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Mary Talbut on Testing What You Teach

My name is Mary Harriet Talbut and I am an instructor at Southeast Missouri State University in the Middle and Secondary Education Department.  I work with pre-service middle and secondary teachers in all content areas.  While a classroom social studies teacher, I was privileged to be part of a professional development program that worked with classroom teachers to increase students’ scores on the state mandated standardized tests.  Of the many lessons learned, one of the easiest to implement was making sure the assessment of the lesson matched the objectives.  This seems like “Learning to Teach 101,” but surprisingly, it is a mistake beginning and experienced teachers make, and it usually happens because of modifications made in the instruction after either the assessment or the objectives have been written.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s backward design process is broken into three steps: 1. Identify Desired Results, 2. Determine acceptable evidence and 3. Plan learning experiences and instruction (Wiggins, and McTighe, 2005).  What do you want the students to know or be able to do and how are you going to tell if they can do it?  It seems simple, but sometimes the third step of instruction planning takes the teacher down a different road than they intended when they started the journey, therefore, their instruction does not match their assessment.

Hot Tip: Use symbols or different colored highlighters to match your objectives to your assessment.  When you write out your lesson plans, whatever format or theory you use, highlight or draw a square around the verb in the assessment.  Then using the same color or symbol, mark that same verb in your objective and instruction steps.  Performing this check ensures there is continuity throughout your lesson.  No teacher intends to set their students up for failure, but sometimes it happens.  A student cannot be blamed for not doing well on an assessment if the instruction they received did not match what appears on test.

Wiggins, G., and McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by Design. 2nd. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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