preparing students for tests

What should teachers do to prepare students for an upcoming assessment? Is this even the right question to ask?

Today I am going to try to respond to another question I posed in a recent post about assessment. You can read that post here. And if you want to read my musings about the first question, you can read it here. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to these questions but ruminating about them allows me to consider some possible solutions or points of view. I invite readers of this blog to engage in this conversation with me. 

I also want to acknowledge my PLN – #sblchat – for bold discussions on standards based grading and learning that are enriching my thinking about assessment.

What should teachers do to prepare students for an upcoming assessment? Is this even the right question to ask?

No. This is not the right question to ask. Preparing students for an assessment means that everything we do in the classroom is geared towards taking tests. Preparing students for an upcoming assessment is tantamount to teaching to the test. 

Instead, we should be doing everything possible to provide challenging opportunities that engage students because they are intrinsically interesting. This means that a stand up and deliver style of teaching won’t work to engage and capture the minds of our students. The alternative, however, is not a horse and pony show but rather a well-thought out arrangement of learning spaces and invitations that allow students to use their interests and questions to help them learn better.

How this translates into learning events in the classroom is dependent on the teacher and her current group of students. The point, in case I haven’t yet made it clear, is that students are, first and foremost, learners, not test taking machines. Preparing students for tests means there are hurdles to be jumped and specific objectives to be met. We close the door to alternative learning paths when what counts is limited to a set of narrow standards and benchmarks. 

We must truly see (observe) and know (likes and dislikes, interests and passions) the learners we interact with every day of the school year. It is to them that we must remain accountable.