The February issue of NSTA reports has an interesting article entitled, Do You Allow Retests? I invite you to read the article and to add your insight and comments to those posted in the article. Let's hear from all who wrestle with this question. ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

Patty: Whether we do or we don't in one school where I taught kids were always allowed to take a retest. I learned to live with it but I only allowed a failing grade to move up to a 70 to discourage the perfectionists from taking it over and over until they raised their score to 100. It bothers me somewhat to do this. Growing up I remember taking high stakes tests that didn't allow retesting. Either you are prepared or not. Personally students need to learn that it is OK to fail and you are not always successful. As a veteran educator I feel we don't do our students a good service telling them they are wonderful all the time. To me that is an unrealistic dream. Unfortunately when I taught in a very small rural district The philosphy I just stated got me in trouble with a school board member whose child was in my class and had always had "A's" in all her other classes except mine. Life tells us that we are not always successful in everything we do. That's my thoughts and I am sticking to it. Ughhh!

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

I do but only once and it has to be within 24 hours of the original test date. I want them to master the material and if they got it completely wrong then I want them to want to do well and retake it as well as restudy and be aware of what they got wrong and why. I don't give out the answers - I simply state to them their grade and questions they got incorrect - they go back to their study guide and complete all work for those questions again and submit with their second test score.

Amy Massey
Amy Massey
500 Activity Points

I have thought about this quite a bit lately. I moved from the classroom to NSTA about a year and a half ago, and when I was in the high school science classroom, I did not allow retests. But having done some research and looked at different perspectives I have changed my mind on the topic. Students need to learn to deal with failure and learn from it, not just accept that they failed. As Rick Wormeli points out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM-3PFfIfvI) we want students to learn the information, why does it matter if it takes them longer than we have prescribed? Many of the tests that we take as adults (and even as students) can be taken again and only the last score is kept: the SATs, the MCATs, PRAXIS, driving tests, etc. Take a look at Rick's videos and think it over, I think he makes a great argument for allowing retests. All that being said, it should always be at the teacher's discretion. It is not just a blanket policy it is up to the teacher if a student can retake a test. And that student must have a plan for how they are going to prepare. In addition, it should not just be the same test again. I love Rick's idea of having a test that is simply students explaining the concept or describing something in writing. As I said, I used to think that retakes were not helpful and in fact they could hurt students. But I'm not of that mindset at this point. I think not allowing students to learn from their mistakes and not allowing them the possibility of mastery is harmful.

Matthew Hartman
Matthew Hartman
2720 Activity Points

This can be a tough one. As Adah highlighted, it is important for students to realize that they will have some failures as they move through their academic career. However, for me, I'm somewhat torn on this subject. For me, as a teacher, my primary goal is content mastery. The tests are a metric of mastery and I also use test performance as a metric of my teaching. For instance, if the majority of the class does well on the test, then the activities and presentation of information enabled them to master the content. However, if the entire class bombs, I know the kids didn't learn the information. But with that being said, there are always the kids who just don't care and then my challenge becomes "How do I reach this kid?". Since my main goal is to ensure my students master the content, I do let them "retake" tests. Instead of retaking the same (or similar) "test", the retakes are a variety of different activities, done outside of class, that help the students explore the concept they missed on the test. These activities are things like make a scrapbook page, make a model, write a comic strip, etc. I think the bottom line is, did the kids learn the concept. If the answer's yes, then I did my job and so did they! :) Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

Thanks for your input and replies everyone! Let's keep the conversation flowing. ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

As Matthew stated: "Students need to learn to deal with failure and learn from it, not just accept that they failed. As Rick Wormeli points out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM-3PFfIfvI) we want students to learn the information, why does it matter if it takes them longer than we have prescribed? Many of the tests that we take as adults (and even as students) can be taken again and only the last score is kept: the SATs, the MCATs, PRAXIS, driving tests, etc. Take a look at Rick's videos and think it over, I think he makes a great argument for allowing retests. All that being said, it should always be at the teacher's discretion. It is not just a blanket policy it is up to the teacher if a student can retake a test. And that student must have a plan for how they are going to prepare. In addition, it should not just be the same test again. I love Rick's idea of having a test that is simply students explaining the concept or describing something in writing." I totally agree with you Matthew. I watched the Rick Wormeli series on youtube and the light bulb really came on for me! As a middle school teacher, I was thinking of retests and do-overs as a way of fostering improper preparation and laziness in my classroom, but after listening to the series, I realized that I did not have proper safeguards in place to ensure mastery. I thought of the previous way that I issued re-takes and really asked myself the question "Did I properly prepare them for this assessment and what checks would I use if they did not succeed the first time?" After thinking about it, I think that it is an excellent idea to have them create a study checklist using 3 or 4 study methods that they actively used to review the material and of course have a parent signature to involve the parents in this process. I constantly found myself getting upset with the students and their poor study habits, when in actuality, I have not given them the tools to help them be properly prepared. Thanks Matthew for the "food for thought"!

