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Formative Reading Assessment and Virtual Reality

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1. Introduction

In today’s world, technology has infiltrated our everyday day life. Due to the blistering change in technology, our lifestyle has changed. It has brought a dramatic change in our learning style and working style. It made life more accessible, and at the same time, it exalted the quality of life. Education is given significant importance in every society. So, it is very natural that technology integration in learning will focus (Potter, John). More specifically, if we talk, virtual reality is becoming very useful in increasing the learners reading skills. At the same time, virtual reality is playing a role in the formative assessment of the learners (Marini, Daniele et al.). Recent surveys’ shows that once upon a time, Virtual reality was mainly used for gaming. But the rapid progression of technology no longer kept virtual reality limited in gaming. Now, gradually it is being used in every progress. Like all other sectors, the education sector is also welcoming it to meet the demand of the time. In the last five to six years, the virtual world has multiplied to support the educational environment with the necessary equipment. Thus reading and learning became more accessible because the course content is shown innovatively through virtual reality (Burch, Aaron). Students now can relate the study with reality. These have also had a significant impact on the assessment process because now the data for formatting assessment can be easily tracked with virtual reality.   This paper aims to focus on the use of virtual reality for reading assessment among young learners. Additionally, this paper also tries to answer the question: How can virtual reality as a tool improve reading assessment among young learners? And does virtual reality motivate young learners to improve their reading skill? The hypothesis behind the question is that virtual reality can be an essential tool to enhance formative reading assessment among young learners in schools. One could argue that Virtual Reality’s function as a tool plays an enormous role in engaging young learners in a completely new and revolutionary way. VR provides a unique experience for young learners who have been born in the technology era. Young learners tend to consider technology as a more fun and engaging way of learning compared with, for example, the traditional textbook reading in the classroom. Therefore, this paper will argue that by combining virtual reality with the formative reading assessment, we can create a given student a more authentic experience and, in that way, also increase their retention and motivation for learning. Based on this, I will emphasise how virtual reality for formative reading assessment can be a tool to improve young learners reading skills. In order to do so, this paper will start with an introduction to technology and introduce virtual reality and how it works. Afterwards, I will move forward to a formative reading assessment. Following this, sub-skills are going to be mentioned. Hence, in this relation, the “bottom-up” approach put forth by Bloomfield and the “top-down” approach which Goodman puts forth (“What Is a Reading Model? – Definition & Overview – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.Com”). Afterwards, I will analyse how Virtual Reality can improve reading assessment by starting out with an introduction. Lastly, the findings of this paper will be concluded.


2. Understanding the Concepts:

In this section now, I will discuss the critical components of this paper and their relation with each other. Here, the key features are the formative reading assessment and its integration with the technology, specifically virtual reality.

2.1 Technology: 

Technology has changed the world. It has influenced everything. So, it is natural that it will have a massive impact on the education sector. Technology can significantly enhance the development of language tests, how they are administered, how they are rated, and how they are used to improve teaching and learning. (Davidson, Coombe, 265) The term technology originally comes from Greek. According to the dictionary, it is described as “Technology is a branch of knowledge which deals with the innovation and the innovation of technical things are based on the life of people, society and most importantly the environment” (Dictionary, 2016). This clarifies how much we use technology and how often we are exposed to it every day. According to Lynne Schrum article “Technology as a Tool to Support Instruction”, in which she investigates the uses of technology and how educators should identify the way of instruction and at the same time how an instructor should use technology for education, more explicitly monitoring and assessing the study. In her article, she disputes pro-technology as she stresses, “it will make our students smarter – and at the same time learning with technology is faster and cheaper.” She goes further and states that “Technology will make a change in the way of studying” (Schrum). I will agree with the fact that it is correct that technology changes the nature of learning, mainly because we live in an era where technology plays a huge role. We are no longer the generation of pencil and paper students. Moreover, it is also way cheaper and faster when he implicates technology in our education system. Educators have one common goal: they want students to learn, and they will consistently try to discover better ways and better tools that will help students achieve their goal.  This leads us further to another thought-provoking argument Schrum states in her article, The primary purpose of technology is not only the use of technology. In a room full of technology, students don’t learn technology merely. It increases the authenticity of the study, and it helps to understand the task in a better way. So, his main argument is that the objective of the education system is not to teach the use of technology, but technology should rather be seen as a helpful tool to learn. VR is, for instance, relatively new in certain areas. Still, it should not be so challenging to implement VR in the educational system; just as computers turned to iPads, iPods can quickly turn to VR. In the following section, I will be discussing how virtual reality can be implicated in the learning process of students of all levels and all fields.

