I think Jago touches on some of the FA he uses like the review activity, the weekly participation grades, etc, but I don’t see a formal FA framework within his lesson plans. It seems to me that he goes out of his way to not assess students in any way except for the essays they write. i do not necessarily disagree with this approach, and think sometimes students should have options for how they will summatively-assessed for the unit, you know, what will constitute the “big” grade at the end? [I tried this with my student-teaching students after our Tom Sawyer unit and was asked by my co-op how i will able to fairly grade comprehension if students have different summative assessments. At that point I could’t explain it correctly and thus my students took the objective test my co-op had been using (with some slight adjustments to account for the different things I did with them). Plus, jerk that I was, I still had them do an end of unit project! A test and a project! What WAS I thinking?!? i have to say that they weren’t too happy about this but i got many great responses and wish I still had them. I have found that students can be tremendously creative and intuitive when given the chance.] My long aside over I don’t like the way Jago uses objective questions. His “review” activity seems like an open book test students can work with friends to complete and though they may all end up with the correct answers and get “A’s” i can’t see how the exercise benefitted them. They know going in they will be graded on it so probably they take the position that the grade is what matters and not the reviewing of the text. I think they will forget what they “learned” as soon as the bell rings and will still need to reference the text and their notes when they write their essays.
I think objective tests can be useful because, Jago’s opinion aside, people who read books in academic settings, or even in book clubs, will have to regurgitate facts and what they about the book at some point. i think comprehension can exist without knowing the “facts,” I only think that greater comprehension is more possible if readers can point to specific names, characters, events and name them by name. I can argue that Achilles is brave, reckless, and proud, but when i do so i will need to say that he displayed his pride in his dispute over Priam’s niece (can;t think of her name) with Aegammemmnon (?), and his bravery by challenging Hector to a one on one fight. So yes i agree that essays are a better way to assess comprehension and understanding but i also think students need to remember certain facts and that objective tests play a role in assessing if they have. Having said said I refer back to our learning targets talk and say that students should be told ahead of time what facts they will need to remember or learn for the test (like, who is the Trojan woman Achilles and Aeg fight over?). Give them a list of learning objectives. “You will need to know these things” and focus some of the instruction and formative assessments around learning those things.
I also think they once students move on to college they will take more and more objective tests so students should be prepared for how to take them and for what type of information the questions they will be asked.
I think learning objectives can be fairly simple. For example students can be told that a learning goal for the novel or unit will be to be able to write a critical analysis about the text from a particular point of view. The work students do while reading will be focused around them preparing themselves for the critical analysis they will do at the end. My Victorian Lit professor had us write journal entries centered on specific themes she wanted us to focus on for the reading. I think one was like “Is David Copperfield the hero of his own story?” (If i remember correctly he’s not) If students are going to write a compare/contrast essay end the end of the book (my students had to for Tom Sawyer) then a learning target could be for students to keep character profiles and add to them consistently while reading.
I think a problem could be that yes, essays may be a better way for students to exhibit comprehension and to use their own creativity, that some students may not be good at writing and may write bad essays like the Achilles kid and blow their assessment for the unit that way, and, and, the essay Jago has his students do is still a “one and done” assignment. They have one chance to do it write. If not their screwed. So I agree that writing essays may be better than objective tests but the writing process must be multi-layered with many chances for students to receive feedback and edit their papers before turning them in for the final grade.