So many students come into High School Science with an excitement for science. In Middle School, they have been tinkering, designing, experimenting and playing around with science (whilst still picking up some fundamental knowledge I hope!). Then, they sit their first timed assessment and get their first results. For some students, this sends them down a path of chasing the top grade and forgetting to develop a Scientist’s Mindset (for a look at my blog post on this, go here). For some, it sends them into a spiral of despair that makes them say things like, “I’m no good at science!”. And then there are plenty of students in the middle. Then, there are those students who do well in timed assessments but still keep that sense of wonder about the universe.
Something I try to stress to my students is that timed assessments do not define their ability in science. They are but one way of assessing knowledge and understanding. They do not say whether you are a good scientist or not. I have attempted to reframe students thinking by calling them a “Learning Opportunity”. This always draws a laugh and a smile (but does it actually change their approach…?). When approaching timed assessments, I want students to be thinking the following:
- Timed assessments are an opportunity to see what knowledge I have picked up and whether I can apply it in a different context
- Timed assessments are an opportunity to find out any gaps in my knowledge and understanding
- Timed assessments are an opportunity to develop good learning habits that might help me throughout my life
- Timed assessments do not define me, they help me to develop further.
This is all great, but I do understand that students find timed assessments stressful. They know that at the end of the course they will have to sit a timed assessment. This is the way education courses are set up at the moment. As a classroom teacher, I am not in a position to change that right now (I can only add to the discourse and hope that influential policymakers enact change), but I am in a position to change my students’ approach and outlook on that. With that in mind, I have tried to adapt Carol Dweck’s growth mindset (more on that here) to timed assessments. My thinking is outlined in the diagram below. Just like The Scientist’s Mindset, it is a work in progress and I would love to hear your thoughts! Is this approach valid? What have you tried here? Is anything missing? Are you a student and scared of timed assessments? How might this approach help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and regain your love of learning?