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Charity Preston's picture
Charity Preston, M.A., is a national presenter, consultant and author. She has completed studies in gifted training, cooperative learning and differentiation, as well as a master's degree in...
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Pretesting and Analyzing Student Growth

Pretesting students is the key to finding measurable gains in the classroom, whether it is in a public school setting or in an corporate employee training program. By finding out what material the students already know and do not know, you are able to tailor the program to fit the students' needs and alleviate redundancy.

Here are some easy steps to creating a class where everyone learns:

1. First, create a quick "quiz" covering important key points of what you think the students should accomplish by the end of your training or class. Limit this assessment to no more than 50 items, as students become frustrated when trying to answer too many unknown questions. It also becomes a time constraint and you do not want to waste your time testing, but rather spend the time teaching. Remind your class that they are not expected to know the answers (just yet anyway).

2. Next, after grading the work the students have submitted (I prefer multiple choice because the grading is much easier), take time to analyze the data. Review each question to check for percentage of students who answered correctly, incorrectly, and if incorrect, what was the most chosen answer for that question.

3. Then, you may begin breaking down your assessment, then begin to study the data you have just found. I believe that if at least 85% of the students have answered a question correctly, I then know I do not need to cover that concept again. On the other hand, if 25% correctly answered a question, I want to know what they thought the answer was as well, because I need to redirect their thought process about that topic.

4. After knowing what you need to cover, and what you don't, you can then begin to put together your training. Once your training is in place, you now have a much more effective and specific class from which all your students may learn. If I have time, I also enjoy looking at individual student scores in each section of the pretest in order to make notes about which students will need extra support in various sections of the training.

5. Lastly, as your class or training comes to an end, make sure you get the pretest (which now becomes the post test) to see the learning gains. You should be pleasantly surprised! Feel free to show the students how much they have learned and be ready to celebrate!

The time involved to pretest and analyze the data is important for the overall picture of student interest and retention. The more that students are involved and not bored, the more they will be actively engaged in learning. Keep the topic relevant to their needs and all parties come out ahead!

How do you assess students at the beginning (or other times) of the year? How do you track the growth?

Charity Preston - The Organized Classroom