Thursday, March 17, 2011

Past Assessment Experiences

Past Assessment Experiences

As a learner:

When I was doing my CELTA in Seoul in 2000 I found the post-teaching practicum feedback assessments discussions to be at times excessive bordering on beyond my memory of the actual events during the team teaching sessions. The most challenging peer reviews came from classmates with less (at the time I had four years in) or no experience which were some of the most critical in terms of "constructive criticism." While the CELTA is often sold as a pre-experience training program the majority of those who take it in Korea are already working. I recall one Australian diplomat's housewife who was constantly critical with nary a positive feedback to share. That whole month and a half is a dreary memory of long nights toiling over lesson plans and a classmate from the States somewhere named "Lyle" who wandered the dormitory halls at all times with a raggedy and shaggy bearskin cap from China who eschewed using computers until the final night's deadline when he was scratching at my door like a lost goat. Our teams weren't rotated very often and I remember feeling it wasn't really fair to always have to carry this guy because he was like an assessment albatross and completely unpredictable. I remember one of his sample lessons consisted of asking the same question to each of the students in turn, "Are you OK?/Are you alright?" ad infinitum regardless of what we may have planned on paper a little like Senor Wences?

As a teacher:

I am consistently surprised at the number of students I give an A or A- to who are adamant that they deserve higher grades. I recall my own university days when a lot of blood,sweat and tears went into even a B or B+ in some classes as in English Literature in general and Dr. Edward Eagles' 16th Century Literature in particular which included loads of Shakespeare's Sonnets, The Fairie Queene by Edmund Spenser, etc. Here in Korea each final grade assessment is followed by a "grade discussion week" during which various desperate souls beseech, cajole or attempt to brow beat me via emails to up their grades for one reason or another usually related to continued scholarship endorsements (Daejin University has one of the highest rates and ranges of scholarship students in the country) usually by a flurry of emails. On positive notes in more recent times one student used to encourage me to relax at the end of long days worth of assessing ppt presentations with full back massages after she finished her own work. I am also amazed how many (rare as they are) failed students (due to poor attendance usually) show up a couple semesters later with completely reformed attendance records, attitudes and kindliness to the teacher most notably young Korean men who have returned from completed military duties as genuine gentlemen. Even one sly and foxy shirker known to sit in the front row with micro-mini skirts squeaked by with a pass and a prayer completing her last exams with an untreated broken rib rather than be absent. That one is much perkier nowadays and is really quite pleasant most recently. This is most surprising to me as I almost hated to pass her last time around on a second try in a required course but she convinced me that she cared enough to make a final lunge at the quite low bar.

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