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LAE 6389 Practice Teaching Literature

Class 7: Evaluation and Assessment

Sherry Linkon, "The Reader's Apprentice" in course docs
Chapters from The Happy Critic in course docs
McKeachie, chaps. 7-11
Discuss Gen Ed assessment requirements with Dr. Gould
Discuss: Matching Learning objectives and outcomes. See FKL website.
Student presentation: Teaching Resource: Jose
Student Presentation: Syllabus Check: Allison and Dori
Assignment: Group evaluation of purchased student paper
Post #3 Group B / Response Group A

Notes and Discussion Questions:

"The Reader's Apprentice" and The Happy Critic

These essays provide further information or elaboration on the importance of teaching interpretation in literature classrooms. Please read and evaluate how these might influence your decisions in the classroom. What is useful here? What provokes reaction or, rather, response?

From Linkon, the following ideas follow closely the model set up by Blau and merit continued interest:

  • Critical cultural reading
  • Teaching interpretation
  • Becoming expert readers (p. 251)
  • Six practices that constitute slow and recursive cultural reading: 1) inquiry, 2) considering multiple positions, 3) self-awareness, 4) examining cultural context, 5) revisiting the text and one's ideas, 6) making connections
  • Analysis of texts relies upon thorough and complex understanding of culture and history
  • Reading and rereading allows the expert reader to gain new insights
  • Readings can be complex, ambiguous and even contradictory at times

    What does Linkon's article add to your understanding of teaching the reading process?

    McKeachie, Chapter Seven: Assessing, Testing and Evaluating: Grading is Not the Most Important Function

    McKeachie presents nine premises at the start of the chapter that are thought provoking. What do think is feasible for your classroom?

    #3 Use some nongraded tests and assessments that provide feedback to you. How might you do this? Do you think this would be helpful for you as a teacher?

    #4 Check your assessment methods against your goals. Are you really assessing what you hoped to achieve: for example, higher order thinking? This is an excellent question and McKeachie provides some ideas for evaluating your testing against your objectives. How might this help you structure your assignments? Your grading weights?

    #6 Assessment is not synonymous with testing. What does this premise mean for you?

    How will you incorporate self-assessment into your class? Do you think it is worthwhile to train students to do self-assessment?

    Chapter Eight: Testing: the Details

    Some of you plan to incorporate tests (or quizzes) in your syllabus. How might the advice in this chapter help you plan this more effectively? Did this chapter give you new ideas about inventive ways to use tests.

    Dr. Gould has one of most innovative methods of testing I've seen for literature. See course docs for two examples of his take-home exams. See also his course on Victorian Novel for examples of assignments.

    After reading McKeachie's advice, what new things did you think about in terms of grading the exams?

    What might you as an instructor learn about the class from a test?

    Chapter 9: Tests from the Students' Perspective

    What strategies might you develop to increase student performance on your tests?

    Feel free to use and adopt my workshop on writing good essay exams (

    Chapter 10: What to do about Cheating

    We have been discussing cheating for a while. What does this chapter offer you in terms of practical information and advice for why students cheat, preventing cheating and dealing with cheating?

    Chapter 11: ABC's of Assigning Grades

    If we look at grading as communication, McKeachie suggests, four important points become apparent.

      1. Evaluation is a great deal more than giving a grade: more comments needed, more audiences intended
      2. What a professor means by a grade depends on how it is received by the graded
      3. Professors cannot change the meaning of grades unilaterally
      4. The meaning of grades has changed over the past 50 years; whereas a C used to be average it is now more accurate to think of a B as average
    What do these points suggest to you? How does this affect the way you assign grades?

    Can you see a point to using both contract grading and competency grading styles?

    How are grades related to learning?


    Active learning and discussion

    Grading a Student Paper

    For the second part of this grading assignment, you will be responsible for getting one of the obtained papers and grading it. Please evaluate and grade this paper the way you would a paper for the literature class you are planning. The objective of this exercise is to make us aware of our own evaluating tendencies and principles and to share these with others so as to learn 1) other possibilities and 2) the range of acceptable and unacceptable methods of evaluating literary essays.

    The groups chose the following selections: tba

      Group 1:

      Group 2:

      Group 3:

      Group 4:

    These papers will be posted to the Teaching Group discussion board for you to download.

    When we get to class, I will ask you to compare your evaluation and grading. I would like to devote a good amount of time to this so that you have the opportunity to really examine the process of evaluating and become self-reflexive about your own principles. Then we will share our results with the group.

    I will also report back on how the papers passed through SafeAssignment.

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