Monday, 2 March 2009

Testing and Grading

How do you remember being tested at school? And by this I mean the tests you had to write to get grades at any subject you were studying. Did you like that?

No matter how you change your teaching methods or what subject you teach, no matter what topic you're dealing with at the moment, you are required to grade your students in the end (with very few exceptions).

When you are dealing with something new, don't you tell your students: "Revise this at home, if possible, do it TODAY"? I know I do. And I offer extra help for those with more problems. And we check their homework together and I try to let their parents know if they are not doing well.

One day I come to the class with a testpaper. They are not happy about it. But we've done something similar about a week ago. And done more exercises. Revised. Now what?

They have forty-five minutes to solve what they can as well as they can and earn a grade.

I don't like that. But we have to do it. We have to find out how much they've learned. But do we?

There is this child who is very bright and understands connections between things, different concepts in life and can also deal with numbers very easily. Brilliant at music and fairly good at art, the child can barely read. Is this student really so bad at language if the test is poorly written? Will we be fair enough to this child to let his or her potentials evolve?

There is this student who hasn't got a good ear for language. I IS and I ARE both sound good to this student. But just before the test a thousand exercises get solved and the chapter in the textbook studied back and forth and all the notes in the notebook become of all sorts of different colours. So much work must do some good and the test goes fine. We are all happy. The knowledge, well, it lasts or not.

And there is this other student. You feel a perfect understanding of everything you're teaching somewhere behind the gestures that indicate self-consciousness. This student shines at revising, but comes to the class all pale and nervous on the "test day". The results do not meet the expectations. There must be a way to overcome this. Or not?

And another one: this little person is convinced in their own geniality which makes any kind of studying needless without saying. No exercises. No work. No studying. The result? Sometimes good and sometimes disappointing.

And yet another: not brilliant, but with some work this student comes by with fairly good grades. Will they remember next year what we are studying now?

And another: there is almost no way for this kid to pass. Not without one more chance and yet another one to make up for failing the test. But if we go abroad, this might be the child to actually use the language and talk to someone. With big mistakes, but still...

And others. And others. And more others. All different.

Some students want to know. A lot. As much as possible. Because they're curious. Because they're ambitious - positively ambitious. Because they want to be praised. Because good grades make them feel good.

Others lack ambition and motivation. They have accepted the generally known fact that they are the ones with the low grades. For some it would only take to think a little and their grades would go up.

My question is: should we grade what hey know? Their skills? Or how well they can show them? Their attitude? Their work? Their willingness to use the language?

I think I grade how well they can present their skills and knowledge. I don't always like that, but that's how it is. It is the only thing we have. No matter how well I understand how they feel when they don't do so well, I'll even bring more tests to the classroom. Get used to it, kids! Feeling happy, sad, frustrated, tired, stressed out, disappointed, feeling fine or not so fine, doing things you like and those you hate - that's life!


  1. Thanks for the kind words! Hope you enjoy spring!

  2. I'll do my best to enjoy it! It's up to us, isn't it?