Education students to attend workshop on school testing

AUGUSTA, GA. – It’s a typical scene on a college campus: Students gathering with notebooks and laptops for a lecture from their professor.

But on Nov. 17, teacher education students will be listening to other teachers talk about testing – a topic so important that President Barak Obama just issued a call for its reduction.

Dr. Judi Wilson, professor of education, who arranged the workshop, thinks that new graduates are often surprised by some of the routine aspects of teaching – and assessment is one of those.

“Students need a better, more realistic picture of what they’ll face in their first classroom,” Wilson said.

Dr. Cheri Ogden said that in her 32 years in education, she has actually seen a decrease in the kind of standardized tests that concern parents – the week-long fill-in-the-bubble type of testing that grinds through hours of class time every year. Instead, she said, the assessments in schools are more frequent but far shorter, sometimes taking only minutes.

Many of the assessments require simple observation by a teacher of a student’s skill set – for example, a physical education teacher might assess a student’s skill set observing a student’s ability to throw both overhand and underhand. Other assessments provide curriculum goals at the beginning and the end of the year – such as observing student reading comprehension, and setting goals for improvement.

“For my first two decades in education, we knew performance tests and tests of real-world application were useful, but we had to create them for ourselves. And they take a long time to create good ones. And now they’re available at both the district and the state level,” Ogden said.

That increased availability can encourage the idea that there are more tests required, when in fact those tests had just not been standardized throughout the districts or the state. Now that they are, they provide a wealth of data for teachers to use in meeting their students’ individual education needs – data that can be overwhelming if there is no training in how to use it. That’s why workshops like this one are such important next-steps in a college student’s education.

“Frequently, graduates come out of college thinking that they are ready for the classroom. They’ve been successful as students and expect to be successful as teachers. And then the kids show up,” Ogden said, with a chuckle.

Wilson agreed: “I think they will be surprised by the sheer number of assessments they have to give as a teacher.”

But Ogden sees these school partnerships impacting Sue Reynolds already, where teachers are mentoring GRU students and, as a result, continue to hone their skills in the classroom, and in gathering and using the data that assessments provide. That mentor relationship, and workshops like this, better position College of Education graduates to enter the workforce prepared for smooth success in the classroom on their first day: “I think that they will never know it helped them.”

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