Chapter 8 begins with convincing evidence that we must change the way we assess mathematics! "The knowledge needed for success on such tests is so far from the adaptable, critical, and analytical thinking needed by students in the modern world that leading employers such as Google have declared they are no longer interested in students' test performance, as it in no way predicts success in the workplace. (Bryant, 2013)" p. 141 Hey, if Google says we need to rethink testing, then. . .
What was also interesting were the numerous studies that show not taking tests but focusing on meaningful feedback and problem solving led to higher scores. These results are attributed to having a growth mindset; these children had been taught to believe in their own capabilites and the feedback they received was helpful to their learning. (Read: no "good job")
My TakeawayHave you seen the documentary, Race to Nowhere? It's a powerful film, highlighting the stress students are placed under in U.S. schools. I've experienced firsthand, the craziness of high school through my oldest daughter. Everything she did in high school was "for my college resume." What?! I had never heard of such a thing. That fear of not getting into the best universities is what motivated my daughter and all her friends: the classes they took, the clubs they joined, the activities they pursued. She admits that she memorized material to pass tests but couldn't recall any information later. It saddened me to never hear her talk about the joy of learning. True, she graduated with a 4.0+ GPA & she goes to an excellent university. But my heart broke when she called me during her sophomore year and said, "I don't know why I'm here. Everyone is smarter than me. I don't know what I want to do with my life." Just like the premise of this film, with all our teaching, we need to be asking the questions, "What does it take to produce a happy, motivated, creative human being?"
Three Tips for the Classroom
Reflect, reflect, reflect. Although we're always pressed for time, the few minutes students take at the end of a lesson to reflect is valuable to internalize new learning. I'm going to have my students glue these Big Idea prompts into their math notebooks to guide their reflections. You can download your copy here or by clicking on the picture below.
The damage with over-testing our students is taking its toll. Ego feedback (this term was new to me) is a form of feedback based on a grade or score. Students (& parents) cannot help but use those scores to compare themselves to others around them., and often use these as indicators of who they are as people. We must move from grades to meaningful feedback. True, writing feedback takes longer than running a stack of scantron tests through a machine, but students need to be able to demonstrate their understanding of content, then the feedback specifically gives them strategies to get to their next step or goal. A4L: Assessment for Learning was developed in England and found to be highly successful in empowering students to take control of their learning. Students no longer sit back passively, waiting for the teacher to give them a grade.
Be sure to stop by next Thursday; you don't want to miss our final chapter and a GIVEAWAY!!