Test Prep – It Isn’t Just About the Mints

Test Prep – It Isn’t Just About the Mints

Char Shryock

The best test prep is to focus on instruction. Yep. Simple as that.  Assessments are a part of the instructional process.  Evidence Centered Design for Instruction begins with building a common description of what students are to be able to know or do.  The next  step is to define what students look like and sound like when they are doing what it is we have agreed we want them to be able to do. What evidence would we expect to see when they master those skills or knowledge? What evidence would we expect to see as they are building towards that mastery? Formative and Summative assessments are tools to help teachers capture snapshots of that evidence.  Assessments should match to the teaching.  The final step is to plan instruction that will engage students in the work of learning the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the next grade or as contributing members of a community.  

Is there the need to be sure students are familiar with the types of questions that they will be asked to respond to on an assessment? Of course.  Which is why teachers need to build their own assessment literacy skills.  What assessment tool is the best fit for gathering the evidence that you are looking for? How are you using those tools throughout your instruction? How do you use a blueprint to design your own assessments that match to the depth of learning that is described in the standards your students are working with? What strategies do students have in their toolbox that can help them to effectively communicate what they know?  

Many teachers and parents were worried about the impact of technology based assessments on their students ability to accurately communicate what they know or can do.  For most students, a small amount of direct practice with the technology platform will give them the opportunity to see how the technology skills they have learned and practiced in their daily classroom work can transfer to the specific test.  The key to confidence in using online testing is for teachers and students to regularly integrate technology tools into their learning.

And finally, the mints.  There is research that supports the use of mints to boost test performance.  What may be more important is the energy that the teacher projects during an assessment.  Students pick up on this energy and it will affect how they perceive the test.  Calm, confident teachers who have done their own practice with the testing tools, who convey to students through words and actions that this is a test worth their time to take as a way to show what they know, and that they are up to the challenge of solving the problems will also have a positive impact on test performance.