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So this year, when dd was in 8th grade, I started testing her in her classes to prepare her for high school. We had not tested before because I do not think that tests are a good metric for assessing understanding.

 

My dd performed well on her tests, but doing this only underscored by dislike of tests and my belief that they are inadequate assessments.

 

I am seeking ideas for alternative assessments. What types of assessments or end-of-year projects have you used with your kids?

 

My dd will be taking the ACT and probably some CLEP and SAT subject tests, and we will be preparing for those, so being able to take a test is not the issue. I just want to allow my dd to demonstrate her learning in a more active, relevant way.

 

Thanks!

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In literature and history, I never gave tests but gave longer writing assignments instead, or they did oral presentations on a topic they researched.

 

In math, I see no alternative to a cumulative test, because I need to ensure long term mastery. Problem solving is active and relevant. Similarly, in physics and chemistry, tests based on problem solving.

 

In biology, DS wrote a research paper.

 

I do not grade electives.

Edited by regentrude
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I do not grade electives.

 

I have heard that some colleges assign a grade of C to any pass/fail classes. Have you encountered issues with this?

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I have heard that some colleges assign a grade of C to any pass/fail classes. Have you encountered issues with this?

 

No. My DD was accepted to several highly selective colleges and attends one of them (acceptance rate 8%)

 

I don't think the P grades in music, computer skills and PE were the reason she got rejected from Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.

Edited by regentrude

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My kid loves writing, so we use different kinds of writing projects to assess understanding - not just essays or research papers, but exploratory writing pieces, writing answers to study questions, things like that.  I found a bunch of really great ideas in the book Engaging Ideas, which is about writing across the curriculum.  There is also a good chapter on this topic in the book With Rigor for All.  One of my favorite assessments she describes is having her high schools students write a poem, modeled on the Wallace Stevens poem "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" called "13 Ways of Looking at Raskolnikov" to show their understanding of Crime & Punishment.

 

Dd is finding that she really enjoys working through a set of good book discussion questions after she has finished the book - it makes her go back and read parts carefully and articulate what she thinks/concludes. This usually happens after discussion.  So you end up with a set of short essays in answer to deep questions - this seems like a good assessment for understanding of literature to me!

 

 

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So this year, when dd was in 8th grade, I started testing her in her classes to prepare her for high school. We had not tested before because I do not think that tests are a good metric for assessing understanding.

 

My dd performed well on her tests, but doing this only underscored by dislike of tests and my belief that they are inadequate assessments.

 

I'm curious--could you share your reasoning about why tests are inadequate?

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Listed below are ways grades were compiled last semester for dd's college classes:

 

Multiple choice tests on lecture materials - not memorize & dump, written to require reasoning, comprehension & evaluation 

Tests with several 1- 2 page essays using multiple resources

Online posts to prof. prompts with responses to classmate posts

Test prep check for bonus points

Mid-length essays using multiple resources; i.e. assigned book + lecture material (From history prof - so good but lots of work.)

Other writing assignments for bonus points.

Movie analysis for psychology - (Also good.)

Class discussions

 

So many ways to assess.

 

1togo

 

 

 

Edited by 1Togo

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I'm curious--could you share your reasoning about why tests are inadequate?

 

I feel that tests, by definition, allow a student to show only a small slice of their broad range of knowledge and water down a subject by reducing it to what can be tested. Also, students can have a vast array of knowledge about subjects but not be skilled in displaying that knowledge in a traditional testing format (this is not a problem for my daughter but is for my son). I also feel that testing encourages a "memorize and dump" mindset and, depending on the circumstances, can leave students guessing as to what answer a teacher wants rather than thinking broadly, creatively, and in a flexible manner. I also don't like the idea that material learned at the beginning of the course, which may have been revisited and reinforced throughout the course, is often given the same weight as newly learned material, and I don't think that gives students credit for the process of learning; it only measures the outcome. In addition, so much goes into a student's performance on any given day that I don't feel that a snapshot assessment is useful in a broad sense.

 

Before I had kids, I worked for a textbook development company (which is not the same a textbook publisher). Part of what I participated in while working there was the development of textbook and standardized tests. Witnessing the process of how tests are created and why they are formatted as they are gave me a negative view of tests. They also don't really align with my beliefs on education and the learning process.

 

I could, I suppose, write my own tests, formatting them exactly how I want them and weighting variously things according to my preferences, but, in reality, I don't want to do this and wouldn't do it even if I intended to.  :closedeyes:

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I feel that tests, by definition, allow a student to show only a small slice of their broad range of knowledge and water down a subject by reducing it to what can be tested. Also, students can have a vast array of knowledge about subjects but not be skilled in displaying that knowledge in a traditional testing format (this is not a problem for my daughter but is for my son). I also feel that testing encourages a "memorize and dump" mindset and, depending on the circumstances, can leave students guessing as to what answer a teacher wants rather than thinking broadly, creatively, and in a flexible manner. I also don't like the idea that material learned at the beginning of the course, which may have been revisited and reinforced throughout the course, is often given the same weight as newly learned material, and I don't think that gives students credit for the process of learning; it only measures the outcome. In addition, so much goes into a student's performance on any given day that I don't feel that a snapshot assessment is useful in a broad sense.

 

This is not accurate - you can design a test that tests the application of cumulative knowledge in novel ways, where memorize&dump is useless, where no guessing is possible because it is not MC.

You can creatively design a test that tests precisely what you wanted your student to learn, design how you want to weight the material, how you want to grade the exam, which mistakes you consider minor and meriting small deductions, which mistakes are major and show a lack of conceptual understanding.

