Chapter 11:  Using Reflection to Learn

A primary purpose for assessing students is to foster their learning.  In the case of this book the focus is on how assessment of literacy pratices might improve disciplinary literacies and learning across the curriculum.  You may assess their learning by assigning grades or rating of their ability to employ certain literacy practices, for example, their effectiveness in creating a map of the different characters in a novel and the relationships between these characters.  
Students take standardized reading, writing, and math tests that are assumed to be valid and reliable measures of the learning of reading, writing, and math.  However, one problem with standardized reading or writing tests is that, based on a single score, students may perceive themselves as less competent in these subject areas as persons they view as more capable peers.    These self-perceptions are based on the assumption that these tests are valid measures of “reading” or “writing,” when, in fact, they only measure one kind of “reading” or “writing” in a de-contextualized setting—failing to recognize that there are a range of different kinds of reading and writing.  In fact, as children and youth do more reading and writing in digital, multimodal platforms, the less that standrized print-centic will sample the kinds of reading and writing that  In his critique of decontextualized, standardized tests as measures of “reading ability” or “writing ability,” James Gee (2003) argues that these tests fail to recognize that students learn uses of literacy tools within specific contexts or what he defines as “semiotic domains”:

Just as we don’t read ‘in general’, but read specific sorts of texts in specific ways, we

don’t learn ‘in general’, but learn specific ‘semiotic domains’. Indeed, any text is itself associated with one or more specific semiotic domains. By a semiotic domain I mean any set of practices that recruit one or more modalities (e.g. oral or written language, images, equations, symbols, sounds, gestures, graphs, artifacts, and so forth) to communicate distinctive types of meanings. Here are some examples of semiotic domains: cellular biology, postmodern literary criticism, first-person-shooter video games, high fashion advertisements, Roman Catholic theology, modernist painting, midwifery, rap music, wine connoisseurship. (p. 31)

Based on their experience in these domains, students develop knowledge practices and genres constituting literacy tool uses within these domains.  He notes that many students experience a “fourth grade slump” in reading not because of their general “reading abilities,” but because in fourth and fifth grades, students begin to focus on specific disciplines of social studies, science, math, and language arts that entails discipline-specific ways of knowing and thinking.