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When is a test not a true measure of a student’s abilities?

Final exams, mid-term exams and planned unit tests have something missing when you use them for evaluation.  No I am not throwing out the bath water with the baby but looking for deeper evaluation.

Today in my 12U Advanced Functions class and I posted 5 trigonometry questions on the board, handed out 2 sheets of paper and said this is a test.  I placed the answers to 3 of the 5 questions in the last 10 minutes of the period and informed them I was not collecting to mark. The students also noted that in 5 comprehensive questions, I covered the entire unit.

My walk around the class allowed me to observe the progress of their work and those who still are in the throes of mastering the content.  They are going home this weekend with clues on where they need to address their weaknesses.

A final or announced test allows the memorizers or the guessers (I know what question the teacher will ask) to sometimes hit it right on but have they mastered the content to do a surprise test a week from now or use that skill in the next course?  Will they be memorizing for the final like they did the unit test?

In the last five minutes of the class there was a buzz and it was centered on students discussing the questions on what they did or discovering their misstep.  More learning without me – amazing.

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About Mark Brighton

High school Mathematics teacher in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. See About for more info.

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