Giving the Test Two Ways: Using One of Alan November’s Project Ideas
Type of technology: All
SAMR Model Rating: N/A
Grade level: Any
Subject area: Any
Alan November believes that
we ought to globalize the curriculum, that we ought to have authentic conversations across the curriculum with people around the world over the internet and that, sadly, most people only use the internet to get information.
I was inspired by this and other ideas from Mr. November by first watching the video entitled, “Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November“, and further intrigued after asking myself six questions that I read on www.novemberlearning.com to test my own level of innovation in an increasingly digital classroom.
- Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
- Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
- Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
- Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
- Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
- Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
These questions can help to define your current use of technology in the classroom and help your use of technology to move from mere substitution to redefinition. The former being where computers are simply used to perform the same tasks that existed before technology, and the latter being that computer technology is used for new tasks that were never even conceived before technology became readily available to our classrooms.
Upon asking myself these six questions, I realized that, while I liked to think that I was being technologically innovative in my classroom, I have a lot of potential to do more. I wanted to try out one of November’s project ideas with my own students to see how it would go. I chose to start simple and begin by using his suggestion to give the same test two times – first with students working independently and a second time with students working in small cooperative groups. I was drawn to this strategy because my own teaching style includes having students work in small cooperative groups across all subjects: literature circle discussions, real-world mathematical problem-solving, scientific investigation, etc. I wondered, if I am having my students learn in groups, and I promote group discussions many times each day, should my students also be assessed in their learning in small cooperative groups? The results of my little classroom experiment were quite interesting.
I decided to use an end-of-unit science assessment to give two ways. When scoring the individual assessments, I found that almost every student scored exactly how I expected them to: the struggling readers and ESL students scored low, the average students scored average scores, and the high-scoring, strong readers scored their usual high scores. There were no surprises. Next, I broke the students up into small groups of three or four students each. Each group included students that scored exactly, or almost exactly, the same score on the individual assessment. Then, I explained to the students that they were going to get to take the test again and they could choose to keep whichever score was higher as their final result. I further explained to them that the only requirement I had of this second assessment was that every single question had to be discussed by every student in the group before they re-chose their answer and moved onto the next question (no student may be left behind!). This is where things got interesting.
Every single group was immediately engaged in intense academic discussion, and every single student was participating – even the students who will barely speak two words aloud each day and never raise their hands to share-out their thoughts to the class. There where questions and statements flying left and right, “How do you KNOW that?” “What is your evidence?” “I have to disagree with you because…” I was so impressed listening to them work through each question with determination and perseverance and at how well they worked together showing real ownership of their ideas as they solved problems together as a group.
When I graded the new assessments, I was astounded. Every single student improved their score, except for one, who scored the same as the first assessment. My highest scoring group ended up with all perfect scores. My lowest scoring group, students who consistently do not do well on individual assessments, even though I know they understand the content, all improved their scores by eight additionally correct answers. There was such a difference between the two ways that they took the test. I have to admit that the second way was much more appealing to me as a process, and the students were better able to show their understanding than when they were assessed alone.
I feel that this strategy really speaks to Alan November’s idea “that we ought to have authentic conversations across the curriculum with people around the world,” but that these collaborative conversations can first start to grow right in our own classrooms.