Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Training Students for Assessments

How do we truly know what students know? Daniel Hickey, in his blog “Can we really measure 21st century skills” says that it is not possible to measure 21st century skills in a way that is reliable and valid. What I appreciate more is his opinion that we should not be testing these proficiencies as individual skills but rather as social practices. When we start to test and assess different skills (or proficiencies) I fear that we “train” students to answer in a certain way.

I have been working on my Student Learning Goal (SLG) for our Alt-comp program. In looking back at previous MCA and MAP scores we have found that in fourth grade our students score lowest in the geometry strand. To help improve these scores my team came up with a pre-test to determine students’ abilities to compare and contrast 2D and 3D figures. Next we teach mini-lessons on what terms we can use to compare and contrast these figures. Finally we give the students the same pre-test as a post-test to see what they have learned. Although this helps me to see what they have retained, I definitely feel I have “trained” them to answer these questions.

Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to spend our time teaching students how to collaborate, communicate and solve problems rather than answer a detailed question on how many vertices a certain geometric figure has? What will serve them best in the real world?

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