Problem situation 5:  Evaluating Thinking Results

Continuation of the post "Mistakes of a Novice TA Teacher"



When planning the thinking lesson the teacher is having at least two aims: language aim, connected with evaluating language content, and thinking aim, connected with evaluating how learners use specific thinking tools (see more here to check what I mean by “tools”) for solving the problem.
Thus, when assessing the lesson the teacher should also think about it on 2 levels: linguistic results and thinking results. The thinking focus of tasks and activities is assessed by the amount and complexity of models (tools) students practice and acquire while working upon the task (see here for reference).

Practice & Difficulties

Even though, I was trying to introduce the thinking dimension in my lessons, I have never been evaluating the thinking part. My assessment system in general was directed towards evaluating the result, not the process. The correct answer rather than the process of HOW the learners arrived to it was still in the centre. In addition, I had the difficulty to assess any thinking at all, any HOW learners applied the thinking models. In fact, I doubt I was even teaching them to apply the thinking models. This was my wish only, which did not correspond to the reality in the classroom.
If I reflect back on the reasons of failing with the assessment of thinking, then I see a possible explanation. First of all, the notion of the thinking models was new for me. What are the thinking models I am supposed to be teaching explicitly? Do I myself master these models? Apparently, I do not master them to a certain degree, thus it is difficult to assess whatever ‘thinking-related’ is happening in your classroom. In other words, the difference between the ‘thinking’ and a ‘non-thinking’ result was not evident so it was difficult to notice differences in my learners’ performance.
It is obvious that if the teacher does not assess what s/he teaches then the learners see no much sense in the ‘non-assessable’ part.

Possible solution

I would love to say there is an easy-to-implement solution but I see that the solution is rather a long process than a one-shot activity. However, if being followed, the process will lead to the result.
First of all, I believe it is important to keep setting thinking aims for every lesson and a sequence of lessons. The questions which might help to clarify these aims are the following. What are the thinking models we are going to work on during this lesson/sequence? How will I evaluate the difference between ‘thinking’ and a ‘non-thinking’ performance? Do my students understand the thinking purpose of the task they are doing? The questions like “What do I mean under teaching thinking?” and “What do I expect my students to be able to do as a result, i.e. which thinking models they should be able to use?” should always be kept in mind since they will make a teacher gradually find the answers. In fact, a list of skills and dispositions, which clarify what students should be able to master as a result of working with the Thinking Approach are available on the Thinking Approach website. But if you only start your TA-way you will find this list more discouraging and incomprehensive than helpful since it is rather complex. However, consulting this list from time to time at different stages of your professional way to TA-teaching will finally help you to understand what it means to teach thinking and how to evaluate it.
Secondly, when checking students’ works, it is essential to think about integrating the evaluation of the process (how the solution was built by a learner; the algorithm of a solution) into the actual evaluation of the result (or ‘correct answer’) of a specific test.

When discussing teaching thinking issues with Dr Alla Nesterenko, who is a teacher, teacher trainer and researcher in the field of key competencies in school education, I discovered for myself that thinking models (e.g. ENV) must be taught as content, just like we do teach our language-specific content. But what normally happens, is that we, teachers, use these models as a methodology, and do not teach it as a content (from the personal conversation with Dr Alla Nesterenko, during the international conference “Bringing Creativity and Thinking Skills into the Educational Process”, Sep 16, 2012). I think this is a very important remark, which allows explaining why I did not evaluate thinking well enough. I did not teach it as content, so there was no need to evaluate it.
In addition, one of the last issues I discovered about the Thinking Approach is the assessment system, which should no longer be based on a “test-mark” system but should rather be an integration of a “work process + test” leading to a mark (discovery which appeared from the conversation with Dr Alexander Sokol during the course “Creativity and Thinking Skills in the Educational Process: Advanced Course”, October 13, 2012, Italy, Cantalupa). In other words, the mark a student is getting should not be based on the results of one test only, but it should rather depend on the results of several tasks done during a certain period. I will not go into details about the system of evaluation since it is a separate topic, which deserves special attention and hopefully will be discussed more in other articles.


Problem situation 1: Teaching Thinking Explicitly 
Problem situation 2: Structuring the Non-Linear Teaching-Learning Process 
Problem situation 3: Getting Prepared for Building Solutions in Grammar
Problem situation 4: Avoiding Hunt for Fast-Food Thinking Materials


# Alexander Sokol 2012-10-23 15:54
Renata, do you think you could give a few simple examples of how the teacher can start integrating the thinking component into the assessment system? For example, what could it mean when evaluating written works, presentations, grammar?
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