When I give a test, I ask the student questions that ask for knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation based on Bloom’s taxonomy as a guide. Sometimes I would look at the questions and decide that I asked too many of one type and not another. Even though I taught special education students, I believe that they are capable of answering questions on all of these levels. I really like application and evaluation questions but that is just a personal preference and I feel their answers show whether the student understands what I have tried to teach them or not. Of course it is easier to have students regurgitate whatever I taught them but do these types of answers really show understanding? I can teach a parrot to repeat answers but that doesn’t mean it understands the concepts. To ask questions that require critical thinking skills, a teacher must spend time composing these questions.
After the test, sometimes I like to analyze the results. My students did not use scantron sheets and just used regular paper. When I graded the papers I would tally how many students got a specific question wrong. Sometimes if they had the same wrong answers I would make a note of this. By looking at the results of this, I was able to tell if the majority of the students missed a certain question and if they were answering a question with the same wrong answer. This might mean many of them didn’t understand the concept, or misunderstood what was taught. Either way, this concept needed to be re-taught. By just giving a grade and not looking at the overall picture, I am missing a valuable teaching moment.
I helped a friend grade some test papers the other day and the question asked about prehistoric inventions that improved life (or something like that). The student answer involved Christopher Columbus and how this prehistoric invention helped him find the West Indies. I can just picture Columbus wearing a caveman outfit and holding a club! Thank goodness this answer was a one-of-a-kind answer and not many others had this answer wrong.
I was pretty busy with every day teaching responsibilities and didn’t do this for every quiz, but I felt if I gave a major test, I needed to look at these results. If it was important enough to test and expect the students to have the knowledge, than it was important enough for me to analyze the results. And let’s face it, sometimes I just enjoyed reading their wrong answers. I remember doing this a lot when I first starting teaching, when good habits were first taught. Then as I became busier and busier, this test analysis fell to the wayside. Then as I gained more and more experience, I realized how important this was. If I missed this step and started to move on to concepts that were based on the previous concepts and skills, I needed to make sure my students could master the previous concepts and skills first. Otherwise, the frustration level would increase and the failure rate would also increase. By doing test analysis and rethinking my lesson, I was able to increase the success rate of my students and everyone in the class, including me, was much happier.