Elizabeth Penn-Jones
Elizabeth Penn-Jones
1280 Activity Points

While there are tests in life that you are allowed to retake (driver's. test etc.) there are just as many that are high stake's...and while I do allow retakes (more because I have to), I agree with Adah, I think we are doing kids a diservice. I really wrestle with what is more important to teach content or responsibility?

Tabitha (Booth) Secretario
Tabitha Booth
3385 Activity Points

How about good faith? If the students do the homework, review packet, or whatever you deem is appropriate evidence that the student has studied for the original test, then the student has a reasonable justification to be allowed a second attempt. But they must turn in the evidence with the original test, to show that they have made a good effort. Also, students should be expected to make corrections to the original test. Only one second chance, a max of a 50% of the lost points can be gained. That deters the perfectionists, but puts the emphasis on learning - as well as assessment. Hope this helps.

Jennifer Rahn
Jennifer Rahn
67935 Activity Points

When it comes to retesting I am still on the fence. This also includes revisions of assignments I'm assuming. I like the idea of allowing retests and revisions on summative assignments because this allows students to brush up on their content knowledge. However, i do have the problem where students just don't care and because they realize that a retest is available, they will bomb the first one just to get more answers or just to be lazy. A good way to remedy this is to allow revisions but only give them half of what they got correct. Thus, only allowing a student that totally bombed a test with a 2/10 to receive a maximum score of 6/10. I believe that the students realized that they cannot just slack off and expect to pass the summative assessments. I also allow students to do revisions only if they an explain the assignment without the use of any notes or their worksheets that have the answers on them. This forces the students to have to sit down and actually understand the content and be able to explain it fluently in order to get full credit. Another reality is that if we had the time to make different tests for each student retesting would be okay since no student will have the same question and answer key. However, this requires a lot of time that most of us do not have. Some of my students tried to be conniving and totally bomb the test while they waited for me to pass back other students tests so that they could just copy and turn in the revisions for full points. I just wished that the amount of effort that some of these students put in to creating cheat methods that don't even work, could have been better used by just studying and exerting the same amount of time and effort in the first place.

Mitchell Miho
Mitchell Miho
3090 Activity Points

For two years now since our district is trying to implement Standards Based Grading,some teachers like me are piloting it in our school. We based our grades on assessment ((80-90%) and work ethic (10-20%) and retakes are important part of this. Students not getting 70% from the assessment are required to retake tests. Students are allowed to retake at a certain time of the day depending on the teacher and with prior arrangement. We have a class period called CORE/CHOICE where students who failed some classes are assigned to the teachers where they failed. They are given supplemental tutorial and study time to get ready for the retake. Students must show readiness and preparations by showing review sheets or notes, or by answering short questions. It is a lot of work on the teacher's part as we have to prepare several versions of the test and there is only so much we can prepare. In addition, there are the modified versions for students with accommodation. I do print out several versions and make sure the students take a different version each time (they have to show the previous test paper). Sometime I do resort to verbal testing students. Retakes give students the chance to really learn the topic and improve their scores.

Patria Baumstark
Patria Baumstark
3140 Activity Points

Our school has adopted Standards based grading as well. In my class, students are allowed to take retakes if: a) they have completed ALL the assignments related to the concepts being tested on the exam and b)they have scheduled an appointment with me to retake. The re-take is usually a different version of the test...and once in a while, I retest students only on the concepts that they missed the first time. The process is tedious, but I've found that students usually do better. Another option would be to allow retakes, but the maximum score the student can earn is a "C" or meets proficiency.

