Category: Tests and assessment

Oral exam timing

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about how important it was for students to be assessed by the same criteria. This is especially critical at Catholic University where I teach in Korea because each class is graded on a curve. For example in a typical class of 20 students I can give 5 As, 6 Bs, 6 Cs, and that means I must give 4 Ds and Fs.

So students are competing with each other for a limited number of high grade. Now as final exams approach, the university intends to do what it has been doing for a while. During Finals week, the written exams would be given on the first meeting and then the oral exams would be given.

The university allows teachers to begin oral exams the class before finals week; most teacher chose to do this because they would then finsih the semester sooner. I stopped doing that because I noticed that students who took the oral exam earlier (the class before exam week) did worse than students who took it a week later (after the written exam). It made sense; students with an extra week to study (say two weeks instead of one) will do better. Making all students take the oral exams during final exam week was more fair.

The course has been reduced from three class hours to two class hours each week. That means we meet only for two hours during final exam week. 1 hour for the written test and 1 hour for the oral test. But the oral tests take two hours (to do all the students in a class). This year I will be forced to assess some students a week apart because classes meet only two hours.

I’ve explined this to my boss and asked to do the written test the week before finals week so that all students do oral exams during finals week. But I have a bad feeling that this won’t be possible and that I’ll ahve to assign some bad grades based on a students luck in getting a good exam time rather than a students English.

Grading criteria for comparison/contrast essays

Thesis 0-4

Organization 0-4

Topic sentences 0-3

Concluding sentences 0-3

Arguments/examples 0-6

Introduction 0-2

Conclusion 0-3

I found that this worked well because I wanted the sum to be 25. Otherwise I would have made arguments more heavily weighted.

American history essay questions

So my EAP/CBI classes are writing essays for their final assessment. What do you think of these prompts for argumentative essays?

American History essay questions. Some from http://www2.arts.gla.ac.uk/CAS/US_History/question.html

Early American colonists came to America seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity. How did their treatment of Native Americans fail to reflect these values?

The Declaration of Independence proclaimed “All men are created equal.” Did this include Native Americans?

The Declaration of Independence proclaimed “All men are created equal.” Did this include black men?

The Declaration of Independence proclaimed “All men are created equal.” Did this include women?

In 1776 Britain’s American colonists enjoyed a profitable trading relationship, the protection of the Royal Navy, a higher standard of living, lower taxes and greater religious liberty than the people of Britain. Why, then, did the colonists declare independence?

Was reconstruction a success or a failure?

Choose any historical event discussed during the course. How does this event reflect or fail to reflect two or three of the following values: freedom, human rights, democracy, opportunity, initiative, entrepreneurship, inventiveness.

Go go grammar cloze

Remember that class that said everything was too hard? Well I was right, they liked the grammar cloze. I took this section of a speech by Bill Clinton:

I have traveled all over the world. I have met with the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world. I have been in the most successful communities in the world. I have also been in the poorest villages of Africa, of Asia, of Latin America. And I believe, more strongly today than ever, that intelligence and ability and a human spirit are evenly distributed across the rich and the poor, in every continent on Earth.

I just removed all the verbs, read it to them, they wrote down the verbs, we talked about the speech. It was pretty good. Now I have to find something else they like…

CBI – lots of work

I knew I was in trouble when I read in Content-Based Instruction in Foreign Language Education about the “huge effort” invloved in planning a CBI course. This includes finding all sorts of authentic materials. For example I gave my first lecture on Urban Sociology last week. I studied sociology in college, but I still found myself scouring web pages trying to put everything together.

The work is intersting (luckily for me). The main goals of the two CBI courses are to teach EAP through CBI. So before I gave my lecture, we talked about lectures in the US vs. lectures in Korea and strategies for taking notes during lectures. I hope the students are getting as much out of it as I am. My former director once quoted someone as saying “The first time you teach something, you learn something. The second time you teach something, the students learn something. The third time you teach something, no one learns anything”.

This is the first time I’ve taught Sociology or History (well I taught British History for a few weeks once) so it might be my turn and not the student’s turn… I’ll have to see what I can do about that.

Final exams

My director recently asked how I felt about having students given oral exams by a teacher they weren’t used to. For example my students would be assessed by some other teacher and I’d assess his/her students. I said that would be fine. The important thing is that all students in a class are assessed by the same criteria and person since each class is curved.

By curved, I mean each class can have x number of As, x number of Bs, etc. which is really bad as a student might end up with an A in one class but the same student might have received a C in another class. It all depends on how well the other students do.

I don’t like it because it’s like saying that only some students can be good and some have to be bad. That’s not motivating where I come from…