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Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts



 
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Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts #1 (permalink) Sun Jan 18, 2015 18:11 pm   Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts
 

Issue essays are particularly harder for me than argument essays for some reason. Does anyone else feel the same? Anyways, for this essay I ran out of time towards the end and didn't get a chance to proof-read, so there are more grammar errors than usual. The thing I'm most concerned with are my examples. Were they any good?

Educators should base their assessment of students' learning not on students' grasp of facts but on the ability to explain the ideas, trends, and concepts that those facts illustrate.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.


A topic that is often greatly contested in the field of pedagogy is accurately measuring how much a student has learned. Some say that learning should be assessed based on the facts that the students grasp, while other argue that educators should assess learning on students' ability to explain the ideas, trends and concepts that the facts illustrate. I believe that students should not be assessed based on the facts they memorize but on how well they can explain the concepts behind them.

Understanding facts only, and not the ideas that cause them, severly limits a students ability to transfer knowledge between different areas of subject matter. For example, a student may memorize the fact that hot water will always rise to the top of a container, while colder water will sink. What if they were then asked whether steel ball bearings would rise to the top or sink to the bottom in a container filled with sand? The student might not be able to answer with certainty because there initially seems to be no connection between water temperature and steel balls in sand. However if the student understood the concept in the first fact, then then it would easy to answer the question. Higher temperature means higher average kinetic engery in the water molecules. Kinetic energy is energy associated with movement molecules in warmer water are farther apart from each other than those in colder water. Since there is more space between the molecules, warmer water is less dense and, assuming equal volumes, is lighter than colder water. Heaver colder water then sinks to the bottom of the container. In the same way, steel ball bearings are denser than sand and would clearly sink to the bottom in a container of sand. Had the student only memorized the fact about water and not understood the cause, they could not answer this question about the steel ball bearings. Clearly it is a better measure of learning to assess a student's ability to explain concepts rather than their ability to memorize facts as it allows them to transfer what they learn in one field to another and make logical inferences.

Proponents of assessing students based on their grasp of facts argue that testing for facts is easier than testing for concepts, ideas and concepts. For example, to test a fact all an educator has to do is create an exam with multiple choice questions or fill-ins and run the exam through a computer to grade it. An exam that tests for concepts requires the educator to read through responses critique them individually. If an educator cannot be expected to do the latter, then there is no point in sending students to school and it would be more efficient to have them stay in their homes and memorize facts from books. Furthermore, testing facts doesn't necessarily mean that students even remember the facts; they could guess answers. With testing concepts, students cannot make up answers without backing them up with evidence which clearly separates the students that understand from those that have learned nothing. When faced with new problems, students can extrapolate on concepts and ideas to come up with solutions. If all they know if facts, they can't hope to solve new problems that don't directly use those facts. In short, while testing students on ideas, trends and concepts may be more difficult for the educator, it will more definitively show if the student has learned something and is capable of solving new problems. A student that only knows facts is not an asset to a changing world and workforce. Who would hire them to solve problems already solved?

In conclusion, educators should assess students not on their grasp of the facts but on their ability to explain ideas, trends and concepts. Doing so shows that students can extend what they've learned in one area to other fields and that they are prepared to solve problems they have not yet encountered. Knowing cold hard facts, while useful is not the only thing that will help a student succeed.
742EvergreenTerrace
New Member


Joined: 20 Dec 2014
Posts: 8

Re: Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concep #2 (permalink) Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:13 am   Re: Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concep
 

Hi EvergreenTerrace, I really did not notice too many grammatical errors in this one. To me it seems like your first example was way too detailed. It might have been better to give two shorter examples if possible than your one extended example that goes into kinetic energy, water atoms, and so on, which doesn't really seem necessary in my opinion. Another concern is that the prompt talks about "explaining", but you don't really seem to cover that very much in your essay. To me, the prompt is trying to make the point that the only way you can show mastery of a subject is if you can explain it to others or teach it yourself. For instance, my son goes to a fairly progressive school, and often instead of taking tests, the students are assigned topics to research and then to explain to the rest of the class. These are just the thoughts that came into my mind when I read the prompt. Also, your introduction was ok, but it seemed a little "cookie-cutter" without that much creativity - this would be fine for a TOEFL essay, but I wonder if the GRE graders are looking for a little more.

742EvergreenTerrace wrote:
Issue essays are particularly harder for me than argument essays for some reason. Does anyone else feel the same? Anyways, for this essay I ran out of time towards the end and didn't get a chance to proof-read, so there are more grammar errors than usual. The thing I'm most concerned with are my examples. Were they any good?

Educators should base their assessment of students' learning not on students' grasp of facts but on the ability to explain the ideas, trends, and concepts that those facts illustrate.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.


A topic that is often greatly contested in the field of pedagogy is accurately measuring how much a student has learned. Some say that learning should be assessed based on the facts that the students grasp, while other[s ] argue that educators should assess learning on students' ability to explain the ideas, trends and concepts that the facts illustrate. I believe that students should not be assessed based on the facts they memorize but on how well they can explain the concepts behind them.

