The Quantum Physics of Assessment

What does it mean to “work hard”? How does one measure another’s effort? How does one quantify blood, sweat and tears?

I’ve recently concluded another run of the B1 Upscaling class I’m running at work. The participants’ performance left a lot to be desired. The Post Test I administered was very close in nature and content to the activities we’ve had in class, as well as the Checks For Understanding I rolled out throughout the training period, yet they still got unsatisfactory grades. I had discussed the course expectations and rubrics by which they would be evaluated, and had consistently provided feedback (constructively, and not condescendingly if I may add). Naturally, the participants were disappointed and consequently lobbied for a re-assessment or reconsideration since they had worked so hard for my class and have managed to attend the pre-shift training for 3 consecutive weeks without fail. They’d put in so much effort attending the class considering this was outside their work hours.

This got me thinking as to what it means to “work hard” on something? How does one quantify blood, sweat and tears? For my English Proficiency class, that’s rather easy to lay out. It means that one has managed to come in on time, fully participate in all classroom activities and discussions, made sure to speak the target language no matter the difficulties one perceives for fluency can only truly come from immersion in the language (not some half-hearted attempt to do so for the sake of pleasing me) and showed a measurable and acceptable level of improvement compared to their previous performance. By measurable and acceptable level of improvement, I mean being able to distinguish and accurately produce the target sounds, show good thought organization and showcasing fluency exhibited by the ability to engage in conversation and express oneself spontaneously in personal and general topics.

I, personally, find it hilarious how they could request for a reconsideration for merely rendering pre-shift OT to attend my class while blatantly disregarding and ignoring the need to come in on time and speak the target language at all times. It seems like they’re expecting to be given a pat on the back for breathing in and out and merely taking up space in my classroom. Do you ask a math teacher to give you points for trying even though parts of the mathematical equation are incorrect? If you took an astronomy course, would you expect partial credit because even though you mistakenly identified a star for a planet, you at least recognized and got the part that both are in the sky right?

I clearly understand their frustration at rendering OT and having nothing to show for it. I remember all too well how hard they’ve worked during the training while they worked equally hard at monitoring their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram updates, playing COC and at some point during the training decide that they need to fulfill the basic requirement of participating, albeit perfunctorily. I remember them checking their instant messages on their smartphones and work email every few seconds while working equally hard at seeming bored and disengaged, and looking at me expectantly to hand them a pill so they can magically transform into proficient speakers of the language. They’ve indeed worked very hard at creating the appearance of rendering OT for training when they have actually utilized some parts of their OT to run errands or attend to personal matters.

I’m not sure about them but I would rather that papers for Surgery 101: How to Cut People Open and Leave Them Bleeding to Death and Architecture 101: How to Design Buildings  That Don’t Collapse and Leave People Plummeting to Their Own Early Demise be graded based on a student’s demonstration of correct understanding of concepts instead of the virtue of the fact that they showed up for class which was a basic requirement in the first place.

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