Reflecting upon my pre-service education in the drama classroom I realized how often I considered how to actively engage students with their own AfL (assessment for learning).
Assessment for Learning - "An ongoing process of gathering and interpreting evidence of student learning for the purpose of determining where students are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there. The information gathered is used by teachers to provide feedback and adjust instruction and by students to focus their learning. Assessment for learning is a high-yield instructional strategy that takes place while the student is still learning and serves to promote learning." (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010b, p.143)
There are many different activities happening in the drama class over the course of the semester, which can make routine and traditional learning difficult. At least once a period, a focus of mine was to bring everyone together in some way in order to reflect and expand on the work we
were doing. I found that these group meetings were either very productive for influencing higher-level thinking and inquiry or the meetings were unfocused and disruptive to the day's tasks. My goal as a dramatic arts facilitator is to encourage students to make connections and think beyond the immediate relation the work has to their day-to-day lives. The way in which I have been able to do this is by asking better questions.
Chapter 3 of Interweaving Curriculum and Classroom Assessment focuses on backwards design with assessment in mind. Assessment across the curriculum can look very different depending on the strategies and tools each teacher chooses to use with their class. Part of the chapter reminds us that assessment can sometimes be informal and does not always have to take on such a concrete and regimented place in the classroom. Teachers have an opportunity to identify what level of knowledge or processing a student is using. Teachers can pose questions that guide students towards making connections and grasping more complex understandings.
A resource that I have thankfully picked up over the course of my education has been a book written by Norah Morgan and Juliana Saxton called Asking Better Questions which provides cross-curricular examples of including this kind of assessment for learning. You may access a PDF put together by the authors to provide you with a printable document called Asking Better Questions: Models, techniques and classroom activities for engaging students in learning to inform your question asking practice.
I would like to highlight one activity from the book that enhanced my understanding of HOW to use the technique of asking better questions. There are six levels of questioning that in sucession, can lead to higher order thinking and contributions from students. The authors use the example of a teacher whose plan is to show a big poster of a busy harbor scene in New York City.
These are the questions she would ask broken down into the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives;
1. KNOWLEDGE: recalling what we already know
"What do you see in this picture?"
2. COMPREHENSION: demonstrating what we understand through negotiating what we know into different patterns of information
"What do we call places like that?"
3. APPLICATION: applying what we have learned to other situations
"Do you know any other places that look like this picture?"
4. ANALYSIS: reasoning our ideas into logical patterns of understanding
"Why are there so many policemen in the picture?"
5. SYNTHESIS: constructing new ideas from what is known
"What if there were no policemen?"
6. EVALUATION: valuing what is implicit in our thinking
"Would you rather live in a city that size or in a small town? Why?"
FOR YOU THE READER: try using the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives to ponder if there are times when NOT to ask a question! Can you think of some examples/ scenarios?
Ms. Monica Taylor