: What would you consider to be a good homework assignment?
A: Many students think homework is a form of academic punishment. They will often ask, "What does this have to do with anything?" Thus, it would be important for me to ensure that there is some kind of connection between the homework I assign and the real world. In short, students need to understand the "why?" in each homework assignment—and the "why?" is not something like, "Because I told you so." In student teaching, I tried to help my fourth graders see the relevance of mathematics to their everyday lives. Examples of homework assignments I used included the following: 1) Find 15 items in your house that are rectangles; 2) Select one of your mother's favorite recipes and double it; 3) Use a menu from a local restaurant, and plan a meal for four people within a budget of $50.00; and 4) Locate a chart or graph in the local newspaper, and explain what it means in words. I discovered that this "real-world" connection was also a great motivational aid.
The interviewer wants to know if you've had personal experience in putting all your "book knowledge" into practice. Plan to answer this question with specific examples and anecdotes from your pre-service training.
: What is the purpose of assessment?
A: Good assessment is multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted. It should be
designed to address four major concerns of every teacher. One, it should provide meaningful feedback; that is to say, are students learning what I'm teaching? Two, it should be used to effectively measure instruction; in other words, is the instruction tailored to the individual needs of students? Three, assessment is used to evaluate progress—are students progressing in a satisfactory manner? And, four, assessment must inform instruction. That is to say, it must be used to help develop appropriate activities that will ensure student success throughout a course or topic. In adhering to these four basic concepts of assessment, I use tools such as projects, demonstrations, portfolios, rubrics, and writing samples to help me effectively gauge each student's progress and performance in a lesson.
Count on it! You will be asked a question about assessment and its value in a lesson or unit. Prepare yourself well for this query, because it will come up in one form or another. Review those notes you took a few semesters ago, or get a copy of that textbook on assessment and evaluation. Know that this is a critical question and one that every good teacher—both elementary and secondary—should be prepared to answer.
: What is the difference between assessment and evaluation?
A: Assessment is when teachers gather information about students' level of performance or achievement. Evaluation is comparing a student's achievement with other students or with a set of standards. Although there are slight differences between these two terms, I also believe there are several similarities. Both assessment and evaluation should be continuous and ongoing processes. So, too, should a variety of tools be used in order to provide the most accurate gauge of students' learning and progress. Good evaluation and assessment are also a collaborative activity between students and teachers. However, most important, both evaluation and assessment need to be authentic—they must be based on the natural activities and processes students do in both the classroom and in their everyday lives. Overall, I like to think of evaluation and assessment as processes that offer opportunities for growth—teacher growth, students' growth, and program growth.
Here's another question that's sure to pop up. This is a unique opportunity for you to showcase your knowledge of this topic and how you plan to address it in your own classroom. If you've done the necessary research, you should have no problem. If you haven't, well..
The best way to establish rapport with the interviewer is through frequent eye contact. Eye contact signals the interviewer that you are interested and that you are trustworthy.
: How do you know students have learned what you taught them?
A: Evaluation is an integral part of the learning process. As such, it must be sensitive to the needs, attitudes, and abilities of individual students as well as the class as a whole. I must be careful that I do not over-rely on one form of evaluation just because it is easy or convenient for me to use. Rather, I need to use a multi-faceted evaluation program if I am to determine whether students are mastering the objectives for each lesson. To that end, I need to use formative evaluation measures in order to assess student progress with the material being presented, as diagnostic instruments to determine student strengths and weaknesses, and to provide student and teacher feedback. I also need to use summative evaluation measures at the conclusion of a unit of study in order to assess the extent of pupils' achievement, to provide a basis for the calculation of course grades, and to provide data from which parent reports and school transcripts can be prepared.
I like this question—and so do a large number of principals. Your response demonstrates the extent of your knowledge about assessment and evaluation, your plan for putting that knowledge into practice, your understanding of the connection between lesson objectives and student performance, and your comprehension of both product and process evaluation. It's a tall order, but one you need to master.