March 28, 2013

Petition against machine scoring of high-stake tests

By Nalini Lasiewicz, BOL, Registrar, Crossroads of Learning

One thing we know about university writing center administrators, they like to write.  They write well, thoughtfully and often.

Earlier this year a discussion on protesting the trend towards machine scoring of essays drew significant interest among members of the WPA-L Listserv, an international e-mail discussion group intended primarily for professionals in writing program administration at universities, colleges and community colleges.  Their postings quickly moved from the theoretical to a call to action, generating hundreds of posts and perspectives.  Within a few weeks, members of the list collaborated on, and launched, an online petition against machine scoring of high-stake tests.

The “Human Readers” petition and website delivers an urgent appeal to all stakeholders to temper the rush in implementing this still controversial technology.  They urge policy makers to remain committed to the use of human readers in evaluating and critiquing student essays.  They are also asking their own institutions to stop buying or accepting machine scoring of essays until the process is proven to be “valid, equitable, and worth stakeholders’ money.”  (

Evolving since the early 1960s, education and technology companies have developed software and data base management systems to support the collection of student data, including the delivery and grading of high stake products such as the SAT.  In recent years, and with both public and commercial funding, an economic engine has exploded in the education field, with technology and service providers playing a major role.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Pedagogy,Study Tools,Technology,Training/Education

September 15, 2010

OSU a finalist for grant to fund tutor training

By Encarcion Pyle, originally published in The Columbus Dispatch on 8/6/09

Ohio State University could receive nearly $46 million in federal money to train thousands of teachers nationwide in a tutoring method to help low-achieving students read and write.

The Columbus campus is one of 49 colleges, school districts and charitable groups across the country to be selected as a finalist for funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s $650 million Investing in Innovation fund. Ohio State will work with a network of 16 other universities.

To receive the federal money, Ohio State and its partners will have to come up with a 20 percent private match – about $9 million – by Sept. 8 or be granted a waiver.

“Investing in students’ education today will provide our nation with the skilled work force needed for the 21st-century economy,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement yesterday after the announcement.

Ohio State plans to show 3,750 teachers how to use the Reading Recovery tutoring model to improve the skills of first-graders who have difficulty reading and writing. These students typically are in the lowest 20 percent of their class.

“There are children who without an intervention of some kind would doubtfully become readers,” said Patricia Scharer, a professor at OSU’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Government,Pedagogy

November 13, 2009

Math Is Not Hard: A Simple Tutoring Method That Is Changing The World

by  Julia Moulden, originally published in The Huffington Post, 10/24/09

“Math is the easiest subject for kids to learn.”

Say what?

Yup, that’s what John Mighton believes. And he’s got everything he needs to back up this counter-intuitive assertion.

Let’s start with the commonly-held view. “Math is hard.” Even Barbie said it. We somehow grow up thinking that either you’re born with the math gene or you’re not. And if you’re not, well, good luck to you. Like most people, you’ll begin to falter in grade school, think it’s hopeless, and give up. Sound like you? Your kids? Your students?

What if there were a different way of looking at math? Well, there is. And John Mighton is its champion. This new way says this: every child can learn how to do math. Every child. And that learning in this new way opens the door to everything else.

Our story begins where it must, with John. In his thirties, he began tutoring students in math as a way to supplement his income as a playwright (more on that later). His childhood interest in math rekindled (like you and me, he figured he didn’t have the math gene), he decided to go back to school to become a mathematician. Even though he’d tutored for years, before long he found himself struggling and flunked a couple of tests. Paralyzed by insecurity, he convinced himself that he had reached a threshold he’d never get beyond. But then he started to think about what he’d learned as a tutor. That if he broke things down for students into small increments, if they had a chance to practice and learn, they could inevitably continue. He realized that the same thing was true for him, too. This was John’s first “a-ha!” moment. A powerful enough realization that he went on to earn his PhD.

Looking for a way to give back to his community, he decided to try to help more kids with math. One day, it occurred to him that mathematicians don’t always make the best teachers of the subject, because math comes easily to them. And here comes the second “a-ha!”. “Because I’d struggled with math myself, as a tutor I wasn’t inclined to blame the student. If the student didn’t understand, I assumed there was something wrong with my explanation.”

