Saturday, June 30, 2018

Lessons from the Student Seat - High-stakes Testing

Almost a year ago, I became a student again. At that time, I had no idea how sitting in the student seat would impact my teaching. It wasn't because I was a learner once again because I continually think and learn in order to improve my teaching. I think all good teachers should do this.

But it was about placing myself in my students' shoes and being where they are. It was about doing the hard part.  And there are many hard parts to being a student. In these next few blog posts, I hope to share with you lessons I have learned about being a teacher while sitting in the student seat.

In all of my courses, the assessments consisted of writing 8-10 page papers, with the exception of my Foundations in Research course. This assessment was a 62 question multiple-choice test. And yes, they even called it a "high-stakes test."

I spent weeks reading the material, taking notes, and studying those notes. Throughout the course I had check-points, which were small quizzes that were not graded, just a way to check my understanding as I moved through material.

I took almost 50 pages of notes throughout the course, and I knew there was no way my old brain could remember that much new information. I was able to take a practice test and receive a report that broke down how I scored in each of the categories.  The report let me know the areas I needed to study more. Although I passed the practice test, I was still worried about taking the final assessment.

The night before I was scheduled, I set up my webcam and had everything ready for the next day.  I went in early, reviewed my notes, cleared my desk, and signed in. After everything was set up, I clicked on the first question.

My mind went blank. All the material began to run together, and my thinking became one big blur. I needed to get a grip. I took a deep breath and remembered, even if I failed this test, I got another chance to take it...unlike my students.

When students take their state assessments, they get one shot to show what they have learned.

One shot.

I, on the other hand, was so worked up over this test, yet I knew I was able to retake it. Going through  this experience made me realize the stress many of our students endure during testing times.

I know I cannot change the testing culture that surrounds our students. But at least now I can empathize with them.  I can let them know that yes, I do know how they feel because for one day I sat in the student seat with a high stakes test staring back at me.

I know that feeling of panic that I had forgotten everything I was supposed to know.

I know the pressure that I put upon myself because I wanted to do well.

I know that I am thankful I only had one of these tests...unlike my students.

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