Επιμέλεια; Ε. Μανούσου & Σοφία Ταναϊνη

by FYLATOS PUBLISHING,  Θεσσαλωνίκη (https://fylatos.com/)]

Living Values as a Tool for Evaluation in Education

Eric Jensen, educator (USA) says, “Let’s make what is important measurable, instead of making what is measurable important.”  Indeed, many of the evaluation procedures used by teachers require adding up the numbers of correct answers.  However, teachers understand that, with values at the heart of a quality education system, we must record and ‘measure’ the intangible affects which contribute to effective learning and teaching when evaluating learners’ progress.

There are many types of reflective activities which can be used, adapted and further developed for valid evaluation of values-based instruction and the encouragement of learner’s self-evaluations.  In this article, these sample activities are divided into three categories: (1) questionnaires used with online and face-to-face interviews, (2) reflective journal writing and sharing workshops and (3) the use of continuum scales to rate social competences.

The recommendations here are for ‘minor, yet significant, pauses’ in the flow and process of evaluating a Values-Based Educational Program.  During these minor pauses, students and educators alike make time to record their thoughts and feelings with to purpose of improving their engagement with each other and enhancing the positive atmosphere within the school.  So, with these pauses, we will consider a variety of activities for self-reflection, dialogue and group communication and data (information / evidence) collection.

 

(1) Questionnaires used with online and face-to-face interviews 

1.1.  Interviews of a Public Nature:

1.1.1 One-question Group responses:  The teacher poses a question, for example, “What do you do at school which make you proud to be here with us?”  At random, the teacher asks a response from one student and continues inviting one individual after another to share their answers with the class.  The teacher allows time for reflection, asks students to draw or write their answers and calls on the first student, once she sees that each has an answer in mind.  The quick-paced responses can light the atmosphere and inject the spirit of positivity. Note:  Each student has the right to remain silent i.e. pass, if they choose to.

1.1.2 Chain Interviews:  A student-made questionnaire works ideally for this interview.  One idea is to present to the students before they write the questions, a selection of Benjamin Bloom’s verbs for evaluation*: 

assess, decide, convince, conclude, summarize,

support, critique, defend, recommend, justify, choose.

And, as a preliminary activity, ask them to use some of the verbs to make phrases expressing Evaluation Tasks, for example: make recommendations, assess value and make choices, critique ideas.

After, in pairs, triads or groups, students can write questions for their questionnaires, focusing on activities, project tasks completed so far in the term.

Example: 

How do you assess the value of each of the steps we took to make our Collective Poster about Gender Equality? 

Can you suggest any steps to omit or add, if we repeat this activity?

To begin the Chain Interview, one group/pair of students can ask their question to the second group.  Discussion.  Next, the second group asks one of their questions, to be answered and discussed with the third group.

1.2 Interviews of a Private Nature

1.2.1 Who are you? Interviews:

The Interviewer, who can be the educator working one-on-one with his/her individual learners, can simply ask this question of the Interviewee.  To guide the process, the Interviewer can ask that the Interviewee write 3 positive adjectives which describe ‘you’. Followed by tell me what made you choose that adjective (Describe a situation that illustrates that you are ‘patient’ or tell me a story about a time you were ‘quick to take a decision’.).

Further interview questions can be on the theme ‘Who are you with others?’,

designed to have the individuals reflect on their own Social skills.  Here are some examples of categories and interview questions:

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

How do you relate to others?  With relative ease, confidence and awareness?

Do you interact comfortably yet respectfully with people your own age or of other age groups?

Can you listen well to those you disagree with?

How do you seek clarification if something someone has said is not clear to you?

THINKING SKILLS

How are you at making choices?

Exploring options?

Presenting the reasons for the choices you have made?

TASK ACHIEVEMENT

How respectful are you of time limits?

Can you manage time with other group members?

Do you make records of ideas or discussions?

NOTE: The suggestions in section (3) below, especially the use of graphics and the discussion of drawings, can be used in a one-to-one interview between educator and individual learner.

(2) Reflective journal writing and sharing workshops

As a continuation of the Interviews of a Private Nature, here are ideas for journal writing topics, aimed at self-reflection and a deepening of the understanding of how values come into play in our relationships and growth.

Journal writing is an effective tool for self-knowledge and can also provide a stimulus for the sharing of thoughts and feelings and discussion.  The practice of intermittent journal writing, in-class or at home, can culminate in a compilation of the most important points of self-discovery as an end of the year project (Please see 2.3 below).

2.1. Clarifying the Value

The teacher may begin this activity with a look at a values poster (Please see Appendix 1).  To begin, she asks the learners to think back on the positive experiences that they have had at school (within a given time period).  Sentence beginnings can be given to give the learners a start.  Allowing time during class sessions helps learners understand how significant a practice reflective journal writing is as part of their education.

I was pleasantly surprised that I/we . . .
I found out that I . . .

2.2. Suggestions from My Mind and Heart

In this exercise, learners are allowed the right to choose, among alternatives.  Having dealt with a number of problem-solving alternatives pertinent to their lives, in this journal writing, learners can focus on alternatives and exercise their critical thinking to deepen their decision-making skills.  As a first step, set a values issue (in this example: Citizenship) and pose a question. Then, individual learners choose an issue to address with some social action, considering alternatives.

How can I become a better citizen?

