Saturday, February 11, 2012

Amazing Week 5 with PBL, Assessment, Rubric and WebQuest

Project Based Learning : Look how they are engaging!!

The atmosphere of week 5 was filled with marvelous ideas, great discussions, amazing methods and lots of hope for the future. This whole week I was busy teaching and learning as usual. I think that learning is a lifelong process for people especially for teachers. Everyday I am learning something from my students or by myself. One of my goals is to encourage students’ aware of their learning objectives and happy with their language learning process so that they could accept the value of education and lead a successful life. After all, it is a good habit that every student should nurture, isn’t it? The thing is if you enjoy learning, you will never want to stop it and that’s what I’m doing now. Enjoying learning and teaching at the same time.  

 This course is special for me as this is the first time online course where I meet with experienced teachers from around the world. I had a great discussion on Nicenet this week. We discussed about Assessment, rubrics and PBL (Project-based Learning). Do you know TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test)? Yes, a knowledge test for language teachers I took it in 2008 and that’s when I first heard about PBL. I have known about PBL as a student-centered teaching approach with projects, but I do not have a chance to use it in the class because of some circumstances like time limit, resources and the work place situations. Actually I really do like an idea of students’ learning while doing projects which enhance learning skills in a collaborative way. I could see the benefits of PBL vividly from reading an article “Less Teaching and More Learning” by Susan Gaer. She said, “Students develop language and literacy skills by working on a product that will exist beyond the classroom walls. This creates excitement and motivation that I have not seen in a traditional, text-based only class. In project-based learning, I do a lot less teaching and see a lot more learning in the classroom.” Just by simply read about it and I can see how PBL is such a strong and effective method for learning. Students really like doing things by themselves if they have given a responsibility to accomplish the tasks. They enjoy exploring and discussing in groups and they always do with enthusiasm. I could see their eyes sparkle with happiness and enthusiasm every time they are participating in group works in the class. PBL will be definitely worked well with my students and I am thinking of starting with some fascinating mini-projects. As Janine said “there is no set amount of time that a project has to last; "mini-projects" can be just as successful and may work better in some settings. This means they can last a day or two, a week, etc. They can be worked on in and out of class.” which show us clearly how PBL can be done successfully within a set curriculum. 

So far, I know a great way to motivate students’ learning with PBL and the thing is, in which way shall I assess students’ progress for their projects? Here comes another related discussion topic about using “Alternative Assessment” to evaluate students’ projects. This is also a new way of assessment for me which is different from traditional assessment usually use in the class. My way of assessment is limit to the traditional type. Frankly, I feel that we shouldn’t judge a student’s performance by testing one test and decide everything. We should implement some kind of continual assessment for student’s works the whole academic year. This week, I come across how alternative assessment can give concrete feedback on students’ performance. 

Traditional vs. Alternative Assessment

 Traditional Assessment (TA): assesses basic knowledge & skills separate from real-world tasks.

Alternative assessment (AA) : usually includes a task for students to perform and a rubric by which their performance on the task will be evaluated. Many of the alternative assessment tasks are performance based. Let’s look at the attributes of traditional and alternative assessment where TA's fall more towards the left end of each continuum and AA's fall more towards the right end.

Traditional --------------------------------------------- Authentic

Selecting a Response ------------------------------------ Performing a Task
Contrived --------------------------------------------------------------- Real-life
Recall/Recognition ------------------------------- Construction/Application
Teacher-structured ------------------------------------- Student-structured
Indirect Evidence -------------------------------------------- Direct Evidence

You can read the detail clarification of these attributes on the website AuthenticAssessment Toolbox by Jon Mueller.

 Another interesting fact that Jon Mueller stated is that a teacher does not have to choose between AA and TA and it is likely to use them both for different purposes and needs. Moreover, I enjoy reading the article of NCLRC “AssessingLearning: Alternative Assessment”. I could clearly see the usefulness of effective assessment tools such as checklists and rubrics. I have already created my rubric to evaluate students’ oral presentations in class. You can check this out at "Oral Presentation rubric" by RUBISTAR.  I think this new assessment method is the best way to give concrete feedback for some kind of oral and written production. According to NCLRC, “ Learners who are used to traditional teacher-centered classrooms have not been expected to take responsibility for assessment before and may need time to adjust to this new role. They also may be skeptical that peers can provide them with feedback that will enhance their learning.”

