Today, as we're starting our final exam week, I'm thinking about it with regard to assessing the meaningfulness of a final exam.
We give common departmental finals, which is why, when my normally independent 9th graders felt compelled to pepper me with questions about the majority of questions on the test, it made me notice and wonder about the test itself:
Is this test a scavenger hunt for right answers? Or does it measure students' ability to provide evidence of their understanding?
There was a previous conversation on Twitter a while back in which some of us were debating the allowability and rationale for allowing students to have a reference sheet on a test. Darryl Yong (@dyong, who you should follow if you're not already) said something that I 100% agree with: if I am measuring higher-order thinking and problem-solving, then THAT'S what I should be measuring and a reference sheet makes sense.
If I am measuring students' effectiveness at memorizing things (such as vocabulary terms), then a reference sheet doesn't make sense because memory and recall are what are being tested.
So right now I'm sitting in a ditch, frustrated by the fact that my Algebra 1 students have been run off the road because the current test is merely a scavenger hunt for right answers to memorized algorithms... when what I REALLY would like to be measuring and understanding is, Do my students know what to DO with their knowledge in both routine and non-routine situations?
And I hate this particular ditch.
As Beckett's Molloy says, "I was out of sorts. They are deep, my sorts -- a deep ditch and I am not often out of them. That is why I mention it."