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Test Prep & QAR

Textbook Learning and Test Preparation:
Learning to read text, understand the material, write effective notes, and assess your understanding is not a simple task.  The list below stereotypes the various strategies that students use and are arranged in order of increasing effectiveness.
1. Student doesn't read the book, or just skims it lightly, and takes tests hoping for luck (or their test-taking skills).
2. Student reads the book, but: only a portion, all at once, without understanding, and without any notes.
3. Student reads the book, and takes notes, but: notes are copied, include mostly vocab or bold word definitions, and without understanding
4. Student reads the book, takes notes, and thinks that they understand it, but: don't assess, discuss, or apply their understanding.
5. Student reads the book, understands material, takes personal (effective) notes, and assesses understanding by doing section/chapter reviews.
6. Student does all of step 5 above, but also utilizes extension resources such discussions with others and the links in the online textbook.

Amidst the usual lessons and science activities, we've had some good discussions about learning styles and the controversy of writing, copying, and/or modifying reading notes.  My "rule" had been that during the tests, the kids could use any notes that they write -- both words being pertinent.  Those criteria work well for most kids, but some resist hand writing anything and so I approved typed notes.  As you might predict, the authenticity of notes dwindled as kids shared, posted, copied, and printed each others notes.  An understandable set of actions, but they've strayed far from my original intent and avoided the process or reading the material, understanding the content, and writing well-organized notes (wherein the value of book-learning lies).  We ended up today with the agreement that if the kids type notes, they have to get initials from parents to verify that they are indeed taken by the student.  Lots of fuss but necessary, I suppose.

QAR Process:

I strongly believe that the chapter quizzes/tests should a "separation device" rather than an end-of-road evaluation of subject-area competence.  To that end, I encourage students to do a "Question-Answer-Reason" process for textbook chapter tests.  By doing so, they can earn points equivalent up to the full-credit value of the test.

Please follow the following process:

1. Review your test to find out which problems you missed.
2. By consulting with peers, the teacher, or the textbook, find out what the right answers are (and why)
3. On a piece of lined paper and write the following for each missed problem:

Q: Write out the whole question (not the instructions).

A: Write the answer to the question (not just the letter, but instead, the whole answer)

R: Write the reason why the answer is right (short explanation -- this is the most important part).

4. After each question, put a horizontal line across the page, then start the next problem
5. Turn in the QAR sheets stapled to the top of your test.

Students can do QAR for a any time within the grading period.  Although it is a good idea not to procrastinate, the longer they (you) wait to do it, the more learning might occur because the concepts and facts will need to be reviewed or relearned, and if a long time has passed since they were covered in class or read in the book, then it is likely that the relearning process will take more effort, and hopefully be more effective.

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