Joanna Kobayashi
Joanna Kobayashi
490 Activity Points

We were forced to watch the Wormelli videos last year and I really don't buy into his ideas. I see it as again another lowering of standards to accomodate laziness of kids who continue to be allowed to move along without doing anything. Our district is more or less forcing the retake issue...saying that "students have to be allowed the opportunity to retake tests in order to improve their grade." My issue with this is in the wording of the statement.."to improve their grade." I take this to mean, "we don't really care if they understand the material...but we want them to have good grades." Our principal gave us a good lecture on how kids failing costs the school money, so we should try to avoid failing kids unless absolutely necessary. Most of the teachers at the school have taken a stance of..."ok, we will allow retakes, but you have to do a lot of work in order to retake the test." For instance, my last test, there was a 25 problem/question study guide that I collected before the test. The students had to redo the entire study guide, getting every question right before they could do it. Of the 158 (50 or so would have benefitted from a retake) kids I have in class, 3 were willing to to do the work to retake. The sad thing is that when I left the room to go to the bathroom...they all decided to "work together" and negated their retake anyway.

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

Mitchell...piggy backing off your point...I love when kids finish a test in 10 minutes, hand it to me and say, "when can I retake this?"

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

Our district mandates reteaching and retesting for any failing math or reading grade (or maybe all? but math and reading is the focus...) You have to average the two grades together and the final score cannot b posted higher than a 70. Now... I don't have a problem for this with kids that are trying, truly trying, and it just hasn't clicked for them. I do have a problem with this for kids that don't do the homework, don't pay attention, and don't really care in general. Plus, I find it hard to get through a typical day including intervention time and all, much less add in more reteaching time. I kind of feel like I've taught it and taught it and taught it, and if they still don't get it well.... it's a bell curve for a reason! I also have trouble creating a fair retest for certain tests. Novels, for example, present a problem. If they didn't read/pay attention/get it the three weeks we studied, how can I totally reteach and retest without giving an unfair advantage. I think it is contributing to kids getting passed along who, maybe, don't really need to get moved on.

Meghan Everette
Meghan Everette
90 Activity Points

Meghan, I agree with your last statement and I think its the fear of failing kids. We are afraid to fail kids today. If a kid fails my class, I have to defend myself against the failing grade. What did I do to prevent them from failing...etc. I have 3 seniors failing my chemistry class right now, mainly because they do nothing. I was talking to a teacher about it the other day and they asked me what I was going to do to help them pass. This irritated me. The kids have under 40% for a reason, they will be in for a rude awakening in May when they realize that I'm not just going to pass them along and I have no qualms about them not graduating because they decided not to do any work for my class. My district is going to "Move on when reading" next year, where 3rd graders who aren't reading at grade level get held back. The issue I have with this is that they are excluding students on IEP's and ELL students from this mandate, which is dumb. Those are the kids who most need to be held back.

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

Well it just makes sense that we are irritated that graduates can't do what we ask of them, then why are they graduating? At some point, you have to make a concession. You can't have a 15 year old in elementary school. That said, I don't agree with the everyone passes mentality. I've had student teachers who didn't need to become teachers either, but at that point, it was hard to stop them. Why? We want to be professionals, so we should have professional standards. That's kind of another topic, but not totally -- it's all going back to passing on kids who don't have the skills needed.

Meghan Everette
Meghan Everette
90 Activity Points

I may have a solution for this entire post (just kidding). We had a speaker come in to speak about formative assessment. Basically by doing this we are allowing the students to take responsibility for their learning by having self or peer assessments. The catch is we don't give them grades for most of their work. It's supposed to build self-efficacy and responsibility. Although his points are valid, this still leaves the question of how do you get the students who do take a test in 10 minutes and don't really care if they do or don't get to retake it. However, if we all did more formative assessment, the students will (according to research, which is what our speaker said) want to redo their assignment and put in the effort to meet the criteria for that assessment. Giving them grades make it a summative and with a grade most of them are fine with getting the 60% or whatever they need to pass instead of pushing themselves to produce high quality work. So far i do agree with the concept and i want to try it, but most of the students are trained to do their work with expectation of getting a grade for it. If i start to not grade anything and just give them feedback and not accept their work until they have met the criteria, how will i keep track of the many students that don't care if they fail and don't have the drive to redo assignments? I would appreciate any feedback on this concept because it seems like an amazing idea in an ideal situation where all students want to learn like in GT or AP courses, but not so much in an everyday classroom.

