Education 583 Assessment System and Teaching Philosophy

 "We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools."

Martin Luther King Jr. Remaining Awake Through a new Revolution







 Assessment System/Rationale/Philosophy

Assessment System: Student Learning

          Because I plan on teaching English composition in a community college classroom, the assessment system I believe best fits my future teaching methods is the short essay and formal term paper.  This type of assessment system “[allows] students to display their overall understanding of a topic, and demonstrate their ability to think critically, organize their thoughts, and be creative and original” (Davis 272).  Since composition instructors seek to foster critical thinking in their students, essays offer the best tool for gauging students’ comprehension of the art of rhetoric and the craft of writing.

           Ideally, students should complete both short essays and a longer, thoroughly researched term paper.  I plan on assessing my students and returning their first short essay before the first “drop deadline” of my class, thereby giving low-performing students a chance to drop and re-enroll in the class at a later date.  Providing an early opportunity for students to work on a short essay will also give me information about any problems students may have with basic composition standards (Davis 286).    

          Three formal projects will be assigned: an introductory, two-page assignment, a five-page midterm, and an eight-page final paper.  A works-cited page will be required for all papers.  Students may choose to work on a topic of their own choosing, or they may complete a paper based on a topic I have provided.  This allows students to have some input in their writing assignments, and students who do not perform well on prescriptive assignments will have an opportunity to be creative and bring their own experiences to bear on the completion of their writing assignment.  Before commencing work on their formal essays, students will discuss their choice with me, and will receive feedback on their topic.  Students will be given detailed instructions on how to construct their short essay papers: a rubric will be provided which will summarize the key elements of a successful paper. 

In addition to the three formal (summative) essays discussed, students will be required to complete a series of informal papers.  These assignments will not be graded; they will give students a chance to practice their composition skills, and students will work in groups to critique each-other’s essays.  Two informal assignments prior to each formal assignment will provide ample opportunity for students to receive feedback from each other.  In addition, I will comment on these informal assignments, and will give suggestions for improvement.  Students will critique each other’s work with the aid of a rubric, and I will likewise use a rubric as part of my assessment system.  

The main criteria for students’ essays will be persuading an audience (in this case an audience of their peers and their professor) of the validity of their argument.  In this way, whether students choose to write about a topic they have chosen, or a subject I have provided, their goal for the assignment will be to construct a carefully researched, persuasive argument.  In addition to informal writing assignments, I will also use a series of short quizzes to gauge understanding of argumentative and grammatical concepts.  These may be, for example, short answer tests that ask students to identify a correct, or incorrect sentence.  Since students will be provided with detailed information on writing academic papers, short answer quizzes will also help to assess their knowledge of the subject matter presented in class.

Students will be asked to keep a journal of class discussions—in effect, this will be akin to taking minutes at a meeting.  Because students will know that they need to hand in their journals at different times during the semester, this will allow me to see if students understand the topics we discuss in class.  Because not all students may choose to participate extensively, if at all, during class discussions, their journal entries will show whether they are learning the concepts discussed in class.

Assessment System: Teaching Effectiveness

I plan on using a one-minute paper to assess my teaching effectiveness at different times during the semester.  This minute-paper may be used to ask students to write down what they learned in class that day, or it may also be used as a forum (albeit not anonymous) to address concerns about the class.  I would like my students to tell me how they feel about their learning experience.  Because minute papers “provide manageable amounts of timely and useful feedback,” (Angelo & Cross 148) and because they do not require much preparation on the part of the teacher, this will be an assessment tool that can work within the time constraints of the composition classroom.

            An informal (formative) questionnaire will be used after the first two weeks of class and before the midterm (Davis 346).  This will be in the form of a short, one page questionnaire (anonymous) where students can answer a series of questions about the class by checking a specific box related to, for example, the pace of the course, how much they feel they are learning, etc.  In addition, students will be encouraged to call or e-mail me with any questions or concerns they have about the course.  

            After reviewing the midterm student feedback forms, I will discuss the anonymous suggestions for improvement in class and will make every attempt to improve my teaching, when applicable, based on my student’s review of the course.  In this way, hope to interact with my students and dismantle the traditional top-down approach of instruction: I want my students to know that I am not the source of all knowledge, and I can, and will use their suggestions in order to improve my teaching.  I will use the standard, college-mandated (summative) evaluation at the end of the course.


            Using a series of informal (workshopped) writing assignments leading up to a major, final paper provides students with an opportunity to build their composition skills within a community of their peers.  I want my students to have all the information they need in order to be successful; because the community college population is generally wide-ranging in age and cultural backgrounds, my assessment system provides the structure and organization many of these students need.  Students will have input into the assessment system, they can either work on a topic of their choosing (with instructor approval) or they can opt to work on a topic that I will provide.  Students who do not work well in a prescriptive environment will thus be able to complete an assignment not wholly dictated by their professor. 

            When working in a peer workshop, students will be provided with instructions and assigned specific tasks in order to avoid the scenario of one student doing all the work, and the others not contributing feedback.  I will be an integral part of the workshop sessions by providing email and hard-copy feedback of students’ informal papers.  Responding to peers’ texts is ideal for teaching students the value of rhetorical discourse; students learn that they  cannot simply criticize another student’s work, they must constructively respond to the texts they read, and argue for or against a position based on their own knowledge of rhetoric.  In short, students will learn, by collaborating with each other, that they do have an authoritative voice and that their opinion matters.    

   Students will also have the ability to give me input about their class experience by turning in minute-papers, completing class questionnaires, or contacting me by phone, email, or during office hours.  I believe that education should be a student-centered activity.  In this pedagogical model, I work to help my students learn, but I also learn with them; I am a student/expert in the area of educating, seeking knowledge together with my students.

Works Cited

Angelo, Thomas A. and Cross, Patricia K.  Classroom Assessment Techniques.  San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 1993

Davis, Barbara.  Tools for Teaching.  San Francisco: Josey Bass, 1993.



This assessment system/rationale was previously submitted to Professor Cathleen Rafferty on November 12, 2007 

The Martin Luther King quote reflects how I feel about teaching and learning.  

I don't believe teaching is an activity in which the proverbial empty vessels are filled by my supposed intellect and wisdom.  Instead, I see the practice of teaching as an interaction between students and professors.

We truly need to work together, and learn together, or we will perish together.