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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Help with Assessment
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0614  Monday, 5 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Susan C Oldrieve <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 22:24:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0575 Help with Assessment

[2]     From:   Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Apr 1999 05:21:14 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0588 Re: Help with Assessment

[3]     From:   Heidi Webb Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Apr 1999 11:23:06 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0575 Help with Assessment


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan C Oldrieve <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 22:24:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0575 Help with Assessment
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0575 Help with Assessment

Our school, also in Ohio, was set the same sort of task.  After
screaming and complaining about the impossibility of measuring "general
knowledge" we bit the bullet and made up some questions that were
supposed to be used for just such a test as you describe.  Then we
successfully convinced our Assessment committee NOT to institute a
college wide multiple choice test at all-we found a national
standardized test to use instead. You might want to have your assessment
people contact our assessment people for more information.

Anyway, so there we were with 40 multiple choice literature questions.
We use them now as part of our departmental assessment process.  What we
did that might work for you is to include passages (we use a poem, a
short story, and a very short play) and then ask questions about them.
For your test, you might take a significant passage or soliloquy and
design the question to test a general understanding of Shakespearean
language and themes rather than knowledge of a specific play. That way,
you would be testing the students' general knowledge about Shakespeare
rather then whether they'd read the specific play or not.  Make the
question test something that they wouldn't have learned in high school.

Let me know if you want more information about our assessment program
here at BW-the accrediting agency really liked it, and we haven't found
it too hard to live with.

Susan Oldrieve
Baldwin-Wallace College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Vanmeter Sproat <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Apr 1999 05:21:14 EST
Subject: 10.0588 Re: Help with Assessment
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0588 Re: Help with Assessment

I second Mr. Beato's motion. Yesterday I wrote a long scathing reply re:
Ohio Northern's 1-question test but deleted it because I don't like
scathing, especially my grandmother's alma mater. One point perhaps
worth the consideration of this forum, however, is the relation between
what ONU's innocent Shakespearean has been asked to do and the value
budgetary decision-makers assign to what English professors do (or did
when I was in school and teaching). If they allow themselves to be
sucked into edutechnobabble "assessment" (note 3 syllables meaning
"test," proliferating latinate polysyllabics standing in for knowledge,
allowing all that fat and time for the testers' convenience, with the
totally brazen goal of cutting time for responding face-to-face or even
pencil-to-pencil with living human students), they devalue their own
work, and may be blamed, in part, when university budgets leave them a
very short end of the stick. Will English professors be replaced by
websites, some of which are more interactive than the professors?  I
hope I'm wrong.

The web is a great joy, but in my view, the effort to digitize the
learning process is a form of violence. The time to stop violence is
ASAP. Otherwise it always gets worse. Cf. the Sarajevo Airport of the
early 90s and today's Kosovo. (I'm leaping, but the underlying process
is not entirely dissimilar.)

On valuing the humanities and time taken therefor: My
great-great-grandfather John Vanmeter's report from Nassau Hall (now
Princeton?) sent early in the 1800's to his father Isaac in Moorefield
Virginia notes that the boy had to be able to read Latin and Greek
BEFORE he went to college, travelling out of the mountain valleys of
what is now West Virginia, where he'd evidently learned those languages.
When he moved to the Ohio wilderness about 1820 (having fallen in love
with a child of the wilderness), he brought a big bookcase of Greek and
Latin books over the mountains by horse (or ox) and wagon (my brother's
family still has the case and the books, ox dead now), and hired a
schoolmaster to teach the children on his new farm (schoolmaster arrived
in Ohio in top hat and frock coat on horse, now all dead too). That
whole process must have taken some time. It's worth thinking how Plato
taught Aristotle, and Socrates Plato. That took time. Later when John
Vanmeter was in Congress, the Ambassador to Italy wrote begging him as
an educated man to convince his peers to allot $10,000 for the United
States to buy an extensive and unique collection of books and
manuscripts from an ancient Italian family that had fallen on hard times
(between 1840 and 1844). The description of that private library made my
sister and me cry and would create tachycardia in many readers of this
list. Congress did not appropriate the funds. My brother John is now
dead too, but his filled bookcase and the love of learning survives.

Hocking Technical College in southern Ohio offers composition classes in
a nearby prison. Final essays are graded by a team who devote a day or
two to reading them. I think each essay is read and commented on by two
people, maybe three. The scores may be averaged. We used that process at
Ohio State for foreign students in the early 1960s. It only takes about
two days, the team reading all day.

Remind the Dean that Ohio Northern students pay high tuition. In any
case, they are worth a few or many many more moments of your time. Think
of it as bread on the water. They'll need to be strong and clear with
the Hitlers and Milosevics to come, when you are too old to defend
yourselves.

Kezia Vanmeter Sproat

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Heidi Webb Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Apr 1999 11:23:06 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 10.0575 Help with Assessment
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0575 Help with Assessment

Other responses to Dr. McManus' post disparaged the multiple-choice
question.  (Actually I don't know if Ron Dwelle was disparaging it, or
praising it.) So multiple-choice is not ideal, that's probably not being
claimed. If students of Shakespeare can pick out one concept that
Shakespeare favored, from several period views, that might be a
multiple-choice question that would lead students to reflect on their
knowledge.

Something like: Shakespeare believed which of the following:

1) Unmitigated and total privilege of the aristocracy and courtly speech
2) Inferiority of women
3) Interchangeability of fiscal and religious language
4) and so forth

Certainly any of these (one through three) might be argued, thank
goodness for difference of opinion, but if students were asked to select
the option that reflected the critical common ground, if might draw on
some knowledge.

I'd be interested to hear if Rick Beato knows of any gradeable test that
really truly measures a student's grasp of a subject, rather than, say,
students' anticipation of the best classroom response.  Essay tests are
better, but even they have their problems as a measuring tool.

Cheers,
Heidi Arnold
 

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