Thursday, November 20, 2008

Teaching to the Test

The other night at book club, some of us were talking about exams, and I mentioned how I would like to have my exam questions written prior to the beginning of each term, but I haven't been able to do that yet. Someone mentioned that it might be tempting to 'teach to the test' if the questions were written ahead of time. That is definitely a trap I might fall into. It's just *easier* to focus on what is on the test.

But I remembered this morning that Tim's Mom wrote a post on assessment after she went to the ChildLight conference in 2007, and addressed this very issue:

The difference between traditional "teaching to the test" and CM's "teaching to the test" is that the traditional way has kids memorizing facts so they can fill in the right blanks on a test. But a CM exam question is going to be open-ended, designed to make the child think about "essential" issues, so "teaching to the test" will look more like getting him to think about big issues like hypocrisy, or the role of religion in government, or the topical geography of an area as he reads. It means that the parent has to have an idea of what concept is being brought out in a book - why is this book important enough to be used as a school text? So, creating AO exams will partially take the form of figuring out what major concepts are in the books, and why they're being used. In year 7, for example, The Once and Future King is scheduled because it considers different approaches to leadership (I never would have gotten that by reading it myself; I happen to know that because of a post that Wendy C. sent to the HEO list!) I think that will be harder than just coming up with questions that are like the questions CM used (which is what I had originally planned to do!)

So, while 'teaching to test' can be a danger, asking the write questions may actually give more direction to the studying of the term. Read the rest, she talks about grading the exams, too.

Just something to think about.

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