Mitchell Miho
Mitchell Miho
3090 Activity Points

I feel my job is to help students learn the material. I do not care when they learn the material just that they do. If they can demonstrate mastery later then when I have to give the assessment to keep up with my districts pacing good for them. I feel that allowing retakes makes my grade reflect what they have actually learned in my class and not when they learned it.

Brian Hayes
Brian Hayes
555 Activity Points

That is a very interesting topic for me. I totally agree that our job is to help students learn the material. However, I have doubts. By giving second chances we do not help them to learn to take responsibilities for their actions, organization, planing, etc. I know that if the students by the end of the school year will develop the skills that necessary "to survive" in the world of XXI century, I will feel absolutely great. My motto - "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". I feel that allowing retakes equals "giving a man a fish", and makes my students - "walking wikipedias".

Roberta Urbietyte
Roberta Urbietyte
3700 Activity Points

I think that students should be allowed to retake a test, but they should be deducted a few points. I think it should be a students choice though if they decide they want to fix their test or not, and if they do that we should be glad they are willing to learn more about the topics and try again. We are teachers in order to help students, we should be doing what we can to help them. If this involves allowing them to retake or correct their tests than we should allow them to do that. The students are the ones who end up learning more about a topic that they may not have known enough information about before. If the students want to do better than we should do what we can to try to help them. Our job is to help them succeed. So allow them the opportunity to succeed. We would all want that opportunity as well if we were in their shoes.

Kendell Blake
Kendell Blake
335 Activity Points

All of these posts were very interesting. As a pre-service teacher working towards my degree, I have been exposed to the idea of retesting. It was nice to be able to read through what you all had said, and see some of the advantages and disadvantages of retesting. I will continue to research; thank you for all of your thoughts, I find them very helpful.

Rachel Pacheco
Rachel Pacheco
455 Activity Points

I am currently a student studying to be an elementary education teacher. I have heard both sides on retesting and I'm open to different opinions. However, in my opinion, I believe students should be allowed to retest. I am currently observing in a sixth grade flipped math classroom where the students use class time to work individually where they progress through notes and take quizzes at the end of lessons. The teacher goes over the problems they got wrong and waits to put in a grade; the student is allowed another chance or a "retest" to fix their errors and learn from their mistakes. After all, isn't that what teaching is all about? I believe students should be allowed the option to retest, as it only seems beneficial in my eyes! Jacquelyn

Jacquelyn DaMore
Jacquelyn DaMore
530 Activity Points

These threads are of interest because they illustrate the gamut of philosophies and strategies when assessing students with formal or traditional tests. Often, teachers allow students to 'make corredctions' for a few additional points, this is not a retest but a review of the test by the student with the student analyzing personal errors. The student is NOT allowed to san ,"Oh, I see now, the answer should be c instead of a." The students new answer must be more instructive about what the student did not know and now understands than this simple answer. I found this method to be instructive in many situations, but time consuming for the teacher who must work with the student on a more one-to-one basis and with a bit of an interview. However, it could be an excellent learning experience.

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

This topic is controversial. My own opinions and philosophies were questioned as I read the prior posts. That being said, I do believe students need to understand failure is a part of life and that in life it is ok to fail. However, it is important for students to learn from their failure. Many of the suggestions above, such as making a 70 the highest score they can achieve if they retake, correcting their own exam for some credit, etc., are very helpful in this case. I believe the primary purpose of tests is for students to review what they should have learned. If we simply give them a failing grade, what have they reviewed? We need to somehow make sure students know why they failed and how they can do better next time. On the topic of holding the students back, research has shown this is a dubious idea. Many students who are held back once or twice do not graduate from high school. At the same time, some sort of technique needs to be in place for these students (those who are trying to pass and simply can't) in order to help them succeed in life without continuously holding them back. If they didn't get the material the way it was delivered or from the teacher who delivered it, it is obvious something needs to change. I am a pre-service teacher and I continuously notice that even in college, some students were simply "passed on" in grade level. These students do not submit college material and yet they are still going to graduate and become future teachers or professionals in other careers. Something does need to be done; I'm just not sure it begins and/or ends with testing.

