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Without fail, every recent conversation that even remotely touches upon assessment leads to an increasingly intricate and technical discussion about how to prevent the cheating, presumed to be rampant, now that we’re all online. Should we use Lockdown Browser? Should we enable webcams? But what about smart phones? What ...
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2020
This book is a collection of fourteen essays representing presentations made at the 2016 Georgetown University Round Table (GURT) conference, sponsored by the Georgetown University Department of Linguistics and the Assessment and Evaluation Language Resource Center (AELRC). These essays showcase a diverse set of ap-proaches to treating assessment and evaluation as “tools of educational transformation” for foreign-language learning (vii). They focus on primary, secondary, and undergraduate-level foreign language instruction, with none concentrating specifically on graduate-level theological education or religious studies. Nonetheless, the volume offers some novel proposals for structuring language courses that may benefit biblical or modern language sequences offered in theological schools and religious studies pro-grams. The book is organized into three sections, each representing emerging research and praxis on transformative foreign language assessment and evaluation for e-learning platforms, language course instruction, program development, and ESL student placement.
Part one—Connecting Assessment, Learners, and Learning—surveys theories and practical implementations of assessment and evaluation for enhancing language learning, particularly from the perspective of student and teacher self-assessment processes. In five essays, this section establishes self-assessment as a continual process and offers practical steps for integrating self-assessment in foreign language acquisition.
Part two—Innovating, Framing, and Exploring Assessment in Language Education—covers topics such as the formative use of task-based assessment “in primary schools, the implementation of technology-mediated speaking performance assessment, and validation of educational placement decisions for immigrant learners” (ix). Some of the proposals may provide seminaries and graduate-level liberal arts programs fresh avenues for (1) going about its sequence of biblical language instruction or (2) resourcing multilingual students navigating North American theological and religious education.
Part three—Validity Evaluation—includes five essays that address processes for assessment validation, such as corroborating the outcomes of university entrance exams or language placement exams with student achievement and retention. These essays provide suggestions for the evaluation of overall language programs implemented by institutions. As a whole, it may supply new considerations about evaluating outcomes of language instruction for theological ESL programs.
The perspectives offered in this volume present innovative research on foreign language learning from outside the academic contexts of theological education and religious studies. As a result, they reflect fresh theoretical and practical considerations that may not have, as of yet, permeated conventional resources and “common knowledge” about assessment and evaluation in theological education. While it may prove to be a beneficial read, those primarily located in theological education and religious studies who grapple with issues of language instruction—especially biblical language instruction or the implementation of theological ESL programs—may still find this a challenging read. While the scholarship is relevant at times, its application is left to the reader from theological education and religious studies to make. Despite this potential difficulty, the volume represents the kinds of knowledge and resources available to theological education and religious studies from other educational stages and learning environments that may be further along in considerations about institutional learning processes, e-learning pedagogy, foreign language classroom instruction, and support of multilingual, international students.
One of the major advantages of the online learning environment is the capacity to help students develop critical thinking in more effective and efficient ways than the classroom environment allows. Emphasizing student engagement through online discussion forums is a powerful way to cultivate critical thinking. By having students engage more ...
One of the most unfortunate practices in instruction is a teacher trying to get “right answers” from students. This is not to say that getting your students to get it right is a bad thing–in fact, it’s very desirable. Usually what happens, however, is that the teacher is ...
Date Reviewed: December 10, 2019
Armed with strong backgrounds in institutional research and effective educational leadership, Phillips and Horowitz provide educators with an excellent resource for improving academic success with proven data use strategies and practices for community colleges. A central, uniting focus of the book is the need for information to be contextual, “useful, useable, and actionable” (9), and the need to enlist the widest number of stakeholders within its ecosystem. Administrators, researchers, faculty, and staff are encouraged to be co-partners in cultivating academic excellence.
Rather than placing data at the center, the authors advocate for a model that places “the use of data” at the center. The book is divided into three sections: (1) “A New Model for Data Use,” (2) “Putting the Model to Work,” and (3) “Case Studies of Data Driven Reform.”
The first part outlines a new model for data use that is user-friendly, improves educational instruction, and maximizes student success, combined with intentional adaptation to those it serves. For example, “few educators want to [be] analysts; they want to be provided with useful information and assisted in applying it toward student success” (56). Attention is also given to analytics, behavioral economics, organizational theory and habits, and the role of emotion in decision making.
In the second section, Phillips and Horowitz reveal a data use model that is put to work removing obstacles to student success. Specific consideration is given to leading and lagging indicators and the employment of backward mapping that begins with the identification of lagging indicators or goals. Attention is then refocused on the leading indicators that influence them, and which a college has the ability to control and reshape in proactive ways. Lagging and leading indicators have the ability to switch places from time to time. Scrutiny is also given to disaggregation and how different demographic subpopulations can impact the design of programs, services, and policies. The authors make use of a four stage, continuous improvement approach for use of educational strategies that moves from assessment, to planning, to implementation, to monitoring, and back again to assessment (110). They believe that data should be processed in manageable bites and reflect an institution’s unique cultural context and problem areas (176).
When evaluating outcomes of particular programs or services, Phillips and Horowitz call for academic institutions to review all other policies and programs that may or may not have an impact, positively or negatively. When introducing data and discussing it educators need to make sure that the content is real, that they include moments of humor, that they engage with the data, and that it works towards a consensus in decision-making. Resistance is another key factor for community colleges to scrutinize. College staff often bring their “own history of belief and experiences to the process and accept only information that confirms those beliefs” (104). Helping people to move outside their comfort zones and embrace change can assist in creating a positive, data-informed culture.
The last section provides actionable approaches and case studies drawn from community colleges from differing socio-economic and ethnic settings that intentionally choose to embrace a data-informed culture and foster proactive uses of information for student success. A failing institution was among the colleges examined – it had been on the verge of being shut down by state authorities because of dissatisfaction with its academic quality and student success.
This book is more than a guide for interpreting data by academic researchers. It also provides a research-based, comprehensive, and practical approach for improving academic excellence in all areas, and amongst all segments of the college community. This book will help teachers of religion and theology to increase their classroom effectiveness – in lecturing and interacting with students.