Yesterday, we heard from Chris Cannon, a 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year recipient and economics teacher at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, GA. He shared with us his work on test corrections, “How Re-Dos and Corrections Can Improve Your Teaching?” (click here for his presentation on his website). The 20 cohort members in attendance were very engaged and receptive to the ideas he presented.
First, he defined the terms or parameters for how teachers could go about incorporating test corrections into their teaching. Here are examples he shared with us (from his slides):
- Making corrections to assignments
- Re-Doing assignments
- Re-Taking tests in some cases
- Re-Writing papers OR doing multiple drafts
- Re-Explaining Content in a new/different way
He pointed out that the research indicates that doing test corrections helps students in the following ways (from his slides):
- Increased student motivation
- Provides a sense of “hope” to lower achieving students
- Responds to the research on how the brain works: we don’t learn from our mistakes, we learn from correcting our mistakes.
He also pointed out that in some content areas like English and math, it is not uncommon for teachers to allow students multiple opportunities to redo work. In English, the rough draft leading up to the final draft is one example.
In his research, he has also found that many universities have policies for correcting assessments. By looking at online course syllabi, he was able to find schools like UGA, GSU, Georgia Southern, Clayton State, LSU, Auburn and Syracuse that had some type of correction policy available to students. His point was that to use the excuse for not having a policy that “students need to be prepared for what’s ahead,” is not accurate since schools of higher education do accept these practices from their professors.
In the “real world,” he gave plenty of examples where redoing one’s work is totally acceptable. LSAT, MCATs, SATs, pilot licensing, and many more organizations have policies that allow an individual to retake the exam for a passing grade. In fact, the SAT’s policy is that students can select their highest scores on the language and math sections from multiple sittings and send these to colleges. The College Board does not average your scores and send the average score as the indicator of a student’s ability.
Chris also talked about real-life situations where people make corrections on their mistakes over-and-over again. For example (from his slides):
- If a pilot come in for a landing and misjudges the runway, he or she would return for a new landing.
- If you mis-checked a box on a form or mis-calculated something on taxes, you can make corrections, sometimes without a penalty.
- Farmers never grow everything correctly the first time. They make adjustments year after year from lessons learned.
- Teachers change lessons or activities based on experience with classes. We make mid-course corrections all the time.
- When Coke Cola launched New Coke, it was a total flop. They had lots of work to do with customers to correct their mistake.
He shared with us his own personal experiences with using test corrections over many years. Some positive impacts from using it with students are (from his slides):
- Fewer incidences of cheating in his classes
- Improved test scores of students in general
- His students are more interested in understanding WHY they are making the mistakes they are making.
- Students comment on end-of-year surveys that they like the test correction policy.
Here is a snapshot of his policy from the AP Economics syllabus he has online.
He pointed out that having a clear policy with specific guidelines is very important.
In the Assessment E.E. Ford Cohort the facilitators had assigned the article by Rick Wormeli that appeared recently in Educational Leadership, Effective Grading Practices, Redos and Retakes Done Right. (vol 69, no 3, pages 22-26) Chris Cannon discussed the work of Rick Wormeli on this topic only briefly but did indicate that he was at the forefront of this conversation in education.
Rick Wormeli has two very interesting You Tube videos (see below) on the topic of test corrections. In these 8 minutes videos, he lays the groundwork for why this policy makes sense in schools. In addition, he provides a framework for how to implement the policy. Chris pointed out that this work can be lonely at times because other teachers are very reluctant to adopt a test correction policy. Wormeli does a good job in the videos of responding to the concerns of the reluctant educator.
Rick Wormeli on value of Test Corrections: Part 1
Rick Wormeli on value of Test Corrections: Part 2
At the Westminster Schools, Jill Gough has done some pioneering work on test corrections in her 8th Grade Algebra I class. In her blog, Experiments in Learning by Doing, she has documented a great deal of her work on this topic. Her post, Being Slow…Mindset…2nd Chances…Learning, will give you insight into her philosophy, practice, and what she does with her students. There are other posts describing her test correction project on her blog.
Why don’t we accept “doing things over” in our traditional school model? Could it be….
- we don’t place a high regard on making mistakes and learning from them?
- we don’t value a process of failure, adjustment, learning, failure, adjustment and more learning?
- we think a test correction policy will lead to grade inflation that colleges won’t understand?
- we don’t really value the mastery of learning all the targets we lay out for students?
- we are so attached to a model that rewards students who learn faster than others that we are unable to remain open to something that might be fair to all learners?
- (…how would you finish that prompt?)
I am not totally sure which of these makes the most sense. Maybe all of them. What I do know is that learning cannot be rigidly confined by time and space! We have to give all learners the space to stretch their muscles and master the learning goals that we value. If we say we value the standards outlined in the Common Core, then let’s make it possible for all learners to achieve mastery regardless of how much time it may take them. But let’s not be blindly accepting of a model that does not reward students to learn, master, and use the knowledge we value.
So what are you thinking about the feasibility and merit of this idea?