 

1.     Which is an issue which affect my community, school or class?   

Litter on our school grounds and on the pavements and public areas of our city.

 

1.What actions can I take to improve this situation? [Here learners brainstorm ‘the alternatives’ to be considered.]

 

a)    Organize a group of my friends to go out with gloves and bags and pick up litter.

b)   Begin a campaign on social media:  before and after photos, texts about the eventual destructive effects of littering, slogans/songs.

c)    Approach our teachers to organize a school project about waste disposal and litter in our community

d)   Research and collect information from environmental organization.


1.At this stage, individual learners consider their alternatives, make notes on the processes of following through on each of them.
2.At a subsequent lesson, in pairs, learners can share their thoughts and any decisions on a plan of action they may have decided on

2.3 Discoveries About Me Project

At the end of the term, a culminative activity would to the making of a collage/poster, booklet or portfolio (digital or paper) containing selected excerpts from evaluation activities.  These can be images, drawings, quotes, reflective writings which represent self-discovery for each individual learner.

NOTE:  The suggestions in section (1) above can also be used as journal-writing topics. 

(3) The use of continuum scales to rate social competences.

Within this category of evaluation activity, there is great flexibility and a variety of versions.  In place of continuum scales, we can use graphic representations or concept mapping to rate, evaluate or reflect upon the social competences, values and/or aspects of the learner’s experience in the school program.

3.1 Working with Percentages and Bar Graphs

Some students enjoy a more quantitative approach to evaluation.  This activity asks students, individually, to ‘measure’ their time, feelings, energy and concentration and to use graphic representations-- pie charts or bar graphs—to illustrate how much they enjoy, approve of or value an activity or school policy.

3.1.1 Your Free Time 

Students can ponder and calculate how they spend their free time; first, in percentages and then, in a graphic such as a pie chart.

Example:  How much of your free time do you spend:

  • thinking and dreaming,
  • socializing with friends,
  • being part of your family,
  • reading and viewing,
  • doing physical activities,
  • creating (drawing, journaling…)?

3.1.2 Recognizing Values Within Your School Experience

Here is an example of a Bar Graph answering parts of

your School Experience by Value

How much responsibility, cooperation, trust….

do you share and experience during your time at school?

 


3.2 My Response to Statements

3.2.1 Use of continuum scale

 

Strongly Agree 5 

4

3

2

Strongly Disagree 1 

1. I am aware of racial prejudices.                        

 

 

 

 

 

2. I remind myself of my breathing and mindfulness frequently.

 

 

 

 

 

3. School is making me a better person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.2.2    Rank Order of Alternative Choices/Options

What quality is most important to your satisfaction as a learner? 

Which of these qualities would place 1st, 2nd and 3rd?

  • Self-respect
  • Thirst for knowledge
  • Ambitious goals and dreams

Learners can discuss their ranking in pairs or small groups.

3.3      Line, Shape and Free Drawing

Drawing can serve as a vehicle to freeing learners to express what they value about their school experience.  The symbols, diagrams, shapes and figures can help them articulate their thoughts and feeling and facilitate sharing with others.

3.3.1     Values timeline

This activity can be used for a mid-year reflection.  Learners draw a timeline starting with an indication of the beginning of the school year/course and extending beyond the present.  Ask the learners to plot three significant experiences which they associate with a value important to them. To help them in their reflection, remind them to look at a values poster (Please see Appendix 1).  Once their timeline is complete, they may wish to choose one of their experiences to write about, focusing on a discussion of how they experienced the value during their encounter or activity.

Extension:  Visualizing the future can be the topic of the next step.  Learners pick a value they want to experience more of.  Then, they draw an imagined experience or event.  They can indicate on their timeline where beyond the present they would like to live this experience and attach their drawing to their timeline, before the sharing starts.

3.3.2    Network diagram with symbolic shapes

An example titled “My Relationships”:

-Learners ponder the question:  Which special qualities do I enjoy with each of my friends/family member? 

-On their papers, they draw a circle of shape in the center to represent themselves and, then, choose 3 relationships, also represented with shapes.  The level of closeness can be represented with the connecting lines.

-To complete the diagram, qualities enjoyed in each of the relationships depicted can be written around the respective shape.

-Sharing in pairs.

3.3.3    Guided and Free drawing

Draw an analogy of your school experience.  A suggestion: think of our school as a boat on the sea.  Draw this boat to illustrate our school, adding any details you wish. 

Please feel free to think of any image, other than the ‘boat’, to symbolize our school and draw it. Share, if you wish.

Conclusion:

These activities can be adapted as you wish.  They have been designed to have educators, learners and, in some cases, parents consider the great significance of ‘the non-material value’[1] of the school experience.

When educators listen actively, observe and read and ponder learners’ evaluations, they can assess the results and effects of their school’s program.  These processes will aid them in estimating the true value of the school’s program and guide them in making choices for the future.

 

Suzanne Antonaros, Educational and Training Concepts

Sources: 

Lovat, Terry and Ron Toomey, editors. Values Education and Quality Teaching, Springer, 2009.

Simon, Sidney B., et al.  Values Clarification, Hart Publishing, 1972.

Appendix 1:



[1] “Evaluating something or someone means estimating their non-material value.”  José Gimeno Sacristán from Tillman, Diane G. and Pilar Quera Colomina, Living Values:  An Educational Program Educator Training Guide, Health Communications Inc, 2000.