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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pleasantly Surprised!: Testing for Learning

It's almost time to return to the classroom.  Each teacher is armed with renewed energy and resolved to teaching for higher rates of learning.  Designing an assessment sequence that both teaches and assesses learning is really important.  After a number of years of working with at-risk students, I found this technique to be extremely effective.  Students were able to genuinely earn high marks and demonstrate their learning.  I have used this testing for learning process with fourth through ninth grade students.  

Here is the situation:  the unit is taught and is almost complete.  It is time to review for the test.  I planned a two-stage review.  The first stage included a study guide which mirrored the content of the test.  The guide was written using various assessment options (multiple choice, true false, short answer, short essay) giving students practice with different testing options and giving me an opportunity to routinely review how to manage these questions.  Completion of the study guide was worth half of the points of the test.  Stage Two included a Quiz Bowl.  Those students who completed the study guide (100% of the students completed it regularly)  were able to participate in a Quiz Bowl.  Items from the study guide were cut up and put into a bowl.  The class divided into teams of 5-6 students.  Students took turns answering questions.  A question was selected out of the bowl.  If the question was answered correctly on the first try, the team received 10 points.  If the student was unable to answer the question, he could caucus with his team.  A correct answer received 5 pts.  If the question could not be answered, then the question was passed to the next team. If it was answered, then the team received 15 pts.  If it was not answered, the answer was provided by the teacher and the question returned to the bowl.  Play proceeds until all questions are answered or until the time runs out.  The test is taken on the day following the Quiz Bowl.  I have found that my most resistant students responded positively to this multiple stage review process.  

Those who question this process tell me that they don't have the time in their curriculum for a two day review and test process.  It is true that this process does take time.  But, it is also true that teachers can expect almost 100% of their students to succeed.  I believe in structuring our classrooms for success.  This process allows success to happen!  Plus, teachers will feel like their effort is worthwhile.  Testing for Learning is a win-win situation for all!  

Creating an Unmistakable Impact

Dr. Jim Knight's latest book, Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction is on my best book list for the summer.  Dr. Knight focuses upon school as a system and how to develop a school that will have an "unmistakable" impact on the learning of both adults and students.  This well designed book is structured to create a lasting impression with the reader.  The message is loud and clear in every chapter:  we need to create caring partnerships in school uniting staff and students with the goal of dramatic improvement. Dr. Knight defines what a partnership looks like and includes.  Then, he applies that definition to those who make are responsible for improvement efforts in schools:  teachers, principals, and instructional coaches.  He provides in-depth explanations with real examples of how to design and connect professional development workshops with the mission of the school and those charged with carrying out that mission.  The book is rich with wonderful resources to read in further depth.  Throughout the book, Dr. Knight emphasizes a goal of 90% engagement for all!  Unmistakable Impact had a huge impact on me as I am sure will have on you too!