The Benefits of Open-Note Tests
What’s the best way to find out what your students know? Or, how much they’ve been paying attention, or what you need to revisit?
Every teacher reading this already knows the answer to those questions.
Tests. Tests can be a great way to find out if the class is ready to move forward or if they need to revisit some ideas. They can be a great tool for finding out what your students need and how much they’ve been paying attention to. However, tests can be very stressful for students, especially if they have been asked to memorize information.
Of course, I understand the argument that in “real life,” they won’t be able to use their notes, or they won’t have time to pause a conversation so that they can look up the correct words. Of course, that argument makes sense, but it won’t inspire students to try. Fear is not a useful tool in learning, especially in learning a new language.
Think back on tests you had to take in high school where you had to memorize information—do you remember anything you were tested on?
There would be no incentives to keep that information in your head since the test is over. Most likely, as soon as you turned in the test, all the information you memorized was forgotten. Naturally, your students function the same way. To help students feel less stressed about tests and to actually test their knowledge and skills, open-note tests are a really good alternative to traditional testing.
The cycle of traditional testing is predictable
Students may focus and take notes, but only on the information they will be tested on; they memorize the information for the test and forget it all when the test is over. This means that students don’t actually know the information that was taught to them; they just know how to memorize relevant information until they don’t need it anymore.
The purpose of tests should be to understand what your students understand, not what they’ve memorized. Open-note tests allow students to use their resources to their full potential, and they won’t be as stressed. Moreover, the teacher has the opportunity to ask deeper questions rather than memorizing questions. If the students have their resources at their disposal during a test, the teacher can take the opportunity to test their students’ skills and understanding rather than just making sure they’re memorizing.
This method will ultimately benefit the students because instead of focusing their energy on memorizing information, they can take their time and understand the concepts being taught to them. I will again ask you to think back on your time in high school and ask you if there was a particular class you remember. Do you remember the lessons? How does the teacher teach them, or how does the teacher show you the importance of the information being taught? Most likely, the teacher kept the information relevant to the students by connecting the lesson to real-world examples or visibly showing their excitement for the subject because they were so excited to talk about it.
For me, those are the classes and teachers I remember the most. Not only did they teach the concept in a relevant way, but they never asked students to memorize anything for their tests. Instead, they leaned more toward questions that dived deep into the material and asked critical questions which tested our understanding of the content. I am inspired by those teachers and try to follow in their footsteps when it comes to testing the knowledge of my students.
Open-note tests can help students feel more comfortable with testing,
which can be a great skill to have. Once the question of English proficiency tests, teachers can get creative. Of course, ungraded (no notes) mock tests or discussing how the test will be presented is a great way to get students ready, but I think the extra step needs to be teaching students the core knowledge they need to have before they start their test.
Mock tests can be a great way to find out what core knowledge students might be lacking. When I was learning English, the method that helped me the most was teachers showing me the core knowledge of the test material and making sure I understood it before moving on. For example, when I was learning English, I really struggled with the concept of the spelling system. I just couldn’t understand how “pony” and “bologna” were rhyming words or why bologna wasn’t pronounced the way it was spelled.
I didn’t understand how to differentiate the pronunciation of “ch” like in “chemical” or “chain.” How was I supposed to tell if it made an a –k or a –ch sound? After my teachers took some time to explain spelling and pronunciation, I was able to get a better handle on things. Sometimes the answer on how to understand something was to just know the difference, which did require some memorization, but they made it fun by making it a game or teaching me slowly. This strategy was really helpful for me as a young English learner, and it can be helpful for your students too.
Benefits of Open-note Tests
Open-note tests allow students to use their resources as much as possible and remember the concepts they learned over the course of the class. Instead of stressfully memorizing information for a test, students can focus their energy on understanding core knowledge which can help them understand the language better. As a teacher, open-note tests allow for deeper questions that ask more from students than just memorized information, and this strategy can help students feel less stressed about tests.
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