Thursday, 21 April 2016

This is only a test....I repeat, this is only a test...

I've been thinking about how we measure accountability of learning. There have been several discussions amongst my co-workers or online about assessment of learning. Is a test the only way to assess learning?

My opinion is no.

Towards the end of my undergraduate, I don't recall any exam, or maybe one out of my ten courses had an exam at the end. The question arises, why do we continue to test our students as a way for them to demonstrate their learning? Why does the test seem to be the only way to measure learning?

In life there are tests. In the classroom, almost everything is a test. Can a student work independently? That is a test of their ability to stay on task, not disturb others, find an alternative spot in which they can get their work done. Can a student work collaboratively? That is a test on their ability to keep their conversation on topic, respond positively to being questioned or someone not being on task in their group and assuming different roles among the group. There may not be a paper with a grade at the end of the task, but after several times to practice, the assessment of their learning will need to be judged.

Teaching an EQAO year, I do think Math tests are in order. Or rather Math quizzes. There's a different stigma to a quiz vs. a test. I was a student teacher and my teacher associate only gave "Assessments" on Thursdays. Never any tests. I remember being in Grade 10 Math, were my teacher gave us quizzes, every couple of days, never a test. They had about 2-3 questions each, he wrote them on the board. I now realize they were more exit tickets so he could inform his instruction, but he never gave us a test.

For the last two years, my current Grade 8s whom I teach in Science only had one test in the fall of their Grade 7 year. I had warned them that the last unit was going to be fast paced and would have more tests and quizzes. I have never seen them so motivated. They take note from conversations, they all do their homework, are they motivated by the test? Have I been robbing them of their learning because I have not given any tests?

In the end my last assessment for them was a collaborative lab report on our squid dissection. I couldn't let this group move on without one final "fun" learning task, sometimes I have to sneak in the learning.

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