Writing good tests is difficult, time consuming, and require expertise - but it is possible.

 

ETA: Upon rereading I saw that you don't wish to do that. Fine - but I don't think designing and evaluating alternative ways of demonstrating knowledge is any less time consuming.

 

There is also the possibility of oral examinations. My entire college transcript consists of three grades only, from three oral examinations, one over five semesters of math, another over eight semesters of experimental physics, and the third over four semesters of theoretical physics. The oral exam is an excellent way of probing a student's knowledge in depth and breadth, and it allows the examiner a lot of flexibility.

Edited by regentrude
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ETA: Upon rereading I saw that you don't wish to do that. Fine - but I don't think designing and evaluating alternative ways of demonstrating knowledge is any less time consuming.

 

My lack of desire to write my own tests has nothing to do with how time-consuming it is. It has to do with my belief that having a student sit at a desk with a paper and a pencil is not a good metric for gauging knowledge and understanding.

 

Oral exams or exams that require students to make, build, or do something are, to me, entirely different than the traditional idea of a high school test.

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My lack of desire to write my own tests has nothing to do with how time-consuming it is. It has to do with my belief that having a student sit at a desk with a paper and a pencil is not a good metric for gauging knowledge and understanding.

 

Oral exams or exams that require students to make, build, or do something are, to me, entirely different than the traditional idea of a high school test.

 

I don't quite understand. It certainly depends on the subject - but for eample, in math or physics or chemistry, how would a student demonstrate problem solving skills if not by sitting at a desk with paper and pencil, working problems? Sure, you can have him stand with whiteboard marker on a whiteboard - but that does not alter that the skill that has to be mastered is problem solving, just like in English, the skill that has to be mastered is writing which again is done with paper and pencil (or, if you want, on a computer)

 

I am not sure what you would have a student make or build or do to test their knowledge in history or mathematics.

Edited by regentrude
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presentations, small projects, power point slides, posters/display, oral "defense" type stuff, discussions, nothing

 

I often have my kid teach me what he learned about.  If you can teach someone how something works, you probably know it pretty well.

 

 

 

 

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Here is a website that I like for alternative assessment ideas:

Authentic Assessment Toolbox

 

I think someone mentioned the book Engaging Ideas already - it is good for writing assignment ideas.

 

One thing I would like DS to do next year is a multigenre paper/project. If you google the term, you will get an idea of its intent. Here is one link to get started:

http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/multigenre/introduction.htm

 

I would like to know more about oral exams, but I will start another thread for that.

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I am not sure what you would have a student make or build or do to test their knowledge in history or mathematics.

 

I can think of a lot of history projects that could demonstrate a student's understanding of history.

 

For math, well, for example, my dd just finished up Algebra 1 (for which I did give her a final exam). She's now starting a programming class that requires a solid understanding of algebra. I certainly think that applying algebra in this way would be a better demonstration of her understanding of the subject than taking an algebra test would be.

 

It's not that I won't be giving any exams. I probably will. I just don't think that testing is the best way to assess understanding (even if it's the most convenient in a classroom), and I would like to use as many alternative assessments as I can.

 

I will say that I was an extremely strong student, and I usually did very, very well on tests. I was, however, not nearly as able to put my knowledge into practice in actual situations, and as I am not educating my kids to prepare them for lives of taking tests but for lives of living their education, I am much more interested in practical assessments. In fact, in my major I had to do a year-long practicum because it was recognized that simply absorbing the material in class and being able to regurgitate it on a test was not sufficient preparation for the job.

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I really didn't do any tests with my older kid.  Or I never treated them all that seriously.  I worried about that, but when he took a real class he did very well.  This is not say this would work for everyone, but I figured I sat next to him every day and worked with him.  I knew what he understood and what he didn't. 

 

I sit with him less and less, but I'm still fairly involved so I still have a good idea of what he is getting or not. 

 

One goal of mine this coming year is to work on stuff like timed essay type exams.  That's not something we've really done, and I want him to feel comfortable doing that because it will likely come up in college.  But stuff like multiple choice exams or math exams, he knows how that works.

 

 

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Practical applications for using knowledge is wonderful. My dh was just about jumping up and down with glee when he used trigonometry to calculate the exact angle needed to cut certain pieces of wood for our new flooring last summer. I'm pretty sure that the average carpenter may not think of doing this, but it was great to see how his calculations and cutting resulted in a perfect fit.

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My kid loves writing, so we use different kinds of writing projects to assess understanding - not just essays or research papers, but exploratory writing pieces, writing answers to study questions, things like that.  I found a bunch of really great ideas in the book Engaging Ideas, which is about writing across the curriculum.  There is also a good chapter on this topic in the book With Rigor for All.  One of my favorite assessments she describes is having her high schools students write a poem, modeled on the Wallace Stevens poem "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" called "13 Ways of Looking at Raskolnikov" to show their understanding of Crime & Punishment.

 

Dd is finding that she really enjoys working through a set of good book discussion questions after she has finished the book - it makes her go back and read parts carefully and articulate what she thinks/concludes. This usually happens after discussion.  So you end up with a set of short essays in answer to deep questions - this seems like a good assessment for understanding of literature to me!

 

 

In case anyone else has a creative writer and is looking for alternative activities in other subjects, I just bought this book:  Creative Writing in Science: Activities that Inspire.  It looks like it might have some interesting ideas in it.

 

 

You're really bad for my Amazon budget, Rose.

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