Understanding facts only, and not the ideas that cause them, {"saying "ideas cause facts" sounds a little odd to me} severly limits a student['s] ability to transfer knowledge between different areas of subject matter. For example, a student may memorize the fact that hot water will always rise to the top of a container, while colder water will sink. What if they were then asked whether steel ball bearings would rise to the top or sink to the bottom in a container filled with sand? The student might not be able to answer with certainty because there initially seems to be no connection between water temperature and steel balls in sand. However if the student understood the concept in [behind] the first fact, then then it would [be] easy to answer the question. Higher temperature means higher average kinetic engery[energy] in the water molecules. Kinetic energy is energy associated with movement [, so] molecules in warmer water are farther apart from each other than those in colder water. Since there is more space between the molecules, warmer water is less dense and, assuming equal volumes, is lighter than colder water. Heaver colder water then sinks to the bottom of the container. In the same way, steel ball bearings are denser than sand and would clearly sink to the bottom in a container of sand. Had the student only memorized the fact about water and not understood the cause, they could not [have] answer[ed] this question about the steel ball bearings. Clearly it is a better measure of learning to assess a student's ability to explain concepts rather than their ability to memorize facts as it allows them to transfer what they learn in one field to another and make logical inferences.

Proponents of assessing students based on their grasp of facts argue that testing for [knowledge of] facts is easier than testing for [comprehension of] concepts, ideas and concepts. For example, to test [the memorization of] a fact all an educator has to do is create an exam with multiple choice questions or fill-ins and run the exam through a computer to grade it. An exam that tests for [understanding of] concepts requires the educator to read through responses [to] critique them individually. If an educator cannot be expected to do the latter, then there is no point in sending students to school and it would be more efficient to have them stay in their homes and memorize facts from books. {it is not clear to me how this follows} Furthermore, testing [for knowledge of] facts doesn't {avoid contractions} necessarily mean that students even remember the facts; they could guess [the] answers. {or more likely, use short term memorization tricks, with the facts being forgotten a couple weeks after the test} With [When] testing concepts, students cannot make up answers without backing them up with evidence which clearly separates the students that understand from those that have learned nothing. When faced with new problems, students can extrapolate on concepts and ideas to come up with solutions. If all they know i[s ] facts, they can't hope to solve new problems that don't directly use those facts. In short, while testing students on ideas, trends and concepts may be more difficult for the educator, it will more definitively show if the student has learned something and is capable of solving new problems. A student that {I really prefer using "who" when talking about people} only knows facts is not an asset to a changing world and workforce. Who would hire them to solve problems already solved?

In conclusion, educators should assess students not on their grasp of the facts but on their ability to explain ideas, trends and concepts. Doing so shows that students can extend what they've learned in one area to other fields and that they are prepared to solve problems they have not yet encountered. Knowing cold hard facts, while useful[,] is not the only thing{try to avoid using "thing" - it usually means you were unable to come up with a more specific word - here you could use "factor"} that will help a student succeed.
Luschen
I'm a Communicator ;-)


Joined: 08 Apr 2011
Posts: 8541
Location: Nashville TN, USA

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Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts #3 (permalink) Mon Jan 19, 2015 3:09 am   Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts
 

Thanks for you quick reply Luschen. Yes, I see now that I may have missed the point of the prompt when it comes to the idea of "explaining." Although I had an idea for my position on this issue, I couldn't really list any specific reasons when I was planning the essay. I knew by the end that I had gone overboard with the first example.

Do you have any tips on avoiding the cookie-cutter introductions? I didn't have enough time to come up with something clever, so I used something generic that just introduced the issue and my thesis.

Also the topics for the issue essays are supposed to be of "general interest" according to ETS. What can I do to familiarize myself with issues like these so that I can come up with better examples for future essays?
742EvergreenTerrace
New Member


Joined: 20 Dec 2014
Posts: 8

Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts #4 (permalink) Wed Jan 21, 2015 21:07 pm   Assessing Students on their grasp of facts or their ability to explain concepts
 

I think introductions are probably the toughest parts of an essay to write. I don't think they are as important as the body paragraphs though, so if you have to cut corners to save time, it is probably best to do more of a template-based introduction and save the time. But if you can write a creative introduction, that is best. It is good to start off with some general statements or ideas about the topic and gradually focus narrower and narrower, ending at a specific thesis. If you can tie in a quote or saying, or something from popular culture, I think that is a good way to draw in the reader's attention. For instance, the first thing that came into my mind when reading this prompt is the part of nearly every kung-fu movie where the wise master says, "Now the student has become the teacher." So I would probably introduce that and state that like the kung-fu master, you cannot really tell if a student has deep understanding and mastery of a topic unless the student is able to explain that topic to others so that they can understand it too. After all, isn't that what education is really fundamentally about, passing on knowledge to others?

I guess being an "old man", well at least almost 50 :) gives me a little advantage in the life experiences department. I don't really have any quick 'n easy ideas to improve your background knowledge - I think that is actually something the GRE is trying to test you on. I suppose students who are well-rounded and have read about a large variety of topics will have an advantage. Unfortunately, it also comes down to luck somewhat, in that you might get a topic you are very interested in, or you might get one you have never really thought about at all. Sorry I can't be more help - maybe others on the forum have some ideas.
Luschen
I'm a Communicator ;-)


Joined: 08 Apr 2011
Posts: 8541
Location: Nashville TN, USA

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