2.2 Virtual Reality:

The definition of Virtual reality derived from two words, ‘Virtual’ and ‘Reality’. The meaning of virtual is near, and reality denotes what we understand, perceive and experience as a human being (Jones, Huw). So, in short, we can say that virtual reality denotes feeling reality through technology. Our senses and perception systems introduce us to the new elements of the world. It is known to all that we have five senses, and these are taste, sight, touch, hearing and smell. Without any argument, these are our primary sense organs. But a human has some other senses, for example, a sense of balance. Five basic senses, along with other senses, determine our rich flow of information from the world’s environment to our mind (“The 5 Senses”).  Every learning we learn comes into our mind from the senses. That means fail to sense the correct information and learn made-up information, our mind will perceive it as reality. So, my argument is saying that it’s not what we are being taught. It’s what we are sensing and building in our mind as reality. So, according to my way of sensing and perceiving, my perspective may turn something right as wrong and something wrong as right. This is we are referring to virtual reality (Bates-Brkljac, Nada). So, in summary, we can say that virtual reality presents our senses with a computer-generated environment to understand reality virtually. Suppose I want to describe virtual reality from a technical term. In that case, it’s nothing more than a computer-generated three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with and explored by a person. He who learns by virtual reality becomes a part of the virtual world. Most importantly, he or she is immersed in the environment (Earnshaw, Rae A et al.). 

So, we can conclude that virtual reality is the presentation of information through the virtual environment to our senses in that way so that we can experience it like the real-world experience (Loeffler, Carl E and Tim Anderson). It can be used in every sector, more specifically for learning and entertainment purposes. In the future, virtual reality will be more enriched, and it will have a significant impact on the development of the world.   

2.3 Common understandings about reading:

From the very beginning of the world, reading is considered a fundamental part of our everyday life. Reading helps us understand and know the world. So, it is a mandatory skill a person needs to achieve and therefore, we also assess reading skills in schools from the early grade. Reading is an individual thinking process, which occurs every day without thinking of how we process the knowledge (input) and which strategies we use while we are reading. Reading is likewise seen as a process of decoding. Here the reader turns the letter into words by processing with accurate pronunciation. So, in other words, reading can be seen as the complex process of decoding words, which ultimately becomes meaningful speech. Reading is also portrayed as a process of constructing meaning from written text (Rumeihart). In order to achieve the ability to read, there are five critical elements of beginning reading: “phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehensions.” (Armbrust-er, Lehr, & Osborn). Phonemic awareness is the ability to work individually with sounds. Young learners have to know that words consist of speech sounds. Phonics can be said as the understanding relationship between words and sounds. Without it, reading is not possible. This method is mainly used to teach young learners how to read and decode words. Regarding USA-based research, it shows that introducing phonetics in schools both evolve students’ reading skills and writing skills. Fluency can be defined as the ability to read without any hesitation and unusual stop. A fluent reader can read with proper pronunciation and fast.  The way fluency can be measured due to reading assessment is to measure how many words the reader read correctly in one minute.  The non-fluent reader tends to focus more on decoding individual words, increasing the reading speed. Moreover, according to the National Council of Teachers of English, they state that “to ensure the effective reading of children’s reading is monitored from the very beginning of their study because without it learning will be difficult for them.” Due to measuring reading, it is pretty interesting because we today also are introduced to many technological methods, which can give us an idea of how many words we read each second and how we read. For instance, the eye movement of the readers was the measurement process of the research. This method is called the Eye-tracking method, which is technically a method that can identify or control our eye movement, which is also called oculomotor skills. Eye movement photography can give insight. However, we have to be critical as we cannot guarantee that watching eye movement gives us a definite answer on what the brain is doing while reading. “What the Brain Tells the Eye is More Important than What the Eye Tells the Brain.” This is a well-known quote by Smith, which means that the role of the brain is more important than what the eye tells.  However, we cannot be sure about the process going on in the brain, the same as what is going on with the eyes. Lastly, text comprehension, which is the reason for reading. In this process, the reader tries to make sense of the written language. Comprehension can be divided into three parts. Firstly, Literal comprehension focuses on the main ideas, primary details, and easily recognisable text ideas. In this case, the reader needs to understand the ideas, as literal comprehension is what the author is saying. In inferential comprehension, it is required to make logical connections, find the inner meaning of the text, deduction of events if needed, and relate with the previous experiences or knowledge. In this case, it deals moreover less with understanding what the author means by what it is said. The last type is critical comprehension, which requires when readers are dealing with a proper judgment and exploration of what readers have read. This type of reading comprehension is often seen in higher grades in high school. It plays a considerable part in Universities, as the reader needs to use their own experience and critical thinking. Thus, I will go further and discuss reading assessment concerning virtual reality. 

