Demythologize testing – becoming your student’s friend
In my recently finished accelerated thinking critically and creatively class (January 30 to March 13), I pushed back the horizons of testing with an experiment, that is, I gave the students the final comprehensive review (test) to the students on the first day of class. Here are some observations I made, the instructions I shared, and the results of the testing.
- Silence enshrouded the room, there was a sense of disbelief – “this isn’t the real final is it?”
- It was like the entire room gave a deep sense of relief and relaxation as if a burden was lifted from their academic shoulders
- Two students remained after class simply to thank me for removing the sense of the unknown, and for creating what they thought would be a more relaxed, learning atmosphere
- On the day of the comprehensive, there were no students nervously fingering through index cards hoping to cram a few more ideas into their anxious brains
- On the course/instructor evaluations, students did comment on the relaxed nature of their learning experience, and how much less anxiety they had about the final comprehensive
- The comprehensive included 20 questions which highlighted the key concepts of the course which were aligned with the 19 competencies of the course – I included a couple of the questions from the comprehensive below
- I randomly chose any 15 of the 20 questions for the final comprehensive which were shared on the day of the comprehensive; the total points were 125 points
- Since the students knew the questions in advance, they were able to discuss them with their groups and work on the comprehensively individually so as to grow in understanding of the nature of the questions throughout the course. Keep in mind, each week the groups had to discuss, answer, and hand in their responses to the weekly chapter worksheets as well – thus, a balance was established
- I was more interested in understanding and application than I was in memorization and recall
- The final comprehensive was taken during the second last class, and the graded comprehensive was returned on the last class which gave students a chance to review their results and to ask questions, if appropriate; in addition, other activities were planned for that final class, namely, students who were assigned to present their creativity projects; they also completed a course/instructor evaluation, and they viewed a thought-provoking presentation from ted.com.
- The lowest score was an 84% and the highest score was a 94% out of 24 students who completed the comprehensive individually; the medium score was 89%. The other criteria for grading are: their 5 assignments, their creativity presentations, and their participation. On March 27, I begin another accelerated course, and I will then experiment with the students taking the comprehensive as a group, for comparative purposes; now if the student misses two or more classes (excused or unexcused), then the student will take the comprehensive individually.
Sample questions– which are changed each semester to reflect the key competencies
Number 3: Rank order the kinds of evidence from least reliable to the most reliable resource in the pursuit of the truth. 1 points each = 11 points
- Personal Experience/Opinion 7. Celebrity Testimony
- Unpublished Report 8 Expert Opinion
- Survey 9. Statistics
- Formal Observation 10. Published Report
- Research Review 11. Published Research/supported by
- Eyewitness Testimony experimentation
Second, of the 11 sources above, which ones would you use to decide whether Wisconsin should adopt the death penalty? 1 point each = 4 to 6 points
Number 11: Are these general claims strong or weak? If weak, why? 2 points each=18 points.
- All accountants are honest. Ralph is an accountant. So Ralph is honest.
- All doctors earn more than $50,000. Earl earns more than $50,000. So Earl is a doctor.
- Every newspaper that the Vice-President reads is published by an American publisher. All newspapers published by an American publisher are biased against Muslims. So the Vice-President reads only newspapers that are biased against Muslims.
- Some dogs like peanut butter. Some things that like peanut butter are human. So some dogs are human.
- All corporations are legal entities. No computer is a legal entity. So no computer is a corporation.
- All nursing students take critical thinking in their freshmen year. No heroin addict is a nursing student. So no heroin addict takes critical thinking his or her freshmen year
- 72% of all workers at the GM plant say they will vote to strike. Harry works at the GM plant. So Harry will vote to strike.
- 95% plus-or-minus 2% of all cat owners have cat-induced allergies. Dr. E’s ex-wife has a cat. So Dr. E’s ex-wife has cat-induced allergies.
- Only 4% of all workers on the assembly line at the GM plant didn’t get a raise last year. Wanda has worked on the assembly line at the GM plant since last year. So Wanda almost certainly got a raise.