Leslie Rubio
Leslie Rubio
1980 Activity Points

This is a debate that has waged wars in some schools. I see both sides of the argument and had to ask myself some tough questions. Am I teaching science? Or am I teaching life skills? Sometimes I'm teaching science. Other times I'm teaching life skills. Before you make a decision regarding the whole retest vs. no retest, stop and ask yourself those two questions. What's your end goal for that unit of instruction? Is it to teach science or to teach life skills?

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

We are mandated by our charter to do so. But school sites are allowed to decide the parameters of re-testing. I think it helps a few students who really take advantage of the opportunity. What usually happens is I schedule retests afterschool. Kids have to sign up for it. About 1/2 will do, and 1/2 of the 1/2 will show up--10-30 students. Out of those who took the retest, only 10 will pass. One can argue that at least 10 were saved.

Mary Ann NG
Mary Ann Ng
3360 Activity Points

All of these arguments are very valid, however to address Kendra's question, they would be both science and life skills. Our state exams test the children a lot on the mastery of the content or the skill. Sometimes, when a child does not understand the concept or the skill the first go round, it does not make me feel confident that the child will be able to master the next concept considering that concepts build on one another. Also in life,even with our jobs, if we have not mastered a skill or a concept it makes it difficult to teach others or sometimes it gets missed all together. I feel that we are not losing by encouraging retakes so long as we have policies that can help the student fine- tune their study skills and in the end they learn the material.

Elizabeth Penn-Jones
Elizabeth Penn-Jones
1280 Activity Points

I kn ow of some institutions that do not have failing grades. All students earn above 70%. Have any of you ever heard of this and what are your comments. Everyone's comment thus far has been very heartfelt. Thanks for the reflective posts.

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

I do allow ONLY if the student has it in his/her IEP or is an ELL. I give only essay tests and I give the questions the night before the actual test. This means if the students fail, it is their choice.

Shannon Hudson
Shannon Hudson
2405 Activity Points

On major tests and mid-terms, I would allow students to enter the testing room with one side of a 3x5 card covered with 6 lines of notes; often these where laws written algebraically. This seemed to allay high stress and anxiety and enabled students to focus on reasoning during the test rather than having to memorize equations. I devised this method for students with learning issues but allowed all students to avail themselves of the boon.

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

I am also a little torn on this question - I do feel that students should be able to master the content (especially because I teach Biology in Florida where there is an End of Course Exam) but they should also understand about deadlines and being prepared for things. I think the "no deadlines" is doing a disservice to our students - because they will not be prepared for the work force. However, I also somewhat feel like the "deadline" is the end of course exam. So, something I have implemented in my class is that only students earning less than a 70% can retake the test - and they can only earn up to a 70% on the retest. Second, the students need to show some "preparation" for the retest. They must show two ways they "restudied" for this test. I provide one day (a day I schedule) of after school help - but they are required to come with questions they need answered. The school also has an online tutorial/study website that provides questions where they can go, answer, and get remediation for areas where they need some more help. I have video lectures and they can go back and rewatch the videos, take notes, and provide those as a "restudy". I also have some worksheets that the textbook provides that I save for the restudy. Students must do the work, show me that it is complete - they can then "check their own answers" on certain things to make sure it's correct, and then I will allow them to retake the test. All of the prep work for the retake is placed on the student, and they are not allowed to just retake without the prep work, so it discourages students from just blowing off the test the first time. There is also a cap of 70% they can earn on the retest, so this also discourages students from just retesting to get a 100%. This works great for me because it's not a lot of extra work for myself, the student has to do the work, and they can have a better understanding of the material (hopefully) to be able to pass the End of Course Exam at the end of the year.



10 Activity Points

Patricia, Our district has discussed a 50% minimum. Their logic is that an A is 90-100%, a B is 80-89%, a C is 70-79%, a D is 60-69%...so why shouldn't an F be 50-59%? Is it logical sure, but where the dispute comes in is that under this system if a student doesn't do a homework assignment they get a 50% on it. So they get credit for not doing anything. It seems to me just to be a way of inflating grades and making it easier to pass. They have also discussed going to a 1-5 grading system or 20 percent scale. 0-19% = F, 20-39% = D, 40-59% = C, 60-79% = B, and 80-100% = A. That one is more logical, but again would require a change in grading practrice. If no one can get less than a 70%, what is the point of even trying? If I do absoluetly nothing I can pass with a C???

