Young boy reading

AMP on Testing

I am not sure if any of you are fans of the work of Annie Murphy Paul – I have been following her blog and some other publications for several years now. Her area of expertise is training and learning, both for children in K-12 and for adults in higher education, workplace training, and general consumer education such as wellness and nutrition.

Today, I want to focus on a new course she is offering on how testing should be integrated into education so that it facilitates learning. You can tell from her past work as well as the contents of this course that she is not talking about the typical standardized testing that is torturing (my term, not hers) our K-12 education today. There is a remarkable overlap with her recommendations and the latest in human factors research on education and training.

My Take

She calls her blog the Brilliant Blog, which is a great example of how even brazen framing is still effective (but seriously, she is referring to training that makes your users brilliant, not a self-reference). But that is a topic for another day.

In a recent post, she summarized her approach to testing as well as listing the academic researchers each component is based on. A fully cited ecourse summary like this is the exception rather than the rule these days, so I was encouraged to its quality. Looking down the list, there is a lot of overlap with the approach I take in my work as well.

Here are some highlights:

Before training sessions

  • Pretests: find out what they know in advance to tailor the content and to help learners calibrate their own needs.
  • Growth mindset priming: make sure they start out in a growth rather than a fixed mindset (the Dweck mindsets we have talked about here before)

During training sessions

  • Micro-tests: use minimally intrusive queries to facilitate continuous adjustment of speed, direction, and content.
  • No-stakes, spaced out tests: used to identify gaps and misconceptions in their learning rather than to evaluate them. Frequent to promote learning not just reading. Distributed to allow rest and memory consolidation.
  • Formative feedback: formative and visible metrics that learners need to learn better, not as a grade.
  • Self-testing: encourage learners to engage in elaborative ideation. This enhances feelings of autonomy and control.
  • Nerve checks: appraise their arousal to determine if the learner is overwhelmed and to help them chill out.

After training sessions:

  • Post-test reflective thinking and writing: Encourage learners to think and journal about how the content can be used, how it relates to their identity, how it fits in with what they already know.
  • Power planning: how does my performance influence my ability to use the content

Your Turn

I know that many of you have extensive experience with education and training. And in a variety of contexts, including K-12 and higher education, complex adult training such as first responders and aerospace, workplace training in ergonomics, and many more. And of course the rest of you have personal experience as a learner – in K-12, higher ed, and other schools.

So I am sure that you have strong opinions and hard evidence to share. We look forward to the discussion.

Image credit: White77

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