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Thoughts on ‘Test Better, Teach Better’ chapter 1

So having read the first chapter of Popham’s Test Better, Teach Better, I like the direction the book is taking in looking at assessment from both the student side and teacher side of the desk.  Popham states how well a teacher designs a test can very well affect how well material gets taught.  This reminds me of the approach taken in Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design, where the assessment is designed first and instructional planning follows to tightly align with the planned assessment.  This past fall, Mr. Mikkelsen and I had the opportunity to hear a speaker who was involved in the design of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  The most powerful statement he made was to say “the CCSS were never designed to be taught; they were designed to be assessed”.  This thinking ties is well with the model fromUnderstanding by Design and the beginnings of this book.

I like the four types of decisions that can be assisted by tests: 1) Decisions about the nature and purpose of the curriculum; 2) Decisions about students’ prior knowledge; 3) Decisions about how long to teach something; and 4) Decisions about the effectiveness of instruction.

There is mention of formative assessment (that which we have come to call Assessment for Learning), and I thought the chunking of an assessment into bits and spreading in through the class (item sampling as he refers to it) was something that could be of value and could even be done with students at the board throughout the room, reading passages from a book or play, or even sampling portions of project work.

I will be interested to read what everyone else found in this first chapter.  Obviously it is simply an introduction – I don’t expect a lot of meat and potatoes in this portion of the book.  But I do like what I am seeing so far…


Keep on reading…

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  1. Tony

    The first chapter immediately made me take a look in the mirror to see what I’ve been doing the past few years in the classroom.

    The four decisions that Darrin eluded to in his third paragraph really struck home. Throughout the past few years some of our professional development has centered around these items.

    I believe the use of formative assessments (assessment for learning) has allowed me to measure where my students are, and what I need to do adjust my instruction to give them the best possible chance for success.


  2. Annie

    Another reminder as to what good practice looks like. Popham has been around for a long time, I remember reading his works in college and I have internalized the concept of teaching with the end in mind – I am interested in exploring the idea of using test items (ACT, PLAN, EXPLORE maybe) to clarify the instructional targets.

  3. Thomas Jassman

    In review of Chapter 1, I think the most power message brought about is the need for narrowing of “educational objectives” so that teachers can truly focus on what the benchmarks are trying to get students to learn.
    One teachers inference of the benchmark and what the test is really trying to assess leaves such a large variance that it really explains why student(s) are most likely destined to fail.
    Therefore, I really like how Popham states that the ultimate curricular goal should be accompanied by a set of “illustrative test items” to indicate how a standard is to be measured. Such a conclusion will then allow teachers to effectively analyze the benchmark and teach specifically to the state test outcomes.
    In closing, the idea of formative assessments to gauge students progress is essential and needs to be a staple in our educational processing towards student learning. I am really looking forward to finding out the possible solutions that this book shall entail towards being a better teacher and increasing student learning!

  4. Angie

    While not a lot of new or core ideas in this chapter, I think what resonated with me was the whole idea of truly determining what needs to be taught. As Thomas stated above, we really need to weed down what is most important and I would add, those skills that can be learned given our curriculum.

  5. Debbie

    I really appreciate the fact that the chapter addresses the importance of looking at what are we really trying to test and why?

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