Friday, February 18, 2011

Look What I Can Do Now! No More Tests!!!

In Darren Kuropatwa’s presentation “Look What I Can Do Now!” we were posed with the question: How do we know what our students know?  This was a question of assessment.  Darren framed this in a way I had never really thought of before, we give our student-athletes and fine arts students great stages where they can show a real audience what they have learned and what they can do.  But in our classes we don’t give them a real stage and there really isn’t much of an audience for them to perform for.  To better reach our students, we need to figure out ways to give them real world applications for their assessments (not necessarily a new idea) and provide a real stage for them to show what they’ve learned to an audience.  This means no more, or at least a lot less, pencil and paper tests, and more interactive activities where the student teach to each other.  

He talked about the principles of learning, which are:
Students’ Errors and Misconceptions Based on Previous Learning - Teachers must engage student’s preconceptions
Knowledge networks - knowledge isn’t in our heads, it’s shared between us.
Learning facilitated though meta-cognitive approach - he used an example of geese fly in a V so they help each other out and different geese take the lead at different times. Students should learn in the same way.  Sometimes they are leading the class, other times they might be further back getting helped by others in the class.  But it has to be OK for students in your class to be wrong or make a mistake.  There needs to be a sense of community in the classroom, so that when mistakes are made it is seen as a learning opportunity.

One of the lines that really struck a cord with me was, “If the teacher is working harder than the students, then something is wrong in that classroom.”  As teachers, we shouldn’t be the ones doing all the heavy lifting in the classroom.  The link to how doctors learn in med school was made and it seems like a solid way to teach a class: watch it, do it, teach it.  Those 3 steps ensure learning.  And what is best is that it allows for students to make errors, because the classroom will have that sense of community where mistakes are OK, and a student can always get help from another student, and knowledge gained from mistakes can be shared.

As a hopeful future ELA teacher, I know I will not give pencil and paper tests.  I will have students write essays, but I will find ways to make writing a more communal activity, through blogs.  Also, I will find ways to incorporate the other language arts into shared class experience with cool ways to demonstrate learning through representing and speaking.  I want my students to have a real audience to show what they’ve learned.  We were presented with some ways we can make that learning interactive and I think that can make school work a lot more engaging for students, and really motivate them to do great work.  

1 comment:

  1. Hey Aaron, I'm glad my little talk resonated with you.

    I should probably add that pencil and paper tests do have their place; if you want to take a dipstick measurement to see where kids are right now a test might be the perfect instrument. But if you really want kids to show you what they know then you need a more multifaceted approach to assessment. From reading your post it sounds like you're well on your way. ;-)