5 tips to streamline teacher test preparation
Test preparation, whether it’s for midterms or formal assessment testing, is a stressful time for many teachers. Assimilating students for test-taking success takes more than the time allotted to these teachers before test time arrives — usually a few short weeks after the academic year starts. And a lot, including school funding, may ride on the test results.
“Teachers feel pressed to leap into content immediately rather than set up conditions for learning in the classroom that would allow them to move more quickly later on,” says Judith Arnold, a 2009 graduate of University of Phoenix Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program. “My words of advice: make haste slowly.”
Judith Frame Henderson, MAEd and a University of Phoenix College of Education instructor, agrees. “You must plan strategically from the get go,” says Henderson. Take a step back in order to properly assess and prepare a successful action plan. Both educators agree that this, in addition to following the steps below, can help teachers prepare themselves more quickly.
- Prepare and balance — Don’t burn out in the first two weeks by trying to climb the curriculum mountain at breakneck speed, advises Arnold, who is also director of student achievement and systems accountability at Canada’s Yukon Department of Education. Preparation best serves teachers and students alike when teachers spend adequate time, preferably before the school year even starts, digesting curriculum goals and establishing a classroom framework. Wrap your mind around the task at hand, she suggests.
- Assessment — Strategic curriculum plans lend themselves to those teachers willing to invest in a two-prong assessment of their students, says Henderson. Reviewing your students’ past test results with or without colleagues allows teachers to grasp and gear themselves toward the desired educational outcome, says Henderson. “Take a good, hard look at the tests from the previous spring and see where your students fall,” says Henderson. Then convey your testing goals to the students. “If you cannot demonstrate to your students where you are going then your students will not have a clear understanding of what they are supposed to do or what is expected of them,” explains Henderson.
In turn, Arnold adds, teachers should encourage students to assess themselves as this will both motivate the students and make them feel respected enough to take ownership of their education success. This may be as simple as a teacher asking students to solve, say, a math problem, and then encouraging them to raise their hands to share what may confuse them about the problem. “Oftentimes [they] are harder on themselves than the teachers are,” Arnold says.
- Adjust — Never abandon a curriculum’s essentials, such as reading and mathematics, warns Arnold. The only exception is if a teacher finds the students, as a group, mastered a particular subject content area, like proper sentence structure. It is then wise to eliminate related, ultimately repetitive lesson plans in lieu of adjusting the curriculum lessons to address more complex subject matter (i.e., essay content) and help students become successful learners, not just decent test takers. This curriculum adjustment period is also the time to focus on more individualized learning deficiencies by breaking students into small groups or, if a student needs extra help, recommending additional or external resources.
- Revisit — Preparation extends throughout the academic year. Once the students complete the tests, analyze the test results to adequately prepare the students for next year’s tests.
- Take your own advice — Teachers constantly advise students to sleep and eat well before a big test day. Henderson says teachers may want to heed their own advice, topping it off with seeking support from colleagues and returning the favor. “We’re all in this together."