Spotlight is published twice each semester by the Office of Assessment and Continuous Improvement in the College of Education to highlight promising practices in assessment and continuous improvement.
This edition of the Spotlight examines directed paraphrasing as a classroom assessment, preferences for online or in-person services, and encouraging a growth mindset in students.
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Prepared by Jeremy Penn with support from Michelle Yu and the Continuous Improvement Committee
To share a promising practice in a future edition of the Spotlight you are using in your classroom, in your program, or in your department, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Classroom Assessment Tidbit
Try a New Classroom Assessment Technique such as Directed Paraphrasing
Communicating complex information to different audiences is important across many disciplines but can be very challenging. Examples of communicating complex information might include a teacher describing a student’s learning to a parent, a health care provider explaining a diagnosis, or an educational test professional interpreting a test result to a teacher.
The direct paraphrasing classroom assessment, as described by Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross in Classroom Assessment Techniques, a Handbook for College Teachers (1993) provides an opportunity for students to practice the communication of complex information while simultaneously giving instructors a view into students’ understanding of the topic.
To use this assessment, instructors first identify an important concept that students will need to explain and the audience who will receive the explanation. For instance, students in a teacher preparation program might be asked to explain a reading ability screening test result to the parents of a 2nd grade student.
Next, determine the purpose, length, and desired readability for the paraphrase. What message should the audience receive from the paraphrase? What is the maximum number of words students should use in creating their paraphrase? What goals are there for such as reading or oral comprehension ability for the receiving audience (such as a 6th-grade reading level)?
Before giving the assignment to students, test it out yourself as the instructor. Is it possible to create the paraphrase with the limits you created? What are the critical elements that need to be included in the paraphrase to be effective?
Give the assignment to students and indicate their intended audience, the purpose of the paraphrase, and the limits on the paraphrase such as length. If you are giving the assignment during class, give students a time limit for completing the assignment (such as 5-8 minutes).
If you collect the assignments on physical paper, you can quickly grade them by sorting them into three to four piles based on performance levels (e.g., low, average, excellent). If you have collected assignments electronically you can do something similar by dragging and dropping files into separate folders on your computer’s desktop. Next, quickly scan through the responses in these piles to capture themes of what students know about the topic and how they communicate it to a specific audience. For grading, Angelo and Cross (1993) suggest providing feedback across three characteristics: accuracy of the paraphrase, suitability for the intended audience, and effectiveness in fulfilling the purpose. Some of the best examples, or the example you created, can be shared with students (with permission) as exemplars to inform future development of this skill.
Variations of this classroom assessment technique include using different audiences for the same topic or using different communication mechanisms (such as an oral statement, an email response, or a social media posting).
Angelo and Cross (1993) note that success with using this classroom assessment technique requires careful planning and should be used more than once during the semester to give students a chance to build their ability to communicate important information with the audiences they will serve in the future.
College Data Tidbit
Preferences for Online or In-person Services
In October the College of Education administered three surveys that asked questions about preferences for the future provision of in-person or online services. These three surveys – of faculty / instructors and undergraduate students – were intended to supplement surveys being administered by a university-wide committee to other stakeholder groups. Results from these three surveys are summarized below (a full report is available to faculty, staff, or students from the College of Education by contacting email@example.com).
- Nearly half of the faculty members / instructors who responded to the survey somewhat or strongly preferred online services for technology support (49.4%), professional development workshops (48.7%), instructional design support (42.7%), and other teaching support or resources (42.5%).
- In contrast, a sizable percentage of faculty members / instructors who responded somewhat or strongly preferred in-person services for technology support (27.3%), professional development workshops (23.7%), instructional design support (25.3%), and other teaching support or resources (21.9%).
- A somewhat similar percent of current undergraduate students expressed a somewhat or strong preference for in-person services (17% - 33% depending on service area) with those expressing a somewhat or strong preference for online services (22% - 38% depending on service area).
- Overall, meeting faculty members’ / instructors’ and undergraduate students’ preferences for services in the future may require offering both in-person and online options.
Encouraging a Growth Mindset in Students
Encouraging students to approach learning with a growth mindset – defined as the “belief that intelligence and performance can be improved through effective effort and strategies” (Bowman & Levtov, 2020, p. 75) – has grown in popularity in K-12 education. According to a recent book chapter in New Directions for Teaching and Learning (number 164, winter 2020) by Nicolas Bowman (College of Education) and Anat Levtov (College of Engineering), encouraging a growth mindset can also be useful for college students.
Sample activities suggested by Bowman and Levtov (2020) that can be used in class to encourage students to reflect on their mindset and help students develop a more growth-oriented mindset include:
- Asking students to physically move from their seats to different areas of a room (or marking their position on a shared online document) in response to the question “Do you think that _______ is something that can be changed or improved?” The blank in the question can first be filled with concrete examples such as height or hair color, and then move to more abstract examples such as athletic ability or math skills. Students are asked to explain their responses and are allowed to change their response based on what others say. This activity “sets the stage for a more in-depth exploration of the differences between growth and fixed mindsets” (p. 78).
- Having students complete the “Strategy Box” activity (adapted from mindsetkit.org, Garringer (2016)). In this activity students draw four boxes on paper (or on a screen). In three of the boxes students identify something they previously learned along with the strategies, activities, or beliefs that supported their success. In the fourth box students are asked to identify a new skill or ability they want to achieve and then select strategies, activities, or beliefs they will use in the future to support their success.
In addition to using formal growth-mindset activities, research has found that instructors who endorsed a fixed mindset tended to comfort students who performed poorly rather than promoting the use of effective strategies to improve performance, which resulted in students lowering their motivation and lowering their expectations for their own performance (Rattan, Good, & Dweck, 2012). This suggests that understanding your own mindset, and how it is perceived by students, may be an important factor in motivating students and in achieving success in the challenges we want to overcome in 2022.
Bowman, N. A., & Levtov, A. H. (2020). Understanding and using growth mindset to foster college student learning and achievement. In KC Culver & Tiniell L. Trolian (eds.) Effective Instruction in College Classrooms: Research-Based Approaches to College and University Teaching. New Directions in Teaching and Learning. Wiley, pp. 75-83. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tl.20426
Rattan, A., Good, C., & Dweck, C. (2012). ‘It’s ok – Not everyone can be good at math’: Instructors with an entity theory comfort (and demotivate) students. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 731-737. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103111003027