2.4 Reading assessment: 

Assessment is the mandatory part of the education process used to identify how the students should be instructed. For instruction purposes, it is necessary to know the student’s present condition, referred to as the baseline performance (Jang and E.E.). In a group of students, not everyone has the same sort of capability. They enter the class from different backgrounds and, most importantly, with different types of skills. So, the scenario stands in a class. Some students have extraordinary skills in reading, and some need special supervision to maximise the outcome of their education. So, due to the student’s various knowledge and skill levels, it is necessary to identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses so that the instructor can design the study to meet every student’s needs. An initial and ongoing reading assessment can determine the individual’s needs.  According to Marchand & Furrer, reading assessment gives the teachers information about the student’s capability to design the lecture in an understandable way, even to the students who lack skills. The information from the reading assessment can also be beneficial to exceptional students because the teacher can give them access to other curricula based on their merits. So, an early assessment includes data collection and analysing data to identify the considerations for the students. Virtual reality can play a significant role here because it will make the collection process smooth because of a better understanding of things. According to J.S. Choate, to gather assessment data, many ways can be used. It can be done by taking the test, analysing the students work samples and finally interviewing students about their reading skill. To get the best from the test, teachers can incorporate all methods. There are different areas of early reading. Each can be used in various types of assessment. 

In the initial assessment level, the Letter knowledge of the students, which indicates the ability to associate sounds with letters, can be done (Raban, B.). For example, students can be said to identify letters or symbols from a pile of the letter. The second way is to present a list of letters and tell students to identify each. Identifying uppercase and lowercase letter tests can also be done. Some tests can also test the student’s letter knowledge skills. These are- Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), Early Reading Diagnostic Assessment (ERDA). Secondly comes phonemic awareness, which includes phonemic awareness, which can hear and manipulate sounds in words. In this test, an assessment is done to identify students’ knowledge of how sounds make words. This assessment can be done by telling students to blend the spoken words. A sample of conducting this kind of assessment is- Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP), DIBELS, ERDA, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), Phonological Awareness Test (PAT), and Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI) (“Early Reading Assessment: A Guiding Tool For Instruction”). Testing the decoding ability of the student is another way of reading assessment. It involves assessing the children’s reading ability. It determines how accurate the students are in reading. For example, if I assign a task of reading a passage, I will clearly understand how accurate he or she is. Then it will be easier for me to understand his loopholes and determine lessons in that way so that he or she can understand perfectly. ITBS, PAT, TPRI, Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE) are the sample of assessment measures in decoding. A fluency test is also included in the reading assessment.  It denotes the student’s ability to read the connected text without any unusual pause. For example, if you give a task to the students as an instructor for reading a passage for one minute loudly, that can be said as the fluency test. In this scenario, if the student skips any word or pronounces incorrectly, that will not be counted. As the measurement of fluency of the student’s number of the correct word, reads will be counted, and the total will determine the student’s fluency in reading. There are some assessment tools for evaluating the student’s fluency level. These are- Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM), DIBELS, Gray Oral Reading Test IV (GORT – 4), TOWRE and TPRI (“Early Reading Assessment: A Guiding Tool For Instruction”). Last but not least way of reading assessment is reading comprehension technique. It can be done in many ways. For example, firstly, students can read a comprehension and ask them to answer factual questions from the comprehension. Secondly, students can be asked an inferential question from the passage. Thirdly, students can be told to identify the missing words. The last type of task can be done by telling the students to retell the stories in their language. Moreover, there is some assessment tool to evaluate the capability of the student in reading comprehension. These are – Degrees of Reading Power (DRP), ERDA, GORT4, ITBS, and TPRI. Here, we can see that in every type of test technology, computer-based virtual reality is playing a good role in bringing efficiency.  

So, we can conclude that there are many ways of reading assessment. It is mandatory for an instructor because, without it, the teaching will be meaningless because the students will not understand anything. By reading assessment, teachers can find the accurate materials the students need, and they can provide that to the studentsIn this way, students will be able to achieve their highest potential.

2.5 Formative assessment:

Traditionally, it is seen that the assessment of a student is done after a particular time. There are two ways of this assessment (Coombe et al.). These are summative assessment and formative assessment. Summative assessment denotes assessing after a particular time, for example – end of unit exams or after quartiles (Sharman, Carole et al.). Informative assessment, the scenario is entirely different. Here the assessment is done continuously. Informative assessment, the understanding of the students is checked along the way. That’s why it becomes easier for the instructor to identify the students’ problems and take corrective action to make the teacher understand. According to Page Kelley, formative assessment is from the instructor’s point of view and from the point of view of the students. Informative assessment methods as students are given feedback regularly, and from feedback, they can understand their loopholes. In that way, they can improve themselves. 

Examples of Formative Assessments: The formative assessment allows the student to understand their lacking’. At the same time, it also helps the teacher find an appropriate teaching approach. There are many ways through which formative assessment can be done (“Examples of Formative Assessment”). Virtual reality can make the test and assessment easy and accurate, with which maximum productivity can be obtained. It includes observing the students activities, questioning the students, maintaining the response log, peer to peer assessment and self-assessments, arranging constructive quizzes, visual representations and much more those are shown below in the chart-

