Tag Archives: assessment

Thursday’s Tip: Tests Written By Students, For Students

Students Taking a Test
Click for source.

Writing tests is a hard process. First, there’s the problem of insuring that a test accurately addresses what was taught or emphasized in class over the course of a unit. Part of this validity issue is whether or not a one-shot test accurately demonstrates what students have learned. Second, it is sometimes difficult to get out of the habit of asking only recall questions and posing a variety of question types. Third, students can feel disenfranchised from a teacher-dictated test.

So, what’s the solution?

Having students write their own test questions is a strategy that can adequately address all of these issues, but specific steps must be taken to insure that this plan of action is effective. Students have to be taught or have some sort of model to follow when writing their questions. Otherwise, a student-written test won’t look any different than a teacher-created one.

When questioning students and planning in a way that gets them to think at higher levels, teachers have some models to inform instruction. There is Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK), and many other models and taxonomies we use to guide instruction. Why not share this information with students? Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK are probably the most useful in helping students as their are resources out there that provide insight into questioning that meets both model’s various levels.

To teach questioning to students, it’s typically best to begin by modeling how to question. Using question stems written specifically for Bloom’s Taxonomy or Webb’s DOK can help insure that all levels are addressed. Then, the teacher can hand these stems over to the students in helping them to form their own questions.

This process provides for both formative and summative assessment. A teacher can observe the kinds of questions students write (and are able to answer) as well as help them revise their work. This part of the process can provide a sort of formative assessment that allows the teacher to reteach and redirect when necessary, developing students’ knowledge. The actual test created, of course, is the summative assessment.

The results of having students write their own test questions will make the extra time worth the effort. The time spent writing and answering questions will work as a review. Revisions will support attempts to reteach the content. Using a variety of question types will insure that higher level thinking is addressed. In the end, students will feel some ownership in the testing experience. Their grade will be looked as something they earned and less of something a teacher gave them.

What are you experiences with students writing their own tests and quizzes? How would you teach your students about questioning? What other benefits or challenges can you see in allowing students to write the test questions?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thursday’s Tip: Proof of Learning

GEAR BinderI’ve been thinking about this for some time.  But, you know how it is, there are things you think about doing in your class and things you ACTUALLY do and sometimes, those two things are separate.  I’m jumping in this year.  I see my students one day per week for our pull-out gifted program.  We study things in the news, we learn about things we care about, and sometimes, topics and questions literally just blow down in front of us like a leaf did last year which led to a study of the veins in the leaves.  Our studies… I define the objectives in my plan book. We set learning targets.  I ask them to set goals.  What’s missing?  The record of what IS learned.  Sure, I assess in lots of ways: walking around, observing, collecting projects, watching presentations.  What is missing?  The very record that could hold the key to it all: the record of THEIR thoughts.  I’m not talking about grades. In fact, I’m talking about the opposite of grades… authentic, meaningful assessment.   Enter the GEAR binder.

G: Goal-setting: No matter the topic, students set their goals. What do YOU want to learn about?

E: Engage: Engage and involve yourself in the learning. Reading, notes, projects, ideas, thoughts, photos, new words learned, questions thought of.  A literal record of engagement. How are you learning it?

A: Assess: Along the way, answers to questions asked by the teacher, questions asked by the student, proof that learning IS occurring. What did you learn?

R: Reflect: When it’s all said and done, what does this ALL mean?  We have to ask student to tie their learning to REAL life.  We have to allow them a chance to explore the connections, develop new thoughts, and plan for future studies, projects, and learning.  What do you think? (Connections, New Thoughts, Questions, Ideas)

Right now, these binders are just empty spaces with three rings.  In a few weeks? I am hopeful they will be filled with a student learning plan, a goal planning sheet, a parent comment log, a list of classroom research resources…. and more.  Possibilities? Scanning portions for a digital component.  Photographs of projects. Learning style survey results.  Student feedback from classmates. Independent self-managed projects. A living portfolio. Most of all?  They will be filled with proof… proof of learning.

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacherTweeterphotographer….. and that’s just her day job.Original post August 17, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

Thursday’s Tip: Authentic Projects/Products

A goal of eMINTS classrooms is to actively engage students in learning experiences with real world connections and/or authentic contexts. This means that students often times create products that are authentic or something that someone in a real job somewhere would create. Below are a couple of product ideas that meet this goal and could be authentic assessments of learning. These products could be used in many projects across all subject areas and grade levels.

