Saturday, September 6, 2008

Using notes in tests

Having a working memory of four units, I know the necessity of having well prepared notes. Everything I do has a paper trail of sorts that lets me manage the many things I'm juggling at any one point. The programme we use is far more detailed than most - but without it I would be lost as to what I had done and what I still needed to do.

Students coming through junior school (where tests and assignments are not the norm and alternate assessment is more often used) don't know how to prepare for tests. More so, many suffer extreme test anxiety that affects their performance in later years. Making and having notes makes sense as in real life we do not work in a vacuum and normally have our notes/diary/teachnical books at hand.

To alleviate issue of recall and anxiety in year 10, we test often - at least once every two to three weeks and have a 2hr mid year exam. Students know that a test is coming (and have been forewarned when and the topic).

For the first term, the notes consist of their journal and I tell them what to write in it as we go along. At the end of each test the aim is to do some self reflection (5 mins) that I read in spare moments about their performance and how to improve.

In second term, they can still use their journals but I now insist that 2 pages of notes is all they can bring into the test (by the end of the term the journal has too much content to use effectively). Those that bring notes get an extra 10% for being adequately prepared.

In term three I no longer reward students for bringing notes as they are in the habit and know the consequences of not bringing adequate notes.

Interestingly I had one student indicate that her notes never had the material on it that she needed. On reading it I found that the information was there but she was unable to generalise the notes to assist her. This is an issue that I need to investigate further.

By going through this process I believe that my students are better prepared for tests and exams in yr 11 & 12 and have shown anecdotally that they are not as stressed in the assessment process.

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