I subscribe to ESL teacher Larry Ferlazzo’s blog. He recently posted an article about test preparation; while geared toward high school students’ assessments, it is applicable to us as well. I particularly liked the idea he shared in the final paragraph.
DO NO HARM TEST PREP
Any public school teacher will say that tests loom large in the classroom. No Child Left Behind tied school funding to test scores in math and English Language Arts, subjects that have increasingly dominated classroom time. Preparing students for tests that matter for their advancement and future success is important, but Ferlazzo points to studies showing prolonged focus on test prep produces a short term bump in scores accompanied by a long term deterioration in achievement. Ferlazzo finds that approach unethical and a disservice to his students.
He still does test prep, but for only a handful of classes. Instead, he focuses on giving his students strategies to deal with high stakes, high stress situations in the future. “The reality of it is these are high stakes for all of us, and students can develop skills or knowledge about how to be focused in high stakes situations that they can apply to job interviews in the future and other high stakes situations,” Ferlazzo said.
Ten minutes before the test, Ferlazzo has his students write about a successful ancestor because research shows recalling a personal success can help increase motivation. He also has students talk to one another about something that interests them because it activates the brain, helping them to be a little more “on.” He also advocates that his students take the tests in a familiar place, somewhere comfortable. His students take the exam in the English classroom with him as their proctor.
Thanks for your posting, Anne. As the semester winds down, many of us will be post testing. Ferlazzo's techniques for preparing students for testing are valuable. Related to Ferlazzo's suggestions, I read about a study (Yaeger & Walton as cited in National Research Council, 2012) showing when adolescents wrote about values that were important to them, this had a significant impact on their grades compared to a comparison group that wrote about values that were not important to them. Over several months, these students engaged in similar writing a few times, and their higher grades were maintained for two years. This kind of simple exercise can have important implications.
How do you usually prepare your students for post testing? Has anyone tried a similar approach to the those suggested by Larry Ferlazzo to prepare students for testing? Are there teachers who might consider trying this? Please share your thoughts and ideas with your colleagues here.