I am struck immediately by the analogy the author uses to connect curriculum and instruction. Identifying curriculum as the end and instruction as the means to the end is a clear mental image and gives another way to view the connection between teaching and learning.
How powerful were the three instructional payoffs described as dividends to testing? I could not agree more with the benefit of having a 1) more accurate understanding of the final destination; 2) clearer explanations and; 3) more appropriate practice activities.
1. More accurate understanding of final destination – self explanatory, if you know where you want students to be and you make it crystal clear for them, most likely they will meet you there
2. Clearer explanations – I am finding the more I am clear with what I want from staff and students in my role as principal, the more clear explanation I can provide for you. I know everyone appreciates when I am very clear in my expectations, and I see much better results from staff and students when I am clear.
3. Appropriate practice activities – why would you spend time practicing something you have already proven to be proficient? Certainly there is argument to be made for repetition (use it or lose it skills) that is valid, but when attempting to provide new skills, don’t muddy the water with practice that focuses on old material or distracts from the skill you are attempting to have your students gain.
I liken all three of these to being a coach and having game film on your upcoming opponent. I know people don’t want to be ‘teaching to a test’, I get that and don’t want that either (see quote #3 below). But how do we know how/what the test in the real world will look like for students when we don’t know what their world will entail. Again, back to the coaching analogy – if I have film on my upcoming opponent, and I usually did, I would spend quite a bit of time analyzing the film for my opponents strengths and weaknesses, their tendencies in certain situations, and attempt to identify areas and situations where my team would be most likely to have success. I had my athletes watch the film and analyze the same things I did – they were the ones who would face the test, why not let them see the test before taking it – it certainly increased the odds they would be successful. So my time with my athletes focused on 1) giving them a clear understanding of what their opponent would most likely try to do based on strengths and weaknesses, tendencies and previous performance; 2) clear expectations of what they were to do in situations that would undoubtedly arise in the contest; and 3) drill, drill, drill on the specific skills they would need when the contest arrived.
I appreciated the question of “what kind of cognitive demands will be imposed on students…” and how the term cognitive demands was defined as the intellectual activities in which a student must engage. This made me curious about the alignment of the assignments and assessments I had used in my classroom. Did I have assessment and practice that aligned with each other? Did I have instruction that aligned with the way my students would be assessed? What cognitive demands (think Bloom’s Taxonomy) did I put on my students? I can tell you, probably I didn’t push much further than applying, and usually was at a base level of wrote memorization when it came to assessment. If I did it over again, would I realign my assessment thinking with my instruction and practice? Most definitely…
#1 “For students to truly master this curricular aim, what must be going on inside their heads?” (p. 25)
#2 “A student who possesses generalizable skill-mastery will be able to apply that mastery in all sorts of in-school and out-of-school settings.” (p. 25)
#3 “A test is only a representation, meaning that teachers must aim their instruction not at the tests, but toward the skill, knowledge, or affect that those tests represent.” (p. 27)
My final thought here will be this – teachers must understand going in what a test (curricular end) will be asking for in order to best decide what instruction (means) to utilize to best arm students with the necessary skills they will be needing.
Keep on reading!!!