There are different types of sub-skills, which means that they’re different types of steps or processes that can impact the reading assessment. Bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-up assessment has been used more frequently in occupational therapy practice and fits within the medical model. Moreover, bottom-up assessments tend to examine small, separate components of a client’s skills or occupational performance components. They focus primarily on body structure and function (impairments).  It focuses on decoding, and it does also go more in-depth, Whereas, by contrast, top-down is another approach which deals with not that much.  Bottom-up and top-down. These two types of approaches can, therefore, be very relevant in this case. Bottom-up assessment has been used more frequently in occupational therapy practice and fits within the medical model (Stewart, 199). Moreover, bottom-up assessments tend to examine small, separate components of a client’s skills or occupational performance components. They focus primarily on body structure and function (impairments).  It focuses on decoding, and it does also go more in-depth, Whereas, by contrast, top-down is another approach which deals with not that much. One of the methods, which has been very useful due to reading assessment, is the think-aloud method. One reason why the think-aloud method can be helpful is to gather evidence of cognitive validity and understand the complex nature of cognitive processes. Moreover, the teachers can indirectly observe the students’ development and observe students’ thinking process and strategy use by prompting them to say aloud as they work through problems. This can be seen done while students are performing the given task or recall their thoughts. For instance, while students are given the tasks to watch video clips, pictures or students’ own work. Considering that reading aloud is an everyday learning activity in young learners’ classrooms (Beck & McKeown, 2011), teachers also use this method to model problem-solving processes. In other words, teachers verbalise aloud while reading a selection orally.  The book “Focus on Assessment” by Eunice Eunhee Jang provides an example of how two students select a text. Looking at the options by the students, the teacher can take a note of how and why the student selects the text. However, it shows that the students choose the text for two different reasons. It has to be mentioned that the students were asked to select two passages they would like to re-read. Ellen underlines the reason for her choice “I think I want to do “Popcorn under Pressure,” because of the other stories I still kind of remember and I didn’t really, I’m not really into those kinds of stories, like poems.” From this selection, it can be argued that Ellen wants to challenge herself, as she does not want to work on a text, which is repetitive. Moreover, she also says that the genre, poem, is not her favourite and excludes that genre. However, research based on think-aloud protocols has not provided much insight. However, it helps students learn to monitor their thinking as they read and improves their comprehension. Furthermore, it teaches students to re-read a sentence, clarify the plot, and try to make sense of what they just read. One good thing with the thinks aloud strategy is that it slows down the process and makes the student read slower and be more aware of the content. The think-aloud strategy is constructed to give the student the time to read through the text or book and then answer questions from the text. Using this approach, the students give time to read through a text and put words into it. According to Alderson (2000), he argues that what we read must be linked to how we read and interact with the whole text. We experience how the digital revolution is creating incremental as well