One of the goals of many home school parents is for their children to learn to think, not just spit back information. How do you gauge true learning and encourage high thinking skills? I'd like to introduce one tool you may find helpful in achieving these goals. A professor named Bloom, who led a group of educational psychologists, came up with a scale we can use to understand the level of difficulty in our students' thinking. It's called Bloom's Taxonomy. Although his work is rather controversial, I think that when used properly, this particular scale is still useful as an illustration of the various depths of learning. Below are both his scale, and the newly updated scale... (the updated scale changed from nouns to verbs and switched the top two components)
"Bloom found that over 95% of test questions students encounter require them to think only at the lowest possible level... the recall of information."(1) Levels range from the simplest at the bottom to most complex at the top. The key to this scale is as follows: (1)
As you can see, traditional worksheets and tests aren't the ideal or final way to evaluate students. The traditional method of read, review, regurgitate fails to assess how deeply a child learned the material. Just because they ace a standard test doesn't mean they have mastered its concepts.
You may feel pressured to produce "academic achievement" in your child, whether for yourself or others. Though tests may have a limited place, often a discussion with your child is just as telling without unneeded stress. You may consider the use of narration, projects, note booking or lapbooking in place of a test. Narration is an excellent means of evaluation, more telling then quizzes, and enjoyable to the student. Essays are another form of narration for an older student. Presentations are another excellent tool in which your child describes, "teaches", or walks you through his project. You may even wish to coordinate a project presentation night for your children to present to an audience of family, friends, and/or other home schoolers.
*Keep in mind that knowing how to take tests is a good skill, so even though it isn't your main means of evaluation, you may still choose to incorporate it as you see necessary.
How Do I Evaluate My Child's Grades?
"Just be fair. Ask yourself, Are your children doing outstanding work and learning everything? If they are home schooling, they should always be learning everything necessary in each lesson before moving on to the next lesson. Therefore, that is A work. Are they learning almost everything, but having difficulty remembering all the work? Don't move on, then, for that is B work. Are they only learning half of what you go over? Then do it again. Home schoolers should not make C grades. We won't even discuss D or F work. In the elementary years you can decide whether to give letter grades or satisfactory check-marks in each subject. Sometimes colorful stickers are all that is necessary to award your child for good work."(2)
Achievement tests compare your child to others. If possible, delay the taking of these tests until at least the third grade. And beware of weaking your child's education by "teaching to test."
Related post: "What is My Child's Reading Level?"