Monday, April 30, 2012

There's a Place for Tests

When it comes to education, I'm not for one approach or another.  I support a balanced mix of many approaches including tests.

This morning my students will take a fraction test.  I'll explain that I'm giving the test for three reasons:
  1. A chance for students to show me what they've learned.
  2. A time to sit quietly, concentrate and demonstrate knowledge.
  3. An opportunity to learn what still needs to be taught to individuals or the group.
As students take the test, I'll observe their efforts.  I'll note who quickly and readily completes the task, and who finds the task challenging.  I'll also encourage questions throughout the test and make decisions about which questions I'll use right away as teaching opportunities, and which questions I'll let students grapple with to foster perseverance and thought.

Testing my students is also an act of testing my own work:
  • Did I facilitate the kinds of learning opportunities that bring depth of understanding and knowledge?
  • Who did I reach, and who do I have to think more deeply about when it comes to this content/topic?
  • How can I reteach necessary parts of the unit, and how will I apply this new knowledge to the next unit.
There's room in the curriculum for tests, and tests can provide solid information for both the teacher and student.  Yet it's important to make sure that tests are used in a reasonable, informative ways that do not take up too much time in the schedule.