The Student Author: Students create eBooks (electronic books). There are a lot of debates about traditional books versus digital books and the benefits of each. Why not teach  students how to create both? After following the writing process, students can publish books traditionally or electronically. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano shares step-by-step instructions to create eBooks that can be loaded onto iPhones or iPads alike.  It is as simple as creating a document in Word, Pages, or even a PDF then using  ePub Converter to convert the files that can then be easily dropped into iTunes and synced with the iBooks app on a device.

InfoGraphics: Kathy Schrock put together a presentation/webpage called Infographics as Creative Assessments to help teachers plan lessons where students make Infographics as end products. She provides links, ideas, and tips for planning authentic learning activities. Watch the Vimeo video (below) to learn what Infographics are, why you might use them in lessons, see examples, and learn a process to have students follow to create their own Infographics. She has tons of links to help you plan lessons and to support students in creating their original graphics. Schrock also shares the importance of teaching about copyright, design, font use, layout, and citing sources other media literacy skills.

Please share your authentic product ideas with us. Leave a comment telling about your projects and include links to your examples.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Friday 4ALL: Building Self-Directedness in Students

Decisions Decisions

A few weeks ago we looked at ways to promote self-directedness within ourselves.  We shared thoughts about developing your own PLN (personal learning network) to promote your personal growth and development.  With the school year just around the corner, you may be thinking, “What might my classroom look like with self-directed students? What positive outcomes might we experience if students learned how to be more self monitoring, managing, and modifying?”

Imagine a classroom were students are self-directed with their learning, behavior, and thoughts?  As a teacher, how might you play  role in and promote self-directedness in the classroom?

Encouraging students to be a part of the process when creating classroom norms is one way teachers can promote self-directedness.  Allowing students to reflect on what they need to do to be a successful learner and member of their classroom community is another way to support students in the process of learning to be self-monitoring and modifying.  How might reflecting on experiences from the previous school year assist them with identifying the past way they learn?  What they need to be successful in a group?  What strategies do you envision using to assist students with creating and being respectful of group norms?

Another area for promoting self-directedness comes in the form of assessment.  Helping students create learning plans based on a pre-assessment of knowledge helps them be realistic about what they know and what direction they may want to focus their learning on.  When working on long term projects, allow students to be part of the creation of the scoring guide developing descriptors for what makes a good product/project.  Another idea is to present students with the standards or objectives for a project and ask them what the learning criteria should be.  You can also present students with a rubric that is partially filled out perhaps with the descriptors in place and have students work in groups to decide what an excellent project would look like vs a needs improvement project. Through self-assessment students learn to look at their work with a critical eye, they reflect, and make decisions about their learning all the while giving them the opportunity to learn the skills needed to be self-directed.  Self-assessment encourages students to take pride in their work.  For additional ideas on a variety of ways to assess with students check out the Intel Assessing Projects, Intel’s Library of Assessments, a tool for creating assessments of 21st century learning. An account is required but it is free and easy to set up. Once you have an account you will have  access to the application which includes pre-made assessments as well as a tool to create your own customized assessments to meet the needs of your unique students. Watch this video to see how it works.

Another resource you may want to consider is Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick’s Habits of Mind. Habits of Mind are 16 characteristics to help students be successful.  The Habits of Mind provide guidelines for working successfully and interacting with others.  Teaching students the Habits of Mind and then asking students to identify Habits they might draw upon or need to complete classroom projects successfully can help them become thoughtful learners.  Students also become reflective and self-directed as they use the 16 Habits to navigate problems and challenges in the classroom in an appropriate manner.

As the school year draws near, you might take some time to revisit the Hallmarks of an Effective eMINTS Classroom, a matrix that can outline the progression of changes in teaching practice often observed as teachers complete eMINTS Professional Development. The Hallmarks can be used to assess where a classroom is and can even be used to set goals for teachers, students and classroom community. An Effective eMINTS Classroom promotes students being self-directed and as your classroom transforms into a Constructivist Learning environment, it is imperative to encourage your students to self-modify, self-monitor, and self-direct.

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers. For more information about Cognitive Coaching and related seminars visit the eMINTS National Center events page.

Bert Werk (Photographer). (2007). Vijfsprong/forked road/crossroad. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bertwerk/2821951515/