Here is a potential set of assessment items for 9.LD-V.8. (“Determine the meanings of multiple-meaning words by using context.”), a DCPS ELA standard, that shows just how important context can be:
“I just bought a case yesterday!”
(1) If this statement were uttered by a college student, what sort of “case” would he most likely be referring to?
(2) If this statement were uttered by a cell-phone techie, what sort of “case” would he most likely be referring to?
(3) If this statement were uttered by a sartorialist, what sort of “case” would he most likely be referring to?
(4) If this statement were uttered by a DCPS teacher, what sort of “case” would he most likely be referring to?
(a) A case of suits (a suitcase?).
(b) A case of beer (most likely Natural Light).
(c) A case for an iPod (most likely Marware)
(d) A case of paper (most likely of the Staples or Costco variety, depending on what sales were on at the time of purchase).
The order of correct answers is (b), (c), (a), and (d). Did you score a perfect 100%?
The lesson is clear: in certain situations, context can make all the difference.
I thought of this because our grad school cohort is just beginning a course in educational assessment. As a result, I’ve been thinking broadly about tests and assessments (and all the other stuff that makes my students miserable). What can I say–I’m just in that frame of mind (I’m also in the middle of giving final exams for fall semester).
Anyways, while walking to grad school with another teacher from my school, I pointed out that “I [had] just bought a case yesterday!” Now wide-eyed, she shrieked with glee, congratulating me for the good fortune that had come my way (I had now been endowed with a case–wow!).
Because she already knew the context, there was absolutely no ambiguity; I was referring to answer choice (d). This is how teachers in paper-starved DCPS schools think.
(Can these assessment items be added to the DC CAS? Given the rigor of other questions I’ve seen, I think these might just be worthy of being “advanced” questions. I’m kidding–maybe?)