Wednesday, January 13, 2016

5 Ways to Use Test Results WITHOUT Adding Them to Your Grade Book

Tests have become such a hot ticket topic in education. In previous blog posts like What’s Wrong with Standardized Testing and Why Projects are Better than Tests, I have discussed my feelings about standardized testing and testing in general. However, tests can serve a vital purpose in the learning process, especially if they aren’t entered into a grade book. Once we write a grade into our grade book, it means that the learning has stopped. However, we can take the results of tests and use them to drive our instruction and be sure that learning is complete. In order to do this properly, we ideally give our test a week or so before we wish to be “done” teaching a certain topic. Or we allot a portion of our instructional time to continue working on skills that have not yet been mastered. Then we take the test results and use them to drive our instruction.  After the additional instruction time, another test can be given, or even better a project, if a grade is needed.

Five ways to use tests without entering them into your grade book - Use your assessments to drive your instruction. Ideas from Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Here are five different strategies that you can take your test results and use them to drive your instruction:

1.) Conference with your students – Take time to sit down with each student to review their results. Talk about both strengths and weaknesses and set specific goals for the next step in their growth. We most commonly do this with reading and writing, but the same concept can be used for many subjects. For example, on a Social Studies test, you might discuss with students the topics that they struggled with on their assessment and suggest (or assign) further research into that topic. In Math, you might suggest a problem solving strategy that would better suit them or point out a simple misconception that they have and suggest ways to correct it.

2.) Create small groups – Take your assessment and create a list of skills or topics that were assessed. Then, review your assessments to see which students are still struggling with which skills or topics. Using this information, create temporary small groups based on the needs of individual students. Use these groups to work on that specific need. These groups might each meet with you or they might be given targeted assignments to help guide them through conquering those missing skills.

3.) Allow students to correct their own mistakes – Give students back their tests with the incorrect answers circled, but no clues given as to the correct answer. Ask students to correct each question, allowing them to use notes, books and additional research. Ask students to do their corrections in color or on an additional piece of paper to prevent a confusion of original answers and corrections. During the process, students will reflect on their own learning and recognize the gaps that they need to fill. 

4.) Create need based activities or projects  - If the majority of your students are lacking on a specific skill based on test results, create activities, lessons or projects that will help the students have additional time to work with the concept. For example, one year my students were struggling with long operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. So I sat down and created a project to help them work on these skills in a real life setting. The resulting project was my balanced checkbook project. This project forced them to use the operations in different ways, but they were so excited to figure out their weekly salary and get spending that there were no qualms and they had a much better understanding by the end of the project.

5.) Provide tiered assignments – For single skill assessments, tiered assignments can come in handy. Students all continue to work on that skill after the test, but they work at a different level depending on their test score. If they have mastered the skill, they are given extension activities to push them into higher level thinking skills. If they have not mastered the skill, they are given time to review. If they have grasped the skill, but not mastered it, they are given time to practice.
Tiered math activity - subtraction with regrouping - free download from Raki's Rad Resources.
One way I used to do this was with the prove it, solve it, fix it approach. In this strategy, all of the students are given a paper with a set of problems. ( I usually used this in math, but it could be done in other subjects as well.) The lowest level students are given the set of problems with the answers provided. They are asked to prove that those answers are correct. By having the correct answer already, the pressure to get the right answer is off and the students have a chance to focus on the process, which is more important anyways.
Mid level students are given the same problem set and asked to solve each problem. This gives them a chance to continue practicing the skill. Higher level students or students who seem to have mastered the skill work on the fix it level. They are given the same problem set, but with incorrect answers. The answers preferably have common mistakes that teachers see regularly with that skill. The students at this level then try to figure out how the students got the incorrect answer and then fix it. Students at this level build higher level thinking and continue working on the skill at another level. You can download a subtraction with regrouping prove it, try it, fix it sheet for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store to check out this strategy further.

How do you use test scores to drive instruction in your classroom?