Archive for the 'pretest' Category

Self-Assessment, Teacher Assessment and Improvement

This semester I have my students in Speech class do a self-assessment (what do they think they will do well on and what do they think are their areas for improvement)  before they give a speech.  Then they give the speech and do a post-assessment (what do they think they did well on and what do they think were their areas for improvement) . After they give me their pre-post sheet, I give them my assessment.  Then I return their pre-post to them so that they can compare their statements and mine.  In the next step they pick two areas and write out specifically what they are going to do improve (Not “look up more” but “look up more by (indicating the specific action). During their next speech I look for their indicated improvement.

How do you help your students to improve?

Pre-assessment: Open Eyes or Blinded

This semester I have given many pre-assessments to my students. Last semester, I made many mistakes in instruction because I did not know enough about my students before the beginning of the semester. I taught material that they knew and did not delve into material that they did not know. I assumed that they could read the textbook when their reading rate and comprehension which I tested once I saw a problem revealed an average class reading rate in the low 100s and a comprehension rate of 60% or lower. I thought that since they were college students they could organize their own writing.

So this semester, I have given them writing diagnostic, writing patterns past knowledge diagnostic, grammar diagnostic, vocabulary diagnostic, and reading diagnostic. I can hear the moans about wasting all the time on diagnostic. My students spend 45 minutes on the combined writing and grammatic diagnostic, three minutes on the vocabulary one, four minutes on the past writing patterns and about 15 on the reading one. So in just about one hour and ten minutes I have done six diagnostic tests that have transformed how I teach writing to the students.

What pre-assessments do you give and how do you change your instruction to better improve your students’ learning?

Writing Types Quick Diagnostic – Quick yet meaningful information

I do not want to teach my writing classes with blinders on.  I want to know the students’ entering perceptions about writing and their actual writing skills. I made up a quick online survey on  Zoomerang. The survey asks the students

To identify if they have done this type of writing
If they have done it how many times 1-6
How well they think they do it 4 (very good)-3-2-1(beginning level )

Narrative (Telling a story)
Definition (What something means)
Classification (Categories of something)
Process (How to do something)
Illustration (Explaining something)
Description (What something looks like? Mood?)
Cause and Effect (What caused something? What was the result?)
Comparison (How similar or different are two items?)
Argument/Persuasion (Convince/Persuade about something)
Research Paper

For them to identify their favorite type of writing and why
For them to identify their least favorite type of writing and why

What they do well in their writing?
What they would like help with in their writing.

As soon as they have completed the survey, I have the compiled results.  I now have meaningful information to help me plan the course.  I will change it to help them move forward in their writing.

Writing Pretest- Students Top Three Responses to Writing a Paragraph.

At the start of the semester, I asked my 40+ college students to write down what they think of when they think of writing a paragraph. Then they formed small groups and combined their answers. What do you think were the top three answers?

Scroll down to find out.












Spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Every group came up with these three answers. These deal with the mechanics of writing, but not the content.

Only half of the groups came up with main idea.

No group listed pre-write or brainstorming. Nothing for revising . So much for the famous writing process.

The more we know about what our students think about a process, the more we can help them.

Diagnostic Test With Technology at the Beginning of the School Year

Do you start you class at the beginning of the year (within the first few weeks) with a diagnostic test of where the students are in terms of the skills and knowledge that they need for your class? If the diagnostic test does not cover the whole year, does it cover a truly representative part of the course? For example, a business teacher could have the students write a business application letter to be accepted into the course. The business teacher can quickly determine which parts of a business letter the students can already do and which the students need improvement in. The business teacher can determine if the students are writing in a business style. After looking at this short diagnostic test, the business teacher has a solid idea of what he/she can do to improve student learning in the course and how to modify the curriculum.

If the business teacher has set up an analytic rubric, the teacher can record the results for each part of the rubric in a spreadsheet. Therefore the teacher can easily see the class’ strengthens and the class’ area for improvement as well as individual results.

Pretest Types

Pretests (diagnostic tests, baseline data tests) do not have to be complex. They do need to assess the standard or the standard component at its highest level of thinking. They do need to assess the comprehensive nature of the standard and the in-depth nature of the standard. There are several types of pretests:

1- Misconceptions. As you have planned the unit, you have thought about all the misconceptions that students in the past have displayed about this standard. You “test” for those misconceptions. You may have results from previous year’s tests to pinpoint difficulties students have had.

2-Content knowledge or skills. You ask probing higher level thinking questions about the standard or have students do a task to show their present skills. You only test at the highest level and in the same way that the state test tests it.

