Say What Now? Directed Paraphrasing

It’s probably no surprise to anyone, but I read every page of every book I start. This includes a tragic discovery of exact how bad James Patterson mysteries are.

Recently, I was reading a textbook on classroom assessment techniques. It was an interesting timing as I was working on a communication challenge at work where there was some frustration at the level of technical information our support team was sending to customers. And then the perfect technique came before my eyes: directed paraphrasing.

Instead of writing about this one, I made a video. Enjoy!


Great Class Activity Gone Wrong

It can be easy to get excited about trying out a new classroom technique only to have it bomb. It sucks, but not all ideas can be successful.

This article recently came across my facebook news feed. It caught my attention as this was the high school I attended:

‘Grammar exercise’ distributed to students in Mission school raises concerns

I can understand the outrage completely! As a feminist, I want to grab my pitchfork and rally the troops. As an educator, I want to understand how this happened and whether it was a poor choice of topic or technique.

Ignoring the topic, this was actually a really good technique. This is clearly a teacher that cares and adapts to class needs. Not only did this start as a creative assignment, but student work was used to launch into a grammar lesson. This is incredibly innovative and I applaud the teacher.

The content selected though is questionable. But it is also taken out of context. We don’t know if the students were given a debrief or whether there was discussion on the prominence of domestic violence in the middle ages. I would not say it is a mistake, but extra preparation and caution needs to be taken, not just with the students, but also the parents.

Without hearing from the teacher, we really cannot understand the intentions. This could have been selected to launch into further lessons on women’s issues or domestic violence. After all, the technique selected was very innovative and thoughtful.

My initial reaction is understandable, but over dramatic. This really is  an example of a great technique going awry.

Why is the Middle Ages still part of the curriculum anyways? Surely there’s more value in women’s history, gender studies or black history….



Goal Setting: Training and Job Aid

I have been working on this project to develop a performance goal setting process. In association with this process, there will also be goal setting training. The process will kick off during training with the goal setting cycle starting shortly after.

But I got thinking. In my years of business, I have seen goal setting emerge, maintain, and disappear as an organizational practise many times. Sometimes there can be practical reasons for this, such as the cycle being too frequent that it becomes onerous to maintain. Making it less frequent should then make it more likely to be sustainable…right?

I’m not so sure. Goal setting is a skill. If you don’t use it often, it could be easy to forget the best practises. And if backslide and start doling out vague or ambiguous goals, the process quickly becomes meaningless and will be dropped to save morale.

As with many, I follow and teach the SMART goal setting method. Even though this nice mnemonic should guide users to create clear goals, it can be difficult to remember the best practises associated with each element.

So it occurred to me—why can’t the goal setting form also operate as a job aid? Instead of creating a generic form that has spaces to outline the goal and deadline, why not create a form that requires users to fill out each element of SMART. Not only does this help ensure SMART goals are being created, but breaking down the goals like this on the form can help managers discuss and get employee buy in as it’s transparent.

Knowledge Assessment Instruments and Table of Specifications

I’ve  written a good number of tests in my years. In my years of management and training development, I have also had the opportunity to see how others approach assessment. While I would not say I write the best tests, I always thought I did a pretty good job producing balanced and representative assessment tools. I even took a research methodology course in University that taught the art of writing unbiased questions–skills I’ve held close throughout the years.

And then I discovered this thing called “Table of Specifications” (

This changed my way of writing testing instruments.

By using a table of specification you can ensure you are making a test that is representative of the instructional time spent on outcomes.

I used this to create a test on a topic for which I have previously created tests. Immediately I could see that the number and variety of questions I was choosing did not align with the instructional time spent on some outcomes. This was particularly true for easier learning items, such as terminology. Often times, I would skip over testing these items as I considered them necessary for more advanced items, but too easy to be tested directly. To accomplish a similar end, I instead altered the value of question types. This meant I could test for easier items, like terminology, but these items would be worth only 1 mark each. A more complicated problem solving question would then be worth 5 or more marks.

While I am happy to have discovered this method, I can see some potential limitations in our technology driven world. I try to do almost everything paperless, so I generally leverage our Learning Management Systems testing features. While there are features for building questions pools (which is way easier than if you were doing this by paper), other items, such as question types or changing question value may be more difficult. For an example, my LMS does not support short answer or essay type questions.

In the over all scheme of curriculum development, I do think the table of specification has a special place. While creating course outcomes, lesson plans, and assessment it is important to keep in mind that the instructional time devoted to outcomes aligns with the value–both in assessment and goal setting. This is definitely a tool that is staying in my repertoire.