Mar 13, 2012


Standardized Test Scores Can Improve When Kids Told They Can Fail, Study Finds

The article opens with a video from Teaching Channel...

"As students enter class, they see a math problem on the whiteboard and are instructed to solve it on index cards. After they finish, Alcala immediately sees which answers are right or wrong -- "yes" and "no" -- and chooses her favorite incorrect response, the one most liable to be repeated. She then explains the mistake to the class -- never identifying its culprit -- and demonstrates how it can be avoided."

I don't want to take anything from Ms. Alcala, but Japanese teachers place great value in wrong answers, as seen in The Teaching Gap. After reading the book, I decided to give it a try. For my warm-up, I write six problems on the board. After a certain amount of time, I ask for students to write their solutions on the board. Sometimes, I choose randomly, but, often, I select the best wrong answers. For lessons, I give the class a problem to solve, and ask one, two, or several students to present their solutions. It's the same idea. Wrong answers allow me to discuss what went well, reasonableness, and things to remember. However, I have a class that is petrified--absolutely petrified--of giving wrong answers. Even when they've found the correct answer, they will sit, wide-eyed, staring at me. Ms. Alcala's idea might work for that class.

Illustrating the value of teaching students that failure is natural, the article also speaks to the study of two French researchers...

"The study's findings, publicized by the American Psychological Association, come amid mounting cries against high-stakes standardized tests in the U.S. As more and more states seek to tie students' standardized test scores to teacher evaluations, statisticians often question the validity of those exams. According to Croizet and Autin, high-stakes test trigger a psychological mechanism and lack of confidence that makes it harder to assess aptitude."

I think elementary students want to give up quickly. To help, two things should happen. Following the advice of this study, tell students that [topic] is difficult, but a solution is possible. And, don't be so quick to help them. Let them talk it out and settle on the solution.

"The researchers also found that test relaxation techniques that seem obvious to most teachers, such as telling students that they can perform well, can actually make kids more anxious -- and thus perform at lower levels."

Wow. This illustrates the need to pay attention to research.

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