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

I've followed this post with interest and have enjoyed watching the discussion flow and develop. I have very torn opinions on the whole grading scale and have struggled to find a way to be fair without inflating grades for students who make little or no attempt to earn even a few points. It's more than a little frustrating. But once again I'm forced to look inward. What am I grading? Am I grading for completion or comprehension? Have I, as the instructional leader in my classroom, placed importance on the learning process itself or simply whether or not students could put the correct answer in the correct spot? (I mean, let's be fair, secondary teachers typically have a minimum of 150 students. Quick, easy to grade assignments are a necessary evil.) We've all heard about, and most of us truly believe in, the importance of placing emphasis on true learning over that of a "grade." And what's even more encouraging is that *if* we can put the emphasis where it belongs, on understanding and not regurgitating, then all of the above problems tend to disappear. Teachers are very good at finding workarounds to do what's best for our students. What are your ideas on how to get the focus back where it belongs?

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

I've never really gotten this "am I grading for completion or comprehension" argument. I grade for both. Are you saying that if a student doesn't do anything they should not get dinged for not doing anything? Yes, I have 130-150 students, but I find time to at least look at some of their responses to questions and see if they are comprehending the material. If they don't do it, they can't show you that they are comprehending the material. I had a kid a couple of years ago that got an A on every test and didn't do homework so he had a C. When I talked to him about it he said, "I understand everything so why do I need to do the homework?" I talked to him about when he gets out in the real world, he's not going to be able to just skip to the final product, he will have to do stuff in the middle to get there that he's not going to want to do...thats what homework is. I compromised with him and gave him a B, because obviously he knew the content well, but that doesn't excuse him from doing all of the work required.

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

Hi Chris, No, I'm saying it makes me insane to give a student even a single point that they didn't earn, but also that the current grading system is significantly flawed. A zero has a much greater impact on a student's overall grade than a perfect score. So with the current system, we punish students much more harshly for not doing their work than we reward them for not only doing it, but doing it perfectly. For a student who is already on the fence about caring or not caring to begin with, this is a recipe for failure. I also am a strong advocate about comprehension over completion. It started in my first year of teaching. I asked a relatively bright student what the function of the nucleus was. She promptly turned to the glossary and recited it nearly word for word. I prompted for further meaning. She repeated the definition, this time verbatim. Again I prompted and was met with 28 blank stares. The student said, "I'm sorry, I don't know what answer you're looking for." That led to an entire discussion about why students would continue to turn to a glossary for a definition if they didn't understand it when they got there (nearly the entire class admitted they rarely understood glossary definitions). Their answer rocked me back on my heels, "Because that's the answer you put down to get credit. It's what teachers expect." Boom. There it was. It wasn't their fault or their parent's fault. It was mine. So my mission to grade for comprehension, not completion, began. Oh they still have to do the work. But they do not get credit for any of it until they can answer my verbal questions about the assignment. I don't quiz them verbally on every question, only a few to make sure they've got it. And I rarely ask two students the same questions. And it's never, "Tell me the answer to number five." Instead it's, "Can you tell me why you chose this answer instead of that one?" If they can't explain why, they get no credit - even if it's right. They have to go back and study again until they can answer my questions. Then, and only then, do they get credit. I also differentiate based on ability - a gifted student will get a much more in depth question than an average learner, and so on. And I rarely take home papers to grade. But most of all, for me, this is how I make sure my students understand it's not about whether or not you put down 25 answers that you may or may not have understood to begin with - it's about learning and expressing you understanding - more than it's about completing assignments or earning grades. If you truly understand your answers, won't you naturally get a better grade? The advantage for students is that once they can answer my questions, they get to move on to the "fun stuff." Labs and self-directed inquiries and the like. So far, it's worked wonders for me. But I would love to hear other ideas. How do you make sure you're students truly understand and aren't just copying down answers from a book or from a friend? How do you know that they know the materials before you administer the exam? Such a deep topic! Thanks for sharing with me! Kendra

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

When do you have time for that?? It sounds like the ideal situation, but I don't have that time in the day to assess 30-40 students this way on a regular basis in a 55 mintue period.

