As you also notice, that's why you quote the term 'general' I suppose, 'general' students vary with quite a wide range in readiness, ability and learning profile. To identify their needs is a complex and multi-stage task. But I think the current HK education system has basically help differentiate them in order the 'general' students are less dispersed. In our P.6 time, we fell into student band1, 2, or 3. This is a simple grouping option actually, That makes students with various educational needs more focused with respect to schools. This is the first screening. Second, we have steaming or ability-setting among classes. What's more, we can have mixed grouping ore homogeneous grouping. All of which work together to make the needs of 'general' students' in a cluster of students more 'general' and such that the needs of them are more accurately identified.
When the problem of 'general' is solved, other questions are more easily dealt with. Pre-assessment is to determine the readiness, ability and learning profile of a cluster of students and in turn the difficulty of assignment are determined.
For teaching methods and strategies, after a series of grouping processes, we can resort to other differentiation strategies such as tiered tasks or curriculum compacting to 'equalize' the curriculum.
I want to focus on the second question as I have my.experience related to that.
When I had my school attachment in a secondary school last summer, a teacher allowed me to set an assignment on correcting 'wrong words'(改正錯別字) for her class. Even I set the questions based on the previous exercise, the students reflected to me that the questions were too difficult. Their scores were mostly below 5 out of 10. I realized that the reason for this was my lacking in the situational analysis. I did not teach them, let alone knowing their readiness and prior knowledge. This experience tells me that if I need to set an assignment which can fit the students' level, I need to know their readiness and prior knowledge first.
Hi Ka Ya, I am a student from the University of the Balearic Islands and I have an experience similar to yours. We had a subject in our second year at our degree that was concerned to teaching students how to teach English as a foreign language. In this subject we had to create certain hypothetical lessons for students in the first year of high school (11-12 years old). When we submitted our work, we were told by our teacher that the level of the activities we had set was too high for students of that age. I agree with you in thinking that the main reason for the was our lack of previous knowledge on the level of students of that age and of not knowing the contents of their previous English courses. It is very important when creating a class that we take into account the limit of the abilities of our students and whether it is possible for them to be able to understand and complete the activities set.
ooppsss... sorry Ka YU haha
For the first question, I think the core problem is most of the teachers simply neglect the "general" students instead of cannot identify their needs. So I think the first thing is to take action and understand your students no matter they are of the higher track, middle track("general" students), nor lower track. Try to do a survey or talk to them during recess and lunchtime in order to know more about their readiness, interest and learning profile. Of course, you can also ask other subjects' teachers about the students' behaviour in their lessons. After knowing these basic information of your students, you can try to design different context, teaching method and assignment.
And for the second question, maybe tier task is a choice for a teacher who teaches a differentiated class. The assignment should includes 3 levels of questions, including the easy, middle and advanced level. As we ought to teach students base on the ZPD principle, we can set more then 1 advanced level questions, one for the "general" students, and one for the higher track students. We can encourage the students to try the advanced question so that the students needs can be satisfied.
Furthermore, a portfolio type assignment can be used. Therefore, we can know more about the students progress and give them personal feedback. Combined grade can also be used to assess their assessments. The grade A,B,C,D is given according to the students effort, and the number 1, 2,3 are given according to the level of the outcome. For example, student who gets grade A1 means he works very hard and his assignment outcome is excellent. Students with grade A3 are working very hard n making progress even their outcome have not yet reached the level norms.
Organizers like mind map and flow chart can also be used to help the "general" students to organize the context in a more systematic way as most of the "general" students do not know how to organize the things they learnt.
I think tier task may be good for students as this takes care of the readiness of students, but I think there may be some problems practically.
Since the students (and parents as well) care about the marks and grades very much, how do we calculate the marks and grades in the tier task? Do we count all 3 parts of the assignment? Or do we just count the first two parts? If we do not count the most challenging part, how can we motivate studnets to attempt?
I want to focus on the assignment part suggested by Erica.
It is good to monitor students learning by using portfolio type assignment as it is a continual assessment. However, in piratical, teachers workload will be increased greatly as the continual assessment requires teachers to monitor students progress all the time.
In addition, giving grade according students effort is hard to implement. It is because standard of "hardworking" or "lazy" is different for teachers and students, even among teachers. So, it is hard to evaluate students effort.
One sharing about using ICT in portfolio assessment for DI is found:
In my opinion, in order to identify the needs or the individual difference of "general" students, observation and assessments are needed. Observation can be done during lesson time, through the performance of students on lessons, participation in class activities, ability to work individually and with others, etc. Moreover, teachers need to provide assessments such as pre-assessment to identify problems beforehand, assessment during learning process and post-assessment so as to assess the learning result of students. That means observation and assessment have to be done along the whole learning to identify the needs of students.
I believe that it is difficult to identify the needs of “general” students as their performances vary in every lessons and tasks. That is why we need to put more attention on them and do more pre-class work. Pre-assignment is a good way to identify their needs. Before teaching every new topic, we can set a pre-class worksheet and ask all students to do it individually. These worksheets contain both easy and difficult questions. When we check those worksheets, we can know how much students know individually and so that we can identify which level these “general” students are in this topic.
Since we always have a very tight schedule, especially in language subjects, I don't think it is possible to carry out a pre-assessment before each chapter. It's a bit time consuming.
To compensate that, I think a thorough situational analysis is needed before we start teaching a class. The situational analysis should include finding out the readiness of the students. If the situational analysis is done well, we may not need to do pre-assessment before each chapter.
Definitely. It is always the best if we can carry out pre-assessment before each topic we teach. But the reality is never that ideal as time is limited. I think we should try to understand the students' readiness before we teach them.
