Plans to instill reflective practice throughout an ASL course

Screenshot of Google Form header and first question

This summer, I took a course required of all instructors who teach in the Maricopa Community College District: EDU250 – Teaching and Learning in the Community Colleges. It was actually a very good course on classroom teaching in general – a refresher and expansion on what I learned about education in the Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies with an emphasis in Teaching Interpreting program I took at Western Oregon University. I took EDU250 at the same time as Conversations with Stakeholders: Practicum and Mentorship through the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC), and the last section of this course was about reflective practice. The assignment to write “thoughts, goals, ideas, and objectives … of something we want to complete” made me think of writing this plan.

Plan to instill reflective practice in an ASL course

Course: SLG101 – American Sign Language I
Textbook: Signing Naturally Units 1–6 workbook with DVD

Methodology

Signing Naturally has self-assessment built into it; it is just a matter of how the teacher takes advantage of this feature. I plan to use it to collect data electronically in a way that I can evaluate and share with students. Each unit in Signing Naturally has a self-assessment at the end which asks students to rate the comfort and confidence they feel, on a scale from 1 to 5, in the skills they learned in that unit.

I will assign the students to complete this self-assessment from their workbook in a Google Form survey. I create the survey using the same questions in the workbook, and for each question, I have the students select a number from 1 to 5 on a scale. For example, here a screenshot of the form header and first question:

Screenshot of Google Form header and first question
Screenshot of Google Form header and first question

The Signing Naturally workbook also has a “Questions to Ask” that the students are instructed to practice asking in ASL. These questions give them practice in the expressive (not receptive), skill areas addressed in the unit self-assessment. The same questions are modeled in the Unit Review section of the DVD. I have the students study the questions, watch the signer model them on the DVD, practice signing the questions themselves, and video record themselves signing the questions. I then have them post the video to YouTube, marking it Unlisted so others on the Internet cannot view them, and send me the link. I recommend that they watch themselves signing the questions as a reflective practice and to help them in completing their unit self-assessments. I watch the videos to assess their competence and give them feedback by text and/or video response.

Another way I will create opportunities to compare the students’ self-assessment with my assessment of their performance is to write my receptive exams with those skill areas in mind. For example, for the self-assessment question “I can follow classroom instructions,” I can ask the students to write the correct response to the direction YOU NAME WRITE-DOWN and see if they write their name in the space provided.

I do not have the technology for the students to enter their exam answers electronically, so I will enter the data of each student’s performance in a spreadsheet. In the left column, I will list student’s ID, and in subsequent columns, I will put the skill areas in a header that matches the header in the spreadsheet made from their self-assessment. For example, I would have “Skill 4” as the header of the second column of the spreadsheet, and I would put the student’s score on the exam question I designed to assess that skill. Since the students self-assessed their comfort and confidence with skill area 4, “I can follow classroom instructions,” and I tested their performance in this skill area by asking them to write down their name, I will enter a 1 or a 0 depending on whether they performed satisfactorily in this skill area.

Benefits

There are several benefits to having the student enter their data electronically:

  • I get to collect all the answers from all the students, and:
    • I don’t have to take the time to look at each student’s book, which I will probably forget after looking.
    • I don’t have to collect papers, which is ecologically friendlier, lighter and less space-consuming, and students don’t have to remember to bring papers with them to class.
    • I don’t have to enter their data myself.
  • I get data I can actually use in various ways, such as:
    • Assessing how each student is doing
    • Assessing how the class as a whole is doing
    • Assessing how one class is doing compare to another class in the current semester or future semesters
  • I can adjust my teaching to ensure the students learn the course competencies and unit objectives
  • I can share the aggregate data with the students by projecting a chart on the screen in the classroom so they see how they did as a class, and see why we are focusing extra attention on the weaker areas the day of the unit exam review.

There is another advantage to self-assessment: the students can compare the assessment in the unit exams to their own self-assessment, and get a sense of the accuracy of their self-assessment skills.

The Signing Naturally workbook does not contain unit exams; however, I will design my unit exams with the course objectives in mind. For example, for the self-assessment question “I know how to introduce myself (fingerspell my name, ask for a name, and express pleasure in meeting someone)” there is a corresponding “question to ask” in the workbook “ask the person’s name.” I may expand the assignment to have the student fingerspell their own name, ask a person’s name, and express pleasure in meeting them. That, then gives both the student and me an opportunity to compare the student’s self-assessment with their actual performance on the expressive part of the unit exam (the Questions to Ask video they submit on YouTube). My goal in this, and I will explain this to the students, is for them to become reflective practitioners, get to know themselves as learners, improve their learning based on their self-assessment.

Limitations

Granted, there are limitations to comparing self-assessment to performance, including:

  • The student may not understand the self-assessment questions, and hence not accurately assess themselves on the correct skill areas (e.g., the student might not remember what fist letters are in the question “I know the correct handshapes for fist letters”).
  • The students may, and I hope will, improve upon their skill in the areas they self-assess by getting help on those areas in class on review day, and studying harder on those areas, both by themselves and in study groups.
  • The students may feel inferior to other students when the see how they did compared to how other students did.
  • The students might resent the teacher for pointing out the inaccuracy of the student’s self-assessment.
  • The students might, ultimately, not know what to make of the data they are given about their own self-assessment in comparison to the teacher’s assessment of their performance on exams.
  • The students might not learn how to self-assess or use self-assessment and external assessment to improve their learning.
  • The instructor might not design exam questions that accurately measure student achievement in each skill area.
  • The instructor might make errors in grading the paper exams.
  • The instructor might make data entry errors in transferring the scores on the paper exams into an electronic spreadsheet.
  • There might be technical difficulties comparing the self-assessment spreadsheet with the exam results spreadsheet.
  • The instructor might not learn from these assessments and might not improve his teaching.

Safeguards

  • I will give the students opportunities to self-assess in class by using another technology, a student response system (SRS) such as Poll Everywhere, so they can get practice in self-assessment and can feel a lack of pressure since they are sending their ratings anonymously.
  • I will display the aggregate answers on a screen so students can see how their classmates self-assessed. This can sometimes alleviate students’ feelings of being alone in feeling insecure on a point.
  • I will not be heavy-handed or use evaluative language when informing students of their self-assessments, my assessments, and the differences between the two. I will non-judgmentally present the data for their consideration.
  • I will compassionately guide the studentsinevaluatingtheirself-assessmentin relation to their exam results and engage them in a dialogue about how they feel about any discrepancies. I can ask them:
    • Did they feel the test questions were fair?
    • Did they understand what they were rating themselves on in the first place, or were they confused about the self-assessment questions?
    • Did they improve upon their self-assessment through studying alone, in class during the review, and in study groups?
    • What study techniques were most effective in improving their exam performance vis-à-vis their pre- exam review self-assessment?
  • I will use the data collected to refine my questions on subsequent exams and continually improve the validity of my exams.
  • I will maintain all records using best practices in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

I look forward to doing this action research in objectives-based evaluation, use of instructional technology, and methods of assessment to improve my teaching and my students’ learning.

References

Maricopa Community College District. (n.d.). EDU250 – Teaching and learning in the community college – Official course description. Retrieved from http://www.maricopa.edu/curriculum/D-L/076edu250.html

Mikos, K., Smith, C., Lentz, E. M. (2008). Signing naturally: Student workbook 1–6. San Diego, CA: Dawn Sign Press.

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.