Course Goals and Evaluation

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

This semester I’m really leaning on specific articulations of where and how students meet course outcomes in evaluation and systematically expressing where a student needs to concentrate their pickups after an evaluation occurs. I will be doing a great deal of contact and in that contact specifying where a students needs to focus their energy.

For example, if I asked a student to identify a specific element of Old English prosody, a likely answer would be alliteration. The next step would be to identify in a well organized essay examples of alliteration in a few works, not just one. In this examination, multiple criteria are being assessed: an understanding of terminology, association between concept and example, term application, identification, reading and writing acumen. Analysis is a minimal issue here. At a more conceptual level, where analysis becomes key, a question could involve the idea of the journey and how Gawain expresses it. What are the criteria? What is the Christian journey (the consequence of temptation means different things here to Sir Gawain and Odysseus)? What was the context of the hero’s acceptance of the proposition (in Gawain it is intensely legalistic and ritualized); what are the tests? How do they reflect different psychological panoramas?

What do grades mean in this scenario? I’d love to do away with grades, but since I can’t, I must define them as symbolic representation of the degree to which a student demonstrates understanding of a standard. It’s easy to do, but the real work comes on the pickup, in challenging people to listen better and to take notes that can be searched, ordered, linked, and refined. Additionally, this calls for a better job on my part to be more assistive in lecture and discussion and to negotiate the texts with more skill. It’s a big problem. How do I teach prosody without revealing too much? Why should a student remark on metaphors I’ve already discussed in class?

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