as radical changes in our environment. Reading aloud is not a good indicator of checking students’ ability to read; there might be a lack of understanding. On the other hand, if a student reads silently, he may understand the meaning, but fluency is not assured. That’s why an assessment of reading aloud and understanding the meaning is compulsory. Moreover, students hardly read aloud. It’s not a common practice among the students of the world. That’s why assessing a student who is reading aloud is not a good technique to do. Because it will be a misjudgment as there might be a difference between the students reading and his performance and skills of understanding. The “Read and Lookup” approach is a good method to identify the students potential (“Book Wizard: Teachers, Find and Level Books for Your Classroom | Scholastic”). In this method, students are instructed to read sentences silently one or more times. The students will continue their study until they are comfortable with it. This approach will allow the students to process the students, and at the same time, it will let the instructor know about the student’s capability.  


3. Formative reading assessment and influential role of Virtual reality in it:

In the previous section, we have described the essential components and their role in this paper. Now, we will relate them, i.e. how virtual reality can play a massive role in practical reading assessment. We will now discuss a comprehensive reading assessment program and show how virtual reality can influence the quality of formative reading assessment. 

According to Marian Sainsbury, a formative reading assessment is an ongoing assessment. Here four steps can be found. First of all, in the initial level of reading assessment, a screening is done. Here, the identification of high-risk students who may have academic failure is identified. Here, to identify the student’s risk level, virtual reality can make differences. For example, the student’s ability can be clearly identified under virtual reality because the tools are computer-based; there will be no cognitive bias or halo effect. So, virtual reality can be efficiently used to identify high-risk and low-risk students in the screening process. It will help the instructors to give extra supplements for the high-risk student, which will make the learning of that student proper. Moreover, the screening step is done for all students. So, it will be easier to get a neutral result as computer-based, virtually created reality will not make any error.  After the screening process then comes the turns of the diagnostic step. Here, teachers are given in-depth information about students’ skills and abilities to design courses in that way. It is quite a sophisticated level. Because it’s pretty tough for the human to make the critical decision for every student, any wrong decision can put any student in the wrong category. Virtual reality will play the role of a lifesaver in that case, as the correct decision is possible with virtual reality every time (Spagnolli, Anna et al.). While doing the formative reading assessment, progress monitoring is the mandatory step. In progress monitoring steps, student’s different stages levels data are stored and compared each time a new result is published. Here, Virtual realities can play a significant role because comparing with different times; performance is not an easy task. There might be a deviation in the analysis when humans are given the responsibility to evaluate. Still, when virtual reality is used, it can give accurate results of different time comparison.  The last stage of the formative reading assessment is the outcome analysis (Reitsma, Pieter). Here, bottom-line evaluation is done by comparing with the established performance level. So that teacher can find the last niche lacking in the study of the student.