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

It takes time, and practice, and there are ground rules. I give more than one assignment at a time, so that no one is ever just sitting there until they can orally defend (I call this process oral defense in my classroom). Each unit consists of 20-30 assignments that are each worth varying point values. Students then self-select. I got better at creating assignments that don't require copies made in advance, though there are always some. From there, I only allow a specific number of oral defenses each day. There's a spot on my whiteboard for them to sign up and once I'm full, I'm just full - try again tomorrow. I also got faster the more I practiced. Some students get only a couple of probing questions, others that like to skirt the work with minimal effort while hoping for the best might get seven or even eight (hence, they don't try to cut corners for long). I move around the room to each student that's signed up, answering other student's questions and directing them to better "learning resources" along the way. I'm constantly conversing, answering questions, clarifying misconceptions, all day. Each unit has an "Introductory Lecture" where I introduce them to the content (my hook) and the learning opportunities they have to choose from. If I discover the same misconception in numerous students in the days that follow, I'll "invite" them to a mini-lecture that is really more like a conversation with cool visual aids. These mini-lectures are optional for everyone else, but you never fail to see students "sneaking" to try and listen anyway just because they're technically supposed to be working right then. (Joke's on them!) Don't get me wrong, there's a LOT that I love about the way I do things. But it's not for the faint of heart and I'm always looking for ways to improve my practice. I've combined two different methods from two different workshops I've attended over the years to create what I have so far. The first being oral quizzes/defenses, the second being the graduated or leveled lesson plans. It's really just flipping things around for us as teachers, we do all the work on the front end rather than all the grading on the tail end. I never take papers home to grade, I mean it's so rare it's not even funny and even then, it's usually major exams or written term papers. And I always know where my students are in their learning. I haven't been surprised by a student's performance on an exam in quite some time. So this is how I've managed to place importance on the actual learning process rather than the end product. I am extremely curious about how other teachers manage to make sure their students are truly learning and not just putting down the answers they think we want. Thanks! Kendra

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

Kendra, Can you point me to some articles or resources about the two main aspects of your class, the oral defense and the scaffolding work. Paddy

Padraic McCarthy
Padraic McCarthy
775 Activity Points

Hi Paddy, Here are a couple of things that might help. Unfortunately, not a lot has been written about this (or perhaps I'm using the wrong search terms). One is a copy of a unit I've actually used and the other is a pretty good overview of the pros and cons of using oral assessment. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have. This didn't happen overnight and every year I worry about pulling it off again. Thanks for letting me share, Kendra

Attachments

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

Kendra, I enjoyed looking through your post and the attachments. This is definitely something I would like to know more about. It does seem like it could be time consuming, but on the other hand, I can see how in the long run students would be more prepared overall and take ownership of their own learning. You’ve definitely given me some food for thought.

Sandy Gady
Sandy Gady
43095 Activity Points

Kendra, Thank you for the help. I am very interested in using this type of assessment in my high school classes. One argument against oral assessment is that the unpredictability of the questions makes preparation difficult. Isn't that what a job interview is like? It seems to me that this type of assessment is definitely a work related skill. Recently, someone told me about inteviewing for a teaching job with 9 other applicants in the room at the same time. In this case, you had better be able to think fast on your feet and be creative. I am excited to try this out. Thanks again. Paddy

Padraic McCarthy
Padraic McCarthy
775 Activity Points

Hi Paddy & Sandy, I hadn't thought about it as being a job-related skill, but I think you're absolutely right. When you walk in to an interview you know the general topics you're likely to discuss, but not the actual questions. The ability to think on your feet can make you or break you in an interview, and on the job itself for that matter. The shift started with me when I found myself hating grading, I mean truly loathing it. I realized that I felt that way because student answers didn't really tell me anything about what they truly understood. I just didn't think it was a good use of my time or theirs, since it didn't seem like they were really learning from any of the tasks anyway (as evidenced by their summative assessments). When I first started doing the oral assessments I couldn't believe how many students had no idea that the purpose of an assignment was to actually learn and retain information. It's less so now, but only because I know to bring it up ahead of time. But I'd be very interested if you encounter the same type of "you mean I'm supposed to remember this stuff" attitude in your classrooms as well. And it seems like it's going to be more work, but it's really about the same. You do more work on the front end, but less on the back end. And once your units are set, you'll only tweak them from year to year so in the end, it's much, much less work with an intense focus on learning. Can we just go back to school now? I'm ready to teach... :) Be sure to let me know how it goes for you if you try it! Kendra

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

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