This week’s #oklaed chat on data driven instruction stressed me to the point of leaving the chat. I just couldn’t sit through it. I’m not quite sure where my discomfort was, it was a variety of things, I think. So I’m just going to say my piece and be done with it. Well, as done with it as I can be for now. This may be a bit rambling, but so be it.
I think we’ve become beholden to tests to the point of a sickness. Yes, it CAN be a great way to see what your kids know, but so can talking to them. I’ve had great class discussions with students on a variety of subjects and concepts. Those discussions can sometimes tell me more than a test can. Plus, I don’t have to wait for them to finish the test and grade the results.
Sometimes test questions are worded vaguely or just plain horribly. This is confusing to both the student and the teacher trying to glean the student’s understanding of the concept in their response. Trash it and move on.
Sometimes we get all wrapped up in our lingoes (data driven instruction – DDI vs authentic instruction, etc.) and over-analyzing our analysis to death. Deep breath, people. Take care of your students and don’t worry about what brought you there, just know that you’re here now and your students need you. Go. Help them.
Some students (speaking from experience) are great at regurgitating answers, but don’t have clue one on how to apply this knowledge they are spewing on a test. I was great at memorizing things for a test and giving teachers the answers they were looking for. Didn’t mean I truly understood the concepts or how to apply them in life. I was good at this in science. I could bubble in the correct information (mostly), but ask me to explain scientific phenomenon in my own words? That wasn’t (and isn’t) going to happen. In math, I struggled because I didn’t understand when to use certain formulas for their particular situations. You give me the formulas and numbers to plug-in, I could find an answer (eventually), but to apply it? It was/is a struggle.
Some students can explain their thinking verbally so much better than on paper. That needs to be taken into account. Which is why we can’t just have our favorite tests that tell us all we need to know about little Johnny and Susie. I’ve seen time and time again where students miss certain questions on tests, but I know they understand the concept because of discussions with them. Which is why I’m not a fan of STANDARDIZED tests. Our children aren’t STANDARDIZED! They are unique individuals and should be treated as such. Nor should we bombard them with a barrage of tests to see what they’ll spit out on each one and piece it together like some sort of sick testing quilt.
I’m not saying no tests EVER. I’m saying make sure it’s a test worth giving and not just something to put in the gradebook. What are you looking for and why? How is this important in the long run? What will you do if you notice misconceptions (and will you have time for correcting these misconceptions)? These are things we should be asking ourselves when we give and grade tests, or any assignment for that matter (for the record – I’m not perfect at this by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying to get better at using assignments and tests in this manner).
We need balance and, first and foremost, we need to spend time talking and listening to our kids. We need to get to know them and where they are coming from. My students can’t wait around forever for me to finish analyzing their test with a team. They need me now.
Be present. Be attentive. Do what’s best for your students in that moment.