Curriculum and Grading
In 2010, World Education oversaw the development of a curriculum framework for several higher education programs along the Thai-Burma border, including BHEEP. This framework was developed after a thorough needs analysis of several Post-10 education systems along the Thai-Burma border.
There are four strands of learning in the higher education curriculum. The primary strand is English Language Arts (Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking), through which the other three strands of Critical Thinking, Professional Development, and Technical Specialization are explored. The backbone of the curriculum consists of seven English language units with emphasis on a particular critical thinking skill in each unit. It is encouraged that each English unit of Reading, Writing, and Listening & Speaking skills are explored through a particular theme from materials in the Reading and Listening Banks (ex. class novel, human trafficking, human rights, environmental issues, etc.), to maintain unity in vocabulary being taught by co-teachers. Grammar and Pronunciation units are created separately and should be integrated within each English unit (i.e. taught in conjunction with the skills being learned in other English content).
During curriculum mapping sessions, teachers should select particular grammar points to be taught concurrently with each English unit, so as to facilitate in students’ application of grammar in all skill areas. Suggested grammar points for each English unit are provided in unit outlines. Teachers may choose to emphasize additional points that their particular students have weaknesses in. Pronunciation activities should be integrated throughout Listening and Speaking class.
Technical specializations are dependent upon the higher education program and community needs, and are therefore flexible and can be integrated into the core curriculum at varying levels of intensity. The technical specialization for Bop Htaw Education is Teaching and Education Management, based on the needs of the parent organization MNEC.
Over the years, this technical specialization has grown and is about 30% of the current curriculum content (three-to-four classes each week are typically used for teacher training and teaching practicum, while the rest are used for English Language Arts).
Supplementary trainings are also encouraged to provide students with an intensive focus on a particular skill or greater exploration of a subject not covered on the syllabus but relevant to student needs and interests. Possible trainings include supplementary teacher training, community development, project planning and management, human and labor rights, health and hygiene, psychosocial development, etc.
Teachers are encouraged to be creative in assessing students. This is highly dependent upon the teacher, their methodology, and their learners; however, assessments should be created in alignment to course standards.
There are a number of past assignments available for teachers to adapt as they see fit. Teachers should regularly assess students on three levels:
Homework / Daily Assessment
On-going / Weekly Assessment
Cumulative / Unit and Trimesterly Assessment
It is recommended that teachers develop a range of assessments that reflect the range of skills and topics covered within the curriculum. This should include quizzes, tests, exams as well as discussions, presentations, essays, reviews, reports and individual / group projects. It is very important for all teachers to regularly assess students strengths, weaknesses and development. More information on Assessments can be found below.
When developing the curriculum in 2010, curricular frameworks from various adult education programs with similar goals were reviewed and evaluated in terms of rigor, specificity, comprehensiveness, clarity, measurability, and manageability. As a result of the needs assessment, the curriculum’s framework is largely based on Equipped for the Future (http://eff.cls.utk.edu/fundamentals/) and the Massachusetts Department of Education, Adult and Community Learning Services [ABE English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Curriculum Framework (December 2005)]. The standards for the Higher Education English curriculum are also aligned with those of the English Standards for the Thai high school Grade 10-12, in order to enhance the curriculum’s validity and potential of accreditation.
The English Curriculum is based on Student Performance Levels (SPLs) derived from these curricular frameworks. During the needs assessment, it was determined that the majority of the target student population for the higher education programs fell between SPLs of 4 to 7 for all English subjects (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking); thus, SPL descriptors for levels 4 to 7 were created for each of these subjects, based on the Thai, EFF, and ESOL standards.
In order to track students’ progress against English course standards, teachers are asked to give Pre and Post Assessments at the beginning and end of the year for the four subjects to measure growth in students’ SPL development to submit to MNEC and external stakeholders.
However, it has been noted by former teachers that it is challenging to get an accurate measurement of students’ growth with only a pre and post assessment, and the scores can sometimes feel de-motivating to students if they don’t improve. Thus, it is recommended that teachers keep the numbers for their own use, and emphasize to the students the skill areas that they should focus on.
Teachers can also aim to align their assessments throughout the year to the SPL standards, as a more comprehensive way of monitoring student progress. This can be done by using course rubrics to assess Writing and Speaking that are already aligned to the SPLs and by assessing the SPL-outlined Reading and Listening skills through periodic quizzes and tests. There are a number of rubrics on the Curriculum Network that are aligned to SPL standards
Cumulative Assessments provide essential feedback on students’ performance once a unit of work is completed and can determine if identified objectives were met. Cumulative Assessments are typically held after each Unit within a trimester and at the end of the trimester during Exam Week.