3- List of Performance Tasks. Students are given a list of performance tasks or subskills and they check off which ones they are very confident that they can do. Although this a perception pre-test, it helps the students to reflect on their own skills and knowledge and for you to see what they see as their strengthens and weaknesses.

4-Performance Tasks. Have students do a task to show their present level of skills. You only test at the highest level and in the same way that the state test tests it.

Use a spreadsheet to record their results and sort the information so that you can work on the weaker areas that the most students have demonstrated. Teach to what they need to know.

How do you use spreadsheets and other technology to help you in pretesting?


Pretest Coverage: From Year Long to Small Part of Unit Student Learning

Pretest coverage

Pretest (pre-assessment) can cover many different aspects:

1-All the year’s key concepts. A Science teacher has developed two questions for each of the key points that she covers during the year. She gives this pretest at the beginning of the year to have a base-line for all her students.

2- Content on the state -test. A Spanish teacher may give the students the previous year’s regents at the beginning of the school year to see what skills and knowledge the students have based on the state-test required content.

3- Overarching skills or concepts. An English teacher take a reading comprehension pretest at the beginning of the year to determine how well they comprehend reading materials. The English teacher realizes that if students do not have a high degree of reading comprehension, they will not do well in the course.

3- Several standards components found in a unit. A Math teacher may pull out four questions that are the most difficult and that represent the different standards components from the unit and ask students to solve them.

4- A specific component within a unit. Within a big Government/Civics unit, a Social Studies teacher creates several pretest each one focused on different aspects such as purpose of the constitution, the three branches of government, and Bills of Rights in daily life. As the students finish a section of the unit, they have a pretest for the next section.

So which type of pretest do you use? Do you use your word processor to take your existing standards-based unit exam and slightly modify problems to create a pretest? Do you have a subject area database of possible test qustions? Do you have old state-exams in digital format that you can take questions from?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

Reteach instead of Teach for Greater Student Learning

Teach Reteach

You go to visit a specialist, Dr. Cuchil, for the first time. As soon as she walks in the room, she says “Surgery.” You go to another specialist, Dr. Tened. He asks you some questions, has some X-rays taken, and moves your hand in various positions. He then suggests a treatment. Dr. Tened has vast knowledge about your condition but bases his comments directly on your condition as he has diagnosed it. One teaches without any knowledge about you. The other one re-teaches based on your information.

I think that reteaching is the key to student learning, not teaching. Reteaching implies that the teachers have made an assessment of student’s learning needs and these educators have come up with a different strategy or strategies to help those learners be successful. In a classroom the teachers pretest the students either in paper or, hopefully, electronic means; they analyze the results or look at the electronic results. They become aware of the academic strengthens and weaknesses of their students; they know where learning problems are. Then the teachers use their word processor to modify/change the unit to better help the students; the teachers reteach what the students do not know or cannot do yet. They do not teach what the students already know. They regularly check the students’ progress.

Do you teach or reteach? How do you use technology to help you reteach?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Diagnostic Pre-test With Technology Before Teaching the Standard

Teach or Pretest

I’ve noticed that teachers start off a new lesson with the topic, maybe why it is important, and some motivation/hook. I have not seen, in the last few years, any teacher pre-testing students at the start of the topic. I understand the reason not to pre-test students. If we know what students do not know, then we have a responsibility to fill in the gaps. If we do not pre-test, then we do not know anything about learning gaps and we can proceed with our already-planned lesson even it does not fit the needs of the students.

If we pre-test and quickly analyze the results, we have an obligation to modify instruction. We can not simply say that the students need to do more math problems or they need to write more to do better in the standard. We have to discern how to help them travel from where they are to where we want them to be in terms of the standard.

I suggest giving a pre-test the day the students finish the previous unit. Then you have a day to analyze the results and modify your unit according to the new data you have. Some teachers who do not have a district online quiz or test program use survey sites such as Zoomerang and SurveyMonkey that allow them to give 10 question pre-test (multiple choice, True False, ratings, and open-ended) “survey” for up to 100 students. They can set up a quiz quickly. If they write the pretest in a word processor, then they can copy and paste it into the online survey taker program and they will have it for the future. However, the teacher has to copy the survey results since the results will disappear after ten days. Teachers save pretest correction time and basic analysis time when they use these sites.

Do you use another online survey program for pretests? Do you have another way to give online pretests and have them analyzed? Share your information so that we all can have new tools to help us improve our students’ learning.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


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