How powerful is that? Eager to get his revolutionary approach to teaching math into the hands of teachers, John created a not-for-profit organization called JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies). Today, JUMP is getting spectacular results with all kinds of kids. For instance, after working with JUMP, an entire class of Grade 3 students, including so-called slow learners, scored over 90% on a Grade 6 math test. A group of British children who had been written off as too unruly responded so enthusiastically and had such impressive results that the school board adopted the program. I could go on and on.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,Community,Leadership,Pedagogy,Tutoring Practices

October 31, 2009

Tutors Toolkit: Answering an Essay Test

The following information is from Cuesta College and was accessed on 10/15/09

Answering an Essay Test

Essay tests can have on them the following types of questions: short or long answers, fill in the blank, and sentence completion. Use the following suggestions to help you with essay-type tests:

  1. Make a brief survey of the entire test. Read every question and the directions. Plan to answer the least difficult questions first, saving the most difficult for last.\
  2. Set a time schedule and periodically check your progress (to maintain proper speed). With six questions to answer in 60 minutes you should allow a maximum of 10 minutes per questions. If your 10 minutes passes and you have not finished the question, continue to the next one and come back to the other one later. Do not sacrifice any question for another.
  3. Read the question carefully. Underline key words: e.g., list, compare, WWII, political and social, art or music, etc. As you read, jot down the points that occur to you beside that question.
  4. Organize a brief outline of the main ideas you want to present. Place a check mark alongside each major idea and number them in order of presentation in your answer. Do not spend too much time on the outline.
  5. When you answer, always rephrase the question.
    Example: Explain Pavlov’s theory of conditioning. Answer: Pavlov’s theory of conditioning is based on…
    The remainder of the answer is devoted to support by giving dates, examples, stating relationships, causes, effects and research
  6. Present material that reflects the grader’s personal or professional biases. Further, stick to the material covered in the reading or lecture, and answer the question within the frame of reference.
  7. If you do not understand what the instructor is looking for, write down how you interpreted the question and answer it.
  8. If time does not permit a complete answer, use an outline form.
  9. Write something for every question. When you “go blank,” start writing all the ideas you remember from your studying – one of them is bound to be close!
  10. In sentence-completion items, remember never to leave a space blank. When in doubt – GUESS. Make use of grammar to help decide the correct answer. Make the completed statement logically consistent.
  11. If you have some time remaining, read over your answer. You can frequently add other
    ideas which may come to mind. You can at least correct misspelled words or insert words to complete an idea.
  12. Sometimes, before you even read the questions, you might write some facts and formulas you have memorized on the back of the test.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Pedagogy,Study Tools,Test Prep

September 29, 2009

Virtual tutoring now offered in high school

by Pat Lee, Staff Reporter, Nova Scotia News – the, originally published on 9/3/09

African-N.S. students helped with science, math

A program designed to help Nova Scotia students of African descent do better in math and science has a new way to reach out to them.

Imhotep’s Legacy Academy has launched a virtual tutoring program that will allow science and math tutors at Dalhousie University help high school students across the province without having to leave the Halifax campus.

Program director Emmanuel Nfonoyim said the pilot project is being launched at Citadel High in Halifax, Cole Harbour High and Prince Andrew High in Dartmouth, Sydney Academy, Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High. He said the program will help about 15 students per school. "I’ve been all across the province and everyone’s really looking forward to having this support for their kids," Mr. Nfonoyim said.

A learning centre has been set up at Dalhousie and computers with a webcam and video conferencing software will be in the schools or in students’ homes. Lt.-Gov. Mayanne Francis is scheduled to launch the learning centre at a luncheon today at Dalhousie University. This is the first time the four-year-old program has offered help to high school students.

Up until now, the project has offered support to about 90 junior high students across the province in after-school programs. Mr. Nfonoyim said it was time to extend that help to the higher grades, especially where students are taking more difficult college-track courses in math and science. "We’re very eager to continue our support right through Grade 12, thereby increasing the chances for a better outcome for the students," he said. The virtual tutoring program is for high school students only.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Distance Learning,Pedagogy

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