So, in summary, it Can be said the use of virtual reality is mandatory in every step of formative reading assessment. If virtual reality can be used, a positive and effective result can be brought in the teaching style and the outcome of the teaching. 

In the previous section, it is shown how virtual reality can bring improvement in the formative assessment process. Now, I will discuss how virtual reality can be motivating and engaging for young learners in the reading process.  Firstly, Virtual reality can assist the learners in developing familiarity with what they are learning (Rheingold, Howard). That means the learners can relate the study with reality by the virtual environment created for learning. Studying theoretically for hours is rigorous and tedious at the same time. But in virtual reality, this problem can be removed. Virtual reality will stimulate the learners to know, and it will engage the learners. Thirdly, learners may face problems in relating theoretical knowledge with practical knowledge. But virtual reality is the cure here. In the virtually created environment, the learner will be able to see the original shapes of elements. More specifically, in science study and medical study, it will create massive influence. Fourthly, collaborative learning increases the efficiency level of study. A virtual reality environment can support multiple users, which increases collaboration and teamwork among the students. Finally, virtual reality can help learners to get practical experiences in context (Langan, Thomas). 

In the present school system, students are allowed to be judged on a grade basis, for example – A+, A. A- etc., but in virtual reality, the entire evaluation system can be made more sophisticated. Because of virtual reality, students’ activities can be tracked regularly. That will make the evaluation, learning and instructing effective as the time to time data is available. Another fact is that virtual reality will increase the traceability of educational content. When the teacher delivers a lecture, sometimes the students find it challenging to understand and relate, but virtual reality is transferable and traceable. Students can get a soft copy of learning materials. So, it becomes easier for them to understand the learning objective and course content. 


4. Disadvantages of virtual reality informative reading assessment:

From the context of efficiency, there is no argument that virtual reality will bring dramatic change. Still, from the other point of view, for example, the cost of accessing virtual reality is very high (“Advantages & Disadvantages Of Virtual Reality | Techwalla.Com”). Not every student and institution can afford it. Another issue is that people take time in adapting to new things. Some are early innovators, but the number of late adopters and laggards is also high. So, it is another drawback of virtual reality. Maintenance is also a big issue in the case of virtual reality. But keeping aside this slight drawback, we can say that virtual reality should introduce an informative reading assessment to better learning. Moreover, Technology is getting cheaper day by day. The present problem associated with virtual reality is that it is costly (“Forbes Welcome”). But, it is evident that shortly it will be cheaper. In the education sector, the use of virtual reality is increasing day by day. Time will come when virtual reality will be used in every aspect of education, specifically in the formative reading assessment. Moreover, in the next decade, it is expected that virtual reality will be used in every format of education. It will bring a dramatic change in the study method. Students will no longer fail to make the relation between reality and theoretical knowledge.


5. Conclusion

The focus of this paper has been to investigate how virtual reality can influence formative reading assessment. The initial part was about how virtual reality and formative assessment works. From a different writer’s point of view, I have shown that assessments are a salient part of the education system, and on the other hand, virtual reality is boosting the world’s progress. Later more specific discussion about the impact of virtual reality in the formative reading assessment is shown.  Virtual learning has a massive impact on young learner’s motivation and their learning skills. It encourages the students as the students can relate the reality with their study. My formative reading assessment assesses a student’s potential maximum use. At the same time, virtual reality can stimulate the students’ learning through proper assessment as it is possible to find the strength and weakness of each student by using virtual reality (Plybour, Chaiphat). It is expected that virtual reality will be a breakthrough for the world’s education system.












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