As we head into the craziness of midterm season I thought of an earlier post that was shared on this blog. Again, I felt the need to question the validity and relevancy of midterms and whether this is the type of assessment strategy / system is worth supporting.
Also, think about the back end of midterm exams and the lack of meaningful conversations between teachers and students. Where is the time for these conversation to happen? A midterm is delivered and seemingly the next day a new marking period begins. An assessment of this magnitude should have time on the back end for students to reflect on their performance, to self-assess growth and to examine personal goals. This reflection can serve as a conversation starter between a student and teacher as they collectively look ahead to the rest of the year.
From the archives (1-24-11), thought about midterm exams.
Midterms are almost upon us at the high school I work at. The
testing period has been pushed back due to the string of inclement
weather the Atlantic region has faced, but by the end of the month 1500
students will be required to complete midterms in core academic
courses and year-long electives. The stress level at the high school
increases for both students and teachers as stakeholders try to balance
midterms exams, classes and extracurricular engagements.
wonder if midterm exams are worth the effort and stress. The schedule
is overhauled to find space for the administering of midterm exams.
As a result of the weather, this schedule has been reworked on several
occasions. Even though educators need to be flexible, their ability to
alter instructional sessions is compromised with each cancellation or
delayed opening. Additionally, to a certain extent, the schedule
continues as if the midterms did not exist. Classes progress towards
the end of the marking period. Extracurricular activities are not
halted. Students and teachers head towards practices and meetings
before, during and after school. The intensity is heightened as
classroom participants try to manage academic expectations.
question the worth of midterm exams. I see value in delivering a
final assessment. Students should be placed in a position where they
need to synthesize information accrued throughout the year and defend
personal interpretations. However, I do not think midterms serve the
same purpose. Do classes need to stop in the “middle” of the year to
evaluate progress? Educators are supposed to be constantly assessing
students both formally and informally. Each day data is being gathered
and used to personalize learning. In theory, what are we going to
learn on a midterm that we do not already know about a student? This
is particularly true if the midterm is uniform across a class or
course. We cannot privilege a personalized learning environment and
deliver the complete opposite for a midterm exam.
would rather see classes where students are engaged in a process of
continually making meaning. Prior assertions are constantly challenged
through guided and organic inquiries. New information is evaluated
against existing perspectives. Discovery is an extended process with
the learning afforded the time and space to determine truth. As stated
before, the end result should be a public exhibition in which the
learner can demonstrate understanding and growth.
we are to have midterms, the emphasis needs to be on the demonstration
of skills more so than the regurgitation of content. I was excited to
read a post over the weekend from the Teaching Paperless blog.
The blog’s creator, Shelly Blake-Plock shared a broad description of a
midterm he created for his Human Geography course. I shared the post
with several teachers who were struggling to develop a midterm
assessment that moved away from the traditional memorization and recall
format to a structure that was authentic and skills based. The most recent post on Teaching Paperless
shared the actual Human Geography exam. The examination assesses a
learner’s ability to actually become a researcher in human geography
through the completion of ten different tasks. All of the work is to be
displayed on the student’s blog. Students are required to complete a
range of tasks that are united through conducting research inquiries.
My favorite questions are #5 and #7. The implications of a student
being able to accomplish these specific tasks is significant. Learners
are challenged to synthesize information, critically analyze a problem
and make informed recommendations. A broad range of skills are engaged
to meet the exam requirements. The exam has depth as opposed to a
Regardless of whether midterms are
assigned, any assessment has to have enduring value. The hope is that
over the next two weeks our students will be engaged in meaningful
endeavors that represent challenges learners will face in college or
the professional world. The hope is that students and teachers will
view midterms as time well spent. Teachers can further the
accumulation of students data and build personalized learning
experiences. Students can hopefully find time to reflect on their
performance and either revisit or if warranted, revise personal