One of my big goals for this year is to help my students to see assessments (read: tests) as tools that are helpful, not to be feared, and gasp—might even opportunities for learning and fun. I’m trying to do this in a number of ways—first and most importantly, I’m using full-on SBG and discussing the implications of this with the kids. I can’t count how many kids who have come up to me as we get ready for an assessment this week and say something like “so you mean if I get a problem wrong tomorrow, I can go and learn it, demonstrate I understand it and it will raise my grade?”, only to see them stare in wonder when I say “uh-huh.”
Second, we’ve talked about the need to assess oneself often. A number of my students are avid golfers, and so I ask them how they’d teach me to golf—would they let me play tiger woods on the xbox for a week to say I’ve got it? Would the let me get away with saying ” I just need to read a few more chapters in golfing for dummies?” “NO!”—they shout, they’d take me to the driving range, give me a quick lesson on how to hold the club and have me hit balls, offering feedback while I struggle to make contact only to shag balls left and right when I actually start hitting the ball. “But wouldn’t it suck for me to miss all those shots?” “No,” they say “that’s the only way to learn..” And that brings up the 10K question, so why don’t you approach math (or history, or physics) this way? Slowly but surely I think this constant comparison of their deep interest afternoons after 3 pm where failure is the gateway to understanding, the coach is my friend and hard work is key, might be affecting the 8-3 grind, where failure needs to be avoided at all costs, teachers are there to judge you, and if you aren’t a genius, you can’t do it.
One other thing I’m resssurecting this year is the idea of a “exam wrapper” (an idea I got from Teaching Professor) which basically asks the students to complete a short meta-cogniative survey after they finish the assessment, and then, before the next assessment, asks them to reflect on what they did. Here’s mine:
Two other strategies I use are giving the students some leeway in deciding when to have an assessment, and bringing in a little brain food (perhaps this time it will be fresh blueberries).