Wednesday, April 02, 2008

It's up to us to make the change

I know you've seen it: Will's post about tests and cheating. Probably his shortest post, but one of the most important, I think.

If kids cheat on tests today, it is largely our fault. If we use fill-in-the-blank tests, we obviously don't really want students to think too deeply, so what does it matter if they cheat? The same is true of "essays" copied from the encyclopedia or whatever. We need to craft assignments and assessment tools that require students to create something, to synthesize information, to express opinons and back them up with "facts". I wrote about this last year a couple times.

This is tied, of course, to my current struggle with worksheets. I am happy with how this term is going so far without worksheets in two classes. We are having more quality discussion. Students are writing more and better. It has been hard to get this all organized, but it is worth the effort. At the end of the term, I will know that my students have learned something. Also, I feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I am enjoying my classes a lot more. Even more important, my students seem to be enjoying them more, too.

But back to tests... In one class, we are eliminating the end-of-term test and replacing it with portfolios of the students' writing. We are allowing students to select 5 from among 12 pieces of writing, some of it more complicated than others. This is something new for our students, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to it. In the other class, I think I will give them a test but ask them to respond to "essay" questions. They will be similar to questions we have answered in class in writing and orally, so I don't think it will be too hard. At least I hope it won't. The writing will be personal and pertinent. I am not sure exactly what this will look like yet, but I know it will be better than the suual tests they have to take. And they won't really be able to cheat. Not substantially, anyway.

I am ecitied to see what happens. These next 6 weeks are going to be fun!

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