My last two posts here were about teaching equations and bucking the traditional method of teaching skill-by-skill. I called it teaching big-picture style. I was not sure how my approach to teaching equations would go. Reflecting on it now, I’m actually wondering about how effective teaching is measured anyway?
Not to over-simplify, I would like to suggest that there are 2 ways to do this.
1. Tests – Formal Assessment
Rightly or wrongly, students are expected to be tested and graded. Part of effective teaching is preparing them for tests. Students need some experience on how to prepare for, take and learn from tests.
As a measure of success, this is relatively easy to set up and execute. Done over a period of time, student growth can be even be tracked. Results are considered evidence….there it is on paper.
Are the students on-task? Are they motivated? Are they doing what they’re supposed to do? Are they persevering through challenging questions? I even dare ask – are they enjoying themselves?
This requires observation and conversation. Tracking student growth is harder and there’s hardly any 1st-hand evidence.
So then, was my approach to teaching equations a success?
The test results show yes.
Engagement levels were also up. Students did not give up. They persevered and generally stayed keen to learn. They played with equations (lots of interactive sites out there) and wrestled with equations. Some even said they enjoyed doing equations. All these from a class used to getting grades of C and D. Pretty good, I say.
Moving forward, I think that most educators struggle to make learning engaging whilst working within the constraints of needing to test. Personally, I’m not a big fan of tests but it’s a reality and does not look like it will go away in the near future. Tests are handy for various reasons including assessment of (and for) learning and ‘filtering’ for streaming purposes, say.To make ‘tests’ more meaningful, even for myself, I make it a metaphor for Life – sometimes things happen that make us feel we’re being tested. What strategies do we employ to prepare for, take and learn from these? This act of abstraction helps and I mention this to students…they may as well abstract with me.
That said, even if my students get the highest scores in maths yet failed to have enjoyed it, I would consider myself to have failed….or to put it more mildly….not fully succeeded in teaching maths.
Does it even make sense to measure success in teaching?