We know that it’s essential to have conferences with students regarding their testing results. We plan how to discuss these results with students, and we plan how to conduct teacher-student conferences to discuss their performance. But what about before testing? What’s important to communicate to students, either as a class or individually, before they take the test? Consider the following list to communicate with your students before testing day.
- Reiterate that it’s only one small piece of a larger picture.
- Emphasize to students that this is one piece of their overall progress. It’s one day, one moment. This test is not the measure of their potential or their future.
- Answer the intention of whether or not their testing grade will affect their class grade.
- Students often don't know why they are taking the test. Why do we need this data? If the data is going to be used for personal goal setting, a class grade, class placement, or other decisions, that information should be shared with students ahead of time. Students may not understand the full picture of their results—a brief overview can ensure that students know exactly where their scores do (and don’t!) factor in.
- Pre-empt their question of what their data will look like, and who will see it.
- How much data will teachers be made aware of regarding each student? What will students know? Depending on the ages of your students, you may want to share with them what results you’ll receive after the test, what results the students will receive, and what will be shared with parents.
- Demystify testing jargon for students.
- Do students understand the vocabulary you’re using? Some of the words can be scary, like evaluate, criteria, evidence, scores. These may seem obvious and interchangeable to you, but it can be helpful to take a moment to explain the definitions to students.
- Clarify the testing environment.
- If students are less familiar with testing, they may not be used to testing schedules disrupting their week. Providing as many clarifications as possible will help alleviate student stress. Will testing occur over one day or multiple days? Will it be one sitting or throughout an entire day? Will we be able to go to the bathroom? What do I need to bring?
- Make the transition to computers easy.
- Put yourself in the position of the student, especially if this is any student’s first experience with this test. Are they comfortable with where the computer lab is located? Do they know how to login?
- Point out the date of the next assessment.
- A way to emphasize that growth is most important is to be clear about the next assessment date. If we are truly focused on growth over time, then the date of the next assessment underscores that point.
Making sure students are on the same page before an assessment can make for a much less stressful, more productive testing session. If time permits, consider having one-on-one meetings with your students or administering a survey to establish their individual preferences. How do they like to take tests? What’s important for you to know about them when it comes to tests? You never know what you might learn: one student may wish to sit in a specific place, or may be worried that he won’t be allowed to have a water bottle.
To learn more, read 11 Talking Points for Teachers Preparing Students for the MAP Test. Do you have any further advice on how to communicate with students before the test? Let us know in the comments below.