The spin-offs of celebrating student success
By Betty Rice
When they enter the classroom, Education students know they will be expected to consider and grade hundreds, if not thousands, of papers and projects during their teaching careers. Recently, a group of undergraduate students from the education faculty had the opportunity to test their assessment knowledge and skills in critically reviewing students’ writing, as they served as a jury for a large-scale essay contest sponsored by a national organization centred on promoting student success.
The Learning Partnership’s focus is to promote public education in Canada, and it has developed a dozen programs which encourage students to develop their academic skills, to stay in school, and to prepare for their futures. In 1998, the charitable organization began the Turning Points Essay Award program; the goal of the initiative is to encourage students in grades 6 - 12 to think about the fundamental values important to them, to consider a significant event in their lives—or a “turning point” when their values were solidified—and to write an essay on that experience. This spring, with support from The Calgary Foundation, the essay contest was opened to Calgary students.
According to Kathleen Kawalauskas, program manager for the Turning Points program in Calgary, engaging 45 education students to assist in the adjudication process was a given. “The education student brings a strong knowledge base of the writing process to the evaluation. Essays were prescreened at the school level, and the education students provided the second level of filtration. Their judgments were bias free in that they did not know the individual student authors.”
The assessments provided the university students, who are supervised by the Dr. Jim Paul and Dr. Jim Field, the opportunity to experience an actual process of adjudication.
“This authentic assessment experience was a positive pedagogic teaching engagement for our education students,” says Paul. ‘They worked with a wide range of students’ diverse writing products and they experienced, independently and as a collective, the joy and difficulty of assessing and evaluating such writing.”
Kawalauskas agrees. “The education students were exposed to pieces that came from a broad socio-economic background, as well as across the grades. The university students not only compared the writing of a student in grade 7 or 8 to what they later found from grade 9 or 10, but additionally to what they had found in their own practicum experience.”
On May 12, education students were among the hundreds of parents, teachers, and community members and, of course, essay award recipients at a Turning Points awards reception and presentation ceremony held on campus.