Although, Peter Elbow’s article was written in 1993, his opening statement about assessment driving and controlling teaching was not only honest, it rings true in today’s classrooms. In this article Elbow talks about “sorting” the different act of assessment. He begins his argument by reminding us all that he is by no means a professional in this field, but strongly feels that nonprofessionals such as himself should work and focus on sorting out assessments because the so call professionals “have not reached definitive conclusions about the problem of how to assess writing (or anything else, I'd say).” Elbow also reminded us that decisions about assessments are often made by people even less professional than we, namely legislators. Although, this was a very small part of his argument it was one that needed to be said because it gives a reason to why assessments need to be sort out. After reading this I found myself sharing similar views to Elbow. Maybe like him I am idealistic and want to also find fairness in judging other’s work, or maybe as an educator I too find my self frustrated and want to try to find constructive ways of assessing student’s paper because some of the current assessments that are in place are shamefully stupid, whichever the reason I did find myself agreeing with a lot of his ideas and also disagreeing with some as well. One of the arguments I agree with is the problem with ranking. Elbow writes, “I see three distinct problems with ranking: it is inaccurate or unreliable; it gives no substantive feedback; and it is harmful to the atmosphere for teaching.” He further went on to add that “ranking or grading is woefully uncommunicative. Grades and holistic scores are nothing but points on a continuum from "yea" to "boo"-with no information or clues about the criteria behind these noises.” This statement is quite true because as an educator when you assess it needs to meet several criteria in order for it to be considered valid and one important criterion is feedback. What good is an assessment if the score is based on feelings rather than judgment that tries to discriminate strength and weakness? What good is an assessment if it can’t influence students to develop or even enhance their learning? So, in these regards I agree with Elbow, we should have less ranking and more evaluation. An assessment should be able to provide more than just a numerical score. Elbow not only argues for evaluation but he provided the beneficial reasons. He states, “Instead of using grades or holistic scores-single number verdicts that try to sum up complex performances along only one scale-we should give some kind of written or spoken evaluation that discriminates among criteria and dimensions of the writing. “Again, I agree with Elbow on evaluation 100 percent, however we must consider current realties and be a bit pragmatic in how we view and implement evaluation. The reality is that teachers need to rank and level students. They need to distinguish the lows from the high and the passing from the failing not just for teaching purposes but for state, international, status, and funding purposes. So, Elbow’s suggestion of minimal holistic scoring where you give only 2 scores sounds more reasonable to me. Also, Elbow’s idea of “liking” seems like a radical idea, but again because of current realities and the way teachers are trained these progressive ideas seems far away for now. After reading this, I do have to say that Peter Elbow is bold in the fact that he entertains us with the idea of changing the way we view assessment (in his case writing assessment). Elbow made a powerful statement that has truth to it. He said, “we see around us a deep hunger to rank-to create pecking orders: to see who we can look down on and who we must look up to, or in the military metaphor, who we can kick and who we must salute.” Beautifully said! There is this feeling in education, well I can’t speak for all, but this feeling in my educational community at least, that thorough evaluation is not real enough, and that a numerical score on a paper speaks more volume. Unfortunately, I wish that wasn’t the mindset, but in many instances it is, so that is why I applaud Elbow for his attempt in tackling ranking and offering alternatives and making them sound like they are things that can be done if we put forth a little effort.
The Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar was interesting. After reading the first few pages I was surprised to find out how many experimental research had been done on this topic alone. 75 years’ worth of research and still counting is a lot and for the issue of grammar learning to remain unresolved still today says a lot about the complexities of language and language acquisition. I couldn’t help but to be curious about how these studies were conducted because Patrick Hartwell did not really go into details about these experiments, however the questions that came to mind were: In these grammar experiments, did students have to memorize patterns, grammatical rules, or drills? How was conversational grammar used? I asked these questions because I don’t believe that grammar teaching and learning is effective if it’s taught explicitly. Conversational and pronunciation skills are also important to grammar learning and teaching.
I though the author did a great job of covering all 5 grammars, however I believe grammar 1 and 2 are the ones that carry weight or real significance, all the others follow after. Hartwell defined grammar 1 as “the internalize system of rules that speakers share” In many ways I agree with this statement because as a second language teacher when teaching my students grammar I’m not really teaching them a new set of structure and rules, these students already come in with their own rules and teaching them is really about helping them discover how to fit those rules into the new language. Overall this article proved that grammar and the application of grammar is not only intricate, but also divisive.