Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Testing . . . 1, 2, 3 . . .

My eldest starts final exams today.  I'm also giving my youngest a "final" today to finish her semester.  This isn't necessarily for the purposes of demonstrating what she learned -- I already know what she learned.  It's simply to prepare her for taking finals at "real" school someday.

I have such mixed feelings about testing in schools.  Really, in a lot of ways, it's such a sham.  Most final exams these days are in multiple choice form -- so the teacher can grade it faster, or so results can be easily compared between schools.  But multiple choice tests are a ridiculous way to evaluate someone's knowledge and skills, especially if your concern is how well the student can think.

My Western Civ professor in college had a fascinating system for our exams.  The class period before, Dr. Allan would guide us, as a class, to come up with four essay questions.  In coming up with the questions, we ended up discussing how they could be answered, because we needed to be sure they were sufficiently broad but also sufficiently focused.  We also needed to be sure that they addressed the essential information covered in the class.  That class period was a WONDERFUL review of the material.  Then we went home and prepared ourselves to answer those four questions in detail.  Dr. Allan chose three of the four to put on the test -- we chose two of his three to answer. 

I loved this method of evaluation.  It ensured that I was required to mentally review all the information and find connections and relationships, but in the end, I was allowed to choose the questions I felt most comfortable with to be evaluated on.  I'm using a form of this on my daughter's test today.

A teacher I taught with in Hutchinson had another interesting "test" format.  One class period, his students entered the room and the screen in front was pulled down over the chalkboard.  He explained to them that there was an essay question on the board behind the screen and in a moment, he would show it to them.  Then, he would leave the room for twenty minutes and allow them, as a class, to discuss how to answer the question.  Upon his return, everyone would be required to write their essays, and at the end of the class, he would take them all, choose ONE essay out of the class pile to grade, and every student in the class would get that grade.

Let me tell you:  the smart kids in that class made darn sure that EVERY KID IN THE ROOM knew how to answer that essay question thoroughly.  Was it an effective evaluation method?  Maybe more of an effective teaching method.  Risky . . . I never heard if he got parent complaints, but I can't imagine he didn't.  Fascinating, in any case.

Anywho . . . my daughter takes four finals today, and three tomorrow, each of which counts for 20% of her final grade.  A hoop to jump through, I suppose.  I think she's ready to be done with school and get on with real life . . . whatever that is . . .

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