Cumulative Assessment can take the form of written/oral exams, evaluation of student portfolios, unit reflections, student-teacher conferences, and/or projects. In the past teachers have used exams as a way to test students’ ability to apply their skills in authentic contexts by planning and facilitating an art exhibition, showing their work from the trimester or the year, creating a presentation or performance demonstrating learned skills, and doing a community project which encourages students to apply learned skills. There are usually two to three days of exams at the end of each trimester.
Learning Portfolios: A learning portfolio is a purposeful selection and compilation of students’ work that exhibits students’ efforts, progress, and achievements throughout the entire program. This is a useful way to encourage students to be reflective and self-directed learners as they reflect on their progress throughout the course and select their strongest work to exhibit for future employers and educational institutions.
On-going assessment provides clear feedback on students’ performances in a way that allows students to develop and refine their understandings in the progress of their work. On-going assessment includes periodic quizzes, activities, observations, or small projects throughout each trimester. Projects are a really good opportunity to get students learning and doing things outside the classroom; however they usually involve a lot of planning, preparation and marking time for the teacher. Projects can be cross-disciplinary, involving information and grading in several classes.
Teachers may decide together how they wish to grade their homework. In order to provide clear and meaningful feedback to the students, it is suggested that teachers use the same homework grading system so that students know what they need to do to receive 100% on homework. In the past, teachers have used systems such as a zero to 3 scale, or a zero to 6 scale.
Teachers can choose how much homework to give students and should communicate regularly so that students are not overloaded by work. Whatever system the teachers decide on should help to mark assignments quickly and allow for more qualitative feedback on student’s work. Teachers should record homework grades for their own classes on an Excel spreadsheet (available on the Curriculum Network) and use it to calculate students’ end-of trimester homework grade.
Students should be informed of the grading system during orientation week and should be reminded when discussing their semester grades with teachers. Students should be encouraged to ask questions about the grades they receive, particularly if they don’t understand why or how the teacher arrived at that mark.
Participation & Attitude
Participation includes class attendance. Teachers should keep track of attendance for each class. It is important to be able to note when a student has fallen below the acceptable number of missed classes and warn this student before taking disciplinary action. In the past teachers have allowed 1-2 free absence per trimester before losing points. Attitude means that we require more than a mere presence in the classroom; the quality of a student’s presence is also important. Students who are not as academically strong but who put in a lot of effort can be rewarded here, whereas students who may be very bright but aren’t reaching their full potential can be pushed. Participation and attitude is about asking questions, volunteering in class, speaking out in group-work, making presentations, following expectations, etc.
10% Daily Participation
Out of class participation
This grade is about the student’s participation in BHEEP life outside the classroom. The BHEEP staff in charge of hostel management should monitor this grade for the students because s/he has the opportunity to observe students’ participation in extracurricular program life. It measures the student’s participation in their cooking groups, in student projects, penalizes instances of not following the English Immersion Policy and encourages learners to be mindful and respectful of one-another.
As the year goes on, the expectation should rise to include going above and beyond duties and responsibilities. Does the student show initiative and step up? Does the student make an effort to practice English, speak a lot outside class, etc? Does the student take on leadership responsibilities? etc.
Report cards come out three times a year at the end of the trimester. Report cards show grades are broken down in terms of assignment ‘level / responsibility’ (see box to the right) as well as in terms of the students’ skills (Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking, Teaching, Computer). Listening and Speaking, Reading and Writing, and Teaching are assessed in terms of homework, on-going assessment, and cumulative assessment, and the computer teacher will be responsible for reporting the grades for the computer class. Therefore, a graded for an assignment will count towards at least two different sections – it will be recorded according to it’s level/responsibility and according to the skill it is assessing. Sometimes, a grade might count towards three categories. For example, a teaching philosophy essay might count as a cumulative assessment as well as writing skill and teaching skill (meaning it will be included in three different grade totals in the report card.
A student’s overall grade is a product of the level/responsibility and not the skills. However, it is important for students to know how they are faring for each specific skill, which is why these grades are reported as well.
Grammar is assessed in all English skills, and Pronunciation is assessed within Listening and Speaking. The suggested grading breakdown is noted on the right. An Excel Spreadsheet is available on the Curriculum Network to calculate these grades as listed. If teachers choose to weight these differently, they may, but co-teachers should use the same system for assessing and grading in order to provide clarity for the students.
A passing grade at MNEC is considered to be an average of 70%, although learners who score below this mark should not be discouraged from continuing the program. What we have typically found is that students’ abilities will substantially grow throughout the year. It is important to remember that achievement based on creative performance is new for these students and it takes some time to adjust to the academic expectations of the program.