Saturday, May 30, 2015

Meme: Exam Anxiety

This is pretty common response to exam anxiety...and research says probably good idea NOT to spend night before cramming because just increases dysfunctional levels of anxiety...better to do the laundry, go to a movie.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Meme: Examination Organization (Question Order)

An important principle of exam design: start with an easy question to ease students into exam mode. The attitude expressed here is real, so defeating student on first question interferes with accurate assessment. Better to start with "well, at least I got the first one right" mind set....

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Meme: Test Blueprint

The experience of many students -- why we need to have test blueprints to ensure the test is fair, accurate and makes sense to the students. Only tiny percentage of teachers know what a blueprint is, let alone use one.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Meme: Assesment is about Instruction 1st

Problem I sometimes have with first-round student teachers: if you do your lesson plan, and the kids don't get it, you have to come up with another way to teach that concept. And if they still don't get it, you try a third way, and when some of them still don't get it, you go to strategy #4, etc. Thinking that you taught it because you went through your lesson plan is not the same as students learning it. The primary purpose of assessment is to inform instruction: know where the students are today to decide what to teach tomorrow.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Inappropriate Large-Scale Standardized Testing

New post on Dangerously Irrelevant today about standardized testing that is excellent summary of absurdity of the whole testing movement. The post quotes Diane Ravitch critique of NY state exams, which serve no educational purpose. (They serve a political agenda, and the sociological purpose of 'cooling out' the educational aspirations of the working class, but the post doesn't address those.)While the debate was about the exams used in NY, the arguments apply everywhere in the US.

As someone who spent a decade working for the Student Evaluation Branch of Alberta Education as a researcher and Test Development Specialist, designing large-scale standardized tests, it may seem incongruous that I am such a vehement critique of large-scale standardized testing. The difference is, the Alberta tests (currently being phased out at the lower grades, as it happens) were written by committees of Alberta classroom teachers (experienced teachers in that grade and subject and still in the classroom), and were based on the Alberta Curriculum. That means, teaching to the test in Alberta meant actually teaching Alberta curriculum, which is, you know, mostly okay. The tests corresponded to what was taught

This stands in sharp contrast to the American situation where the tests are provided by private, for-profit publishers whose tests may bear no relationship to the curriculum being taught. That alone disqualifies the tests as appropriate measures of what children have learned, and leads to 'teaching to the test' meaning away from what students are supposed to be learning. Further, as publishers try to sell across as many jurisdictions as possible, the tests are geared to the lowest common denominator, rather than set to encourage excellence. They serve no useful purpose because, again in contrast to the Alberta exams, they collected no diagnostic information. Nor are the publishers tests written by experience classroom teachers currently teaching those course (and so, people in touch with the realities of the modern classroom, of the digital generation and so on) but rather by a tiny team of professional test writers. Who are not accountable to anyone other than the sales department.

So, I could make a case for the limited use of standardized tests as those programs are set up in Alberta, though I would be okay with their going away. They can be used to improve teaching, but not sure that money would not be better spent other ways. But I have yet to hear anyone make a convincing case for the use of publishers tests.

Anyway, go read the post on Dangerously Irrelevant. I'd have asked for permission to reprint it here, but it's a great education blog and has something great very day so want others to discover am pushing you there directly.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Meme: Scheduling Exams

Every instructor always believes that their subject is the most important and they have to schedule the exam when it naturally falls in the course, so coordination is difficult. Of course, this begs the larger question of why one is using examinations to evaluate learning in the first place....