 It is true for my student’s current situation and visions for alternative assessment. They will definitely need some time to familiar with the use of checklists and rubrics and in this way they can gradually begin to assess their own learning and provide feedback to their peers.

Last but not least, I was introduced with the innovative online tool called WebQuest in this week. When I first saw the word, there was a big question mark sign on my forehead. According to the, “A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.”  You can see this short video of how WebQuest can enhance students’ motivation and enjoy their learning.

I have seen thousands of WebQuests created by teachers around the world at and they are really amazing! I can give assignments to students for all the language skills practices using WebQuests. Now I am in the process of creating my own WebQuest and I am going to share with all of you (hopefully before the end of this week).

Wow! I can’t believe we have finished half way of our course. I will absolutely enjoy teaching and learning in this Webskills journey in the coming week too. 

After all, learning is a lifelong journey….isn't it?


  1. Dear Zun,

    At the very beginning, I have to say that every word is redundant about your reflection for Week 5. It is so, so wonderful. Taking into account all skills that we learned about during this week, I have no any word which I can use to describe it. This *amazing course* offers us a lot and I am glad that I can gain new experiences from our dear classmates who share their knowledge and experiences on Nicenet.
    At first, the rubrics/alternative assessment tools are very useful for us in order we can track students' progress continuously. What I also like is that students can do the self-evaluation and they can also evaluate their peers' activities. I think that this is very motivating for them because students can become *autonomous learners* and they can also improve their English. On the other hand, PBL is also rewarding tool for students. In this way, they can also develop many skills that we mentioned during our discussions on Nicenet. WebQuest is the third tool which can help students to become independent learners and they can also develop their teams' skills which are necessary for their future. WebQuest is also constructive for teachers because they don't need to worry about lesson plans. This is very motivating for students because they have available pieces of information and they can enjoy doing their tasks. Students don't need to waste time looking for the information.

    I completely agree with you that *learning is a lifelong journey*.
    And it is unbelievable that we are in a half way of our course.

    Best regards...


    1. Dear Rade,

      Thanks for giving me such a nice comment. It is clearly seen that all of us are amazed by the innovative tools we have learned in this week. I agree with you that rubrics/alternative assessment tools can help students do self-evaluation and peer-checking skills. I’m sure that students will become independent learners if they have a chance to practice language with PBL and alternative assessment tools. By the way, you have done a great job of creating your own WebQuest. It is wonderful! When will you try it with your students? They will surely enjoy learning with it. :)

      Best Wishes
      Zun Phyu

  2. Dear Zun Phyu,

    it seems that you are very well acquainted with various types of assessment and you have done a really goo analysis of it. As assessment is one of the crucial parts of teaching, giving feedback and learning from your mistakes, it definitely needs a lot of consideration.

  3. Dear Lina,

    It needs to be taken into account lots of consideration before giving feedback to the students. Now we have useful assessment tools in our teaching packets and it just a matter of choices between assessing learners' knowledge or performance. As student-centered learning environment is crucial for producing meaningful language, implementing authentic tasks with alternative assessment sounds totally in the right path.

  4. Dear Zun:
    Learning is a lifelong journey. It sure is! Every week, we are exposed to something new. We are excited and sometimes even overwhelmed. I have to say that we are lucky that we can appreciate the joy of learning because we can tell that some of my poor young learners don't. I like everything covered in the article "Less Teaching More Learning". However, less teaching doesn't necessarily leads to more learning if the teachers are not implementing different ways of having the lessons delivered.
    I have always asked myself what's wrong with the education system in Taiwan that few students draw an analogy between school and fun. This week while logging in and out of the website of our course, the title of our course imposed a strong impact on me" Building Teacher Skills Through the Interactive Web". Yes, let's facilitate our learning here in our classroom so that our students have the chances to experience the joy of learning like we do in this course.

  5. Dear Gladys,

    A very nice and thoughtful post of you. It is true that some young learners do not seem to interested in the lesson even though we are trying our best to make learning meaningful and effective for them. However, 'being patience' is the best friend for me here. Learning process needs patience and commiment. I do believe that they will know the value of learning language or any learning goals as long as we never give up our hope for teaching students with different methods matched with their learning styles and needs.

    Best wishes,
    Zun Phyu