Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How can teachers be sure that their tests assess what is taught?
We want students to be able to trust that we have prepared them well for tests in our classes. Here are some ways to make sure this happens:

1. Make sure that all test items are derived from the course curriculum and unit objectives.
Test items and class lessons should reflect the unit objectives, and these should flow specifically from the course goals. Teachers should continually check their assignments and tests to be sure that what they're teaching, and what they're testing, are in alignment with the curriculum goals. 

2. Construct tests (at least the main topics or skills) in advance of teaching the unit.
Having a clear idea of what will be tested before teaching a unit will focus learning targets and lesson plans toward this learning. 

3. Share the unit plan with students in advance, including the main skills or knowledge that will be assessed.
Sharing with students what the learning will be for the unit will help to give them a clear idea of where they are going, which is important in taking the mystery out of what the desire learning will be. The more students know about the goals of the unit the greater their potential for learning them will be.

4. Be sure that daily learning targets are based on the unit plan.
Daily learning objectives are expressions on the larger goals of the unit plan. Daily objectives support and build up to the unit goals. Again, share these daily targets with students.

5. Be learning target-focused in daily lesson planning.
Learning targets should drive lesson planning. Not teacher activity or even student activities, but the student-learning objectives for the lesson. Teachers who focus student activities and assessments on learning targets are more likely to ensure that students will acquire the desired learning. 

6. Use frequent, involuntary and un-graded formative assessments to check for understanding of the targets.
Checking for understanding using brief, frequent, ungraded assessments allows the teacher to know if students are on track in learning what they are supposed to be learning. 

7. Offer frequent descriptive feedback to students.
Make sure students know how they're doing by giving them descriptive and frequent feedback. 

8. Adjust teaching as necessary, based on the results of formative assessments.
With the end learning goals in mind, teachers can re-teach or adjust instruction based on what the checking for understanding tells them.

9. Test items should reflect the relative importance of the skill or knowledge taught in the unit.
Teachers should be sure that the balance of learning required on any test reflects the balance of the learning targets. 

10. Students should have had frequent practice with every skill or knowledge that is included on a test, with frequent formative assessment and feedback. 

It's pretty simple, really: If it hasn’t been taught, and taught thoroughly, don’t test it.

Remember that a test is as much (if not more) an assessment of the teacher's work as it is of the students'. If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught!

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