Sunday, 8 January 2017

A test, by any other name...


UP NEXT: the European Renaissance Inquiry Showcase 

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to do a test. 

The twist: we try to make this test work for us. 

Quizzes/tests/exams are a source of great anxiety, and even fear, for many students. By de-mystifying and de-stressing the process to some extent, I wanted to allow students to work on some skills through this process, rather than just existing in a state doubt and fear before, during, and after. The right amount of stress, and a little uncomfortableness, is what I was aiming for.

At the beginning of this short week, I told the students we would have a test on the Renaissance on Friday, and that they would get time in class to prepare for it. This was their first test of the year in my class. Here is how we prepared:

Step 1 - Effective Studying
Partial review for most students, we had a mini-lecture and class discussion on HOW to study. We talked about a few things that the students can elaborate on:

  1. Environment - where, when, who, mindset, comfort, breaks
  2. How - passive versus active studying
The students took advantage of class time to try a variety of study skills. Most of them chose to study collaboratively to some extent, but all avoided "just reading over my notes" and worked to actively engage their brain as much as possible. 

Step 2 - Effective Test Taking
We did another mini-lecture and discussion on the best ways to take a test. We discussed strategies for all kinds of questions including multiple choice, short answer, and long answer/essay, all of which would appear on the test. 

Step 3 - Take the Test, Round 1
Friday morning, students individually took the test, many obviously employing the strategies we had talked about in class. (Reflection on this for students to come next week...)

Step 4 - Take the Test, Round 2
In the afternoon periods, students took the test again, but this time worked through it in small groups, discussing the answers and working to create the best test paper.

Step 5 - Reflection (coming up)
Next week, I will ask the students to reflect on the process of taking the test, asking them to identify what worked and what didn't, and engage in some meta-cognition.

Image from here.

I also do a lot of reflection with a test, using the answers to determine what went well and what didn't go well, and where I need to focus my efforts and attention (which is really what a test should be for both student and teacher). Which brings me to...

Step 6 - Diving Board
After a quick review of the long answer/short essay responses, I have decided to use this as a jumping off point to teach some pointers on writing essays, trying to navigate through the rough rapids of writing, versus writing for school.