Thank you to Michael Tidd for this insightful article.
I have something of a mantra in teaching: Do Less, But Better. I try to do less marking, but make it of higher quality; I spend less time on planning pro formas but plan better sequences of lessons; often I ask children to write less in their books, but make each sentence better.
Testing is no exception: less testing, but better. The slight twist here is that less testing, for me, means more tests. It sounds paradoxical at first, but it’s an important differentiation. Testing can be long-winded and onerous, while achieving little. I can’t be alone in having spent hours marking multiple test papers only to come up with a sub-level that I could have guessed for myself. The old ways of testing were too driven by numbers.
Now I probably use tests more than ever, but the key is in selecting tests purposefully and keeping them as tight as possible. No longer do we run through past papers in full depth. Instead, I choose the right questions to match the key points I’ve been teaching, and use as short a test as possible to achieve the understanding I need. We know, too, from wide-ranging research, that the ‘testing effect’ can actually help children to secure the learning they’ve undertaken as the retrieval of that knowledge or skill can help to cement the understanding. Continue reading →