Tag Archives: testing

More Brains Have Been Ordered!

My “back to school” shopping list includes brains! When I checked my supply I realized I had to reorder again this year.

Perhaps I should explain.

Dealing with test and quiz anxiety is typically a challenge for some adult learners. A few years ago I learned that using stress balls (sometimes called “squeezies”) can help restless children focus… the constant motion seems to release energy and allow the child to focus. So, I thought. “Why wouldn’t this work with adults taking quizzes and tests?”

My first experiment with the theory included a young man who was self-proclaimed “A.D.H.D.” and quite worried about taking quizzes and tests. He actually broke the stress ball I provided and encouraged him to use. But he also got a pretty good grade and thought having it helped. So I ordered some different ones that wouldn’t break and now offer them to all students prior to a quiz or test.

This could be your brain!

I was quite pleased to find “squeezies” in the shape of a brain. How much more appropriate could things be? Take a test–squeeze your brain! You might be surprised to discover what comes out!

They’ve proven quite popular with students. I’m also told they are quite popular with cats because they are fairly easy to bat around. And, of course, the jokes never get old–nor do the strange looks from the U.P.S. driver when I grab the box from him and announce, “My brains came! My brains came!”

Giving Up Teaching…

No, I am not announcing retirement. That is what we call an “attention-getting headline.”  Before you charge me with misrepresentation, understand that I’ve actually been “giving up teaching” for quite a few years now.

Ho Hum, we're being taught.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a new theme and logo: “Love to Learn.” I convinced myself to follow this course because I do love to learn and, more importantly, I believe learning should be as much fun as possible. When it’s not fun it should at least be rewarding.

A recent article in Harvard Review, Twilight of the Lecture, by Eric Mazur was very affirming. Mazur says he is “more interested in learning than teaching” and demonstrates with research that moving the focus away from the lectern to the “physical and imaginative activity of each student” is the key to improved learning. In practical terms,

The active-learning approach challenges lecturers to re-evaluate what they can accomplish during class that offers the greatest value for students. Mazur cites a quip to the effect that lectures are a way of transferring the instructor’s lecture notes to students’ notebooks without passing through the brains of either.

For anyone who teaches, this article is a “must-read.” I’ve witnessed this first hand when working with second graders through adult learners. Many second grade readers will stumble over a word and look at me with inquisitive eyes. My instincts are often to give them the answer, but I know that’s not very engaging. So we might “sound it out,” break it down, or consider the context. Sometimes we find a dictionary and look it up. They don’t always like it because it means work. But I think it also means learning.

Can’t you just tell me the answer?

Adults like this even less. Real estate pre-licensing courses require testing and passing grades. I introduce every course with this observation, requiring students to write it down in the beginning of their notebook:

If you study to remember you will forget. If you study to understand you will remember.

That sort of process doesn’t usually work very well when I’m lecturing–students are writing down and hoping they can remember what I say. The harsh reality is that I’m doing all the work and hoping they are “with me.” It seems a bit odd that we are both hoping it will work. Hope is a wonderful thing, but effort tends to get more results.

Interactive learning is more work for the teacher and the student. It’s also not traditional, especially with adults. Teachers/lecturers like maintaining control of their classrooms. What we need to understand is that interactive learning does not translate to giving up control of the classroom–it simply requires a different set of skills and a higher level of engagement on the part of all involved. The ultimate classroom management takes place when we engage the learners’ mind as well as their pencils. Mazur says, “Active learners take new information and apply it, rather than just making note of it.”

No, I’m not retiring… and I’m actually not really giving up teaching. But I’m constantly doing it differently because I think teaching is really about learning.

My Brains Came! My Brains Came!

The UPS truck made it up the driveway yesterday in spite of the storm… I suppose the driver thought it a bit odd that I proclaimed “my brains are here!” when he set the box down.

It was a fairly large box.

Dealing with test and quiz anxiety is typically a challenge for some adult learners. A few years ago I learned that using stress balls (sometimes called “squeezies”) can help restless children focus… the constant motion seems to release energy and allow the child to focus. So, I thought. “Why wouldn’t this work with adults taking quizzes and tests?”

My first experiment with the theory included a young man who was self-proclaimed “A.D.D.” and he actually broke the stress ball I provided. But he also got a pretty good grade and thought having it helped. So I ordered more–different ones that wouldn’t break.

These cubes proved popular–so much so that they’ve gradually disappeared and I’m down to three. Since it was time to order more, I decided to get a little creative this time… and I was quite pleased to find “squeezies” in the shape of brains. How much more appropriate could things be? Take a test–squeeze your brain! You might be surprised to discover what comes out!