I recall one of my teachers' way of knowing the our readiness before he taught us. He asked our Form 3 English teachers to give him our English composition so he could see what our standards were. This is one way of knowing the students' standard before we start teaching a class. If we.study those composition carefully, we can know our students' readiness, or even their interests. This can perhaps save the trouble of doing pre-assessment before each topic.
I definitely agree that it is time consuming to design pre-assignments for every chapter. Maybe we should try to do it in another way: to ask teachers to cooperate. For example, if there are three teachers teaching English in F.1 but different classes, they can try to design pre-assignments by turns. Moreover, teachers can also use last years’ worksheets as pre-assignments. If so, teachers need not to do everything by themselves. I think it will be more possible and less time consuming way to do.
Ref to Tsang and Kayu's comment. So I think the whole school should cooperate to establish a system which contain all learning profile of the students(學習歷程檔案). Nowadays, the IT technology is very convenient, I think teachers should make use of the IT technology to build a IT student learning portfolio. It will be a big data bank. Once a teacher find that a student has some special performance(both good and bad), he/she can mark it down on the server. Then, other teachers can find the learning profile easily. It is even more efficient and convenient.
That's y I agree that situational analysis is important and building up a whole-school data bank is a good method.(it doesnt need to change every year! The data bank can be kept until the students r graduate few years.)
Creating the learning profile for all students is indeed an effective way for teachers to carry out situational analysis. Teachers can check out the students' readiness and learners' profile whenever they want.
However, I don't think every school would have the resources and men power to create a database like that. If not, the teachers should take the initiative to create the learning profile for the students in his/her class by asking other teachers for the students' previous homework. This may even be better than doing pre-assessment as we can carry this out and understand the students before we teach a class.
In fact, students are always divided into two groups with the high-achievers and the low-scorers. It is difficult to identify ‘general’. I think ‘general’ tend to adhere to the rules and avoid being criticized by teachers. Therefore, teachers could pay more attention of ‘quiet students’ and whom they ignored.
Teachers could provide some worksheets which included different level after teaching one chapter. The worksheets included some strict guidelines or some with restrictions; students are free to provide solution. Some open-ended questions are provided to check the understanding and ability of the students.
Also, grouping is a good way to encourage ‘generals’ motivation. Students with some level learning ability could learn from their peer. ‘General’ are willing to present their ideas through discussion and cooperation.
Ref. to Cheung Yi Po's comment. I agree that I think ‘general’ tend to adhere to the rules and avoid being criticized by teachers.Therefore, the need of such kind of students r the most difficult to be found.
You mentioned about the worksheet. This kind of method suit all kinds of students. It may be a way to find out the ability and need of the 'general' but r there any better way? I think the most difficult problem is teacher cannot find out the need of the 'general'.How about the teacher hold some teacher-student conference so that the teacher can direct talk to the general and understand their need.It can be held on the very beginning of the semister.
Btw,for the second question''how to determine the difficulty of the assignment",is that you want to ask how teachers adjust the difficulty of assignment? I think more open-ended questions can be set so that teachers can judge the ability of the students according to their own answer.
I am afraid that the 'general students' will not even speak up in a conference like that, as they are trying to fly under the radar. I think if a teacher really wants to reach out to those students, the teacher should try to establish a friendly relationship with the students so students are willing to open up to the teacher.
Your idea makes me think of an intersting observation in normal classroom. When there is grouping, teachers tend to randomly assign the students into groups. Their assumption may be with students of different ability in a group, they can have peer cooperation. Students with higher achievement can always help those weaker one while those with lower ability can seek help from their friends. However, the cruel fact is that, the brillant students will always be the dominant students who take all the responsibilities in the group. For the medium or even weak students, they tend to be a passive member instead of contributing a lot. They tend to depend on their groupmates. This picture brings out a question about the appropriate use of grouping. Normally we encourage the use of heterogenous grouping as it can invlove the greatest types of students in one group. Nonetheless, somtimes we can also think of the feasibility of adopting homogenous grouping so that students with similar knowledge level, performance can work together. Teachers may find it easier to design a more specfic set of teaching material for particular group of students.
We agree with the idea that identifying the 'general' level of the students is a difficult task to carry out. That is why a possible solution would be to evaluate them on specific dates during the course. This may not count as part of the assessment, just as a guide for the teacher so as to know better the needs of their students. As this test needs no specific grade students may feel less pressure and they may answer more sincerely.
Regarding the classification of students in either 'higher' level or 'lower' level groups, we would suggest a different approach. For instance, mixing students instead of separating them may be highly beneficial. The reason of doing this is that such differentiation may lead to discriminatory attitudes.
The second question"how to determine the difficulty of the assignment" is asking how teachers adjust the difficulty of assignment, especially for the "general" students. Since the academic results and learning performance of "general" students are usually unstable -- sometimes they may get a good results and the next time they may slip back. It makes us hard to classify them and identity their needs. As the result, it is difficult for teachers to determine the difficulty of their assignments.
I think the most important thing is teachers are better not to ignore any students in class and keep concerning them, but I know it is hard to do this because of the large class teaching in Hong Kong and the limited time and energy of teachers. So, I suggest school prepare a personal learning portfolio which record all their academic results and comments from teachers for each student. It help other teachers to know more about the students and help them to determine the difficulty of the assignment. Also, teachers can promote homogeneous ability grouping in class and group students according their performance that shown in their personal learning portfolio. It can fulfill students' educational and emotional needs since students with the similar abilities are grouped and teachers can give different assignments to different level students.
CHENG Yi PoMAN Wing SeeYIP Hiu Ting