January 2012 Archives

I'm often surprised when teachers are surprised when their students perform poorly on tests. Sure there are kids whose scores belie their skills, such as those who have test anxiety or had a bad day or took the test on an empty stomach. For the most part, though, students' performance on tests is predictable based on their day to day performance in class. And that's the problem: teachers who are surprised by students' performance on tests often aren't assessing students' understanding in class as routinely or effectively as they need to be. Routine, effective assessment means knowing what students know ...


Doctors don't prescribe drugs or reach for a scalpel the moment a patient reports symptoms. Doctors diagnose first, and treat second. Coaches don't cut players from the team every time they're in a slump. Coaches determine what's wrong with a player's shot or swing or stroke, and then work with that player to fix it. In myriad other settings, experts similarly identify the sources of problems before deciding how to address those problems. One place, however, where this doesn't always happen is school, especially when it comes to students' misbehavior. Writing students' names on the board. Moving their seats. Giving ...


It's common knowledge that people can learn as much from their mistakes as anything. And yet traditional teaching methods often deny students the chance to learn from their mistakes by preventing them from making mistakes. In social studies and science, for example, a lot of teachers tell students how to scale and label their axes when plotting data on a line graph. This prevents students from mistakenly assigning the dependent variable to the x-axis and the independent variable to the y-axis, or running out of room on their paper by going with ones or tens for their scales instead of ...


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