The Re-Test

By pianetatschai (Valentina Pasquale)

I’m ambivalent (greatly ambivalent) about the whole idea of a “retest.”

Yes, I absolutely want my students to learn the material.  Should it matter whether they learn it in the designated time frame or not?  If they learn from their failure, that is success; that is an intangible goal of perseverance.  Part of ‘school’ should be the development of skills for success: perseverance, focus, diligence…grit.

Yet, it is these very same skills, if applied in the first place, which make the need for a ‘retest’ unnecessary.  So, within me, there’s this battle.

Previous experience with retests and test corrections adds to the side against it.  The only students who would leverage these opportunities to their advantage were the ones that did not exactly need it.  Truth be told, I wanted the struggling students to have another shot; a chance for the late bloomers to shine.  This just wasn’t the case.

So a month or so ago, surfing through the myriad of blog posts in Google Reader, I found an older post on Kelly O’Shea’s Physics! Blog! discussing the retest and using an application process.  Students apply for a retest?!  What a thought!  A glimmer of hope arose.

Blatantly stealing her ideas, each student has to do Test corrections (for multiple choice an explanation of elimination needs to be provided; for calculations or short answer problems, an explanation of what went wrong the first time has to be included).  Within each course’s Dropbox, a folder has been created, each with practice problems and concept review questions.  The students do not have to do the entire worksheet or all the problems;  they should pick and choose the concepts/skills needing practice.  Though I cannot set aside a day on the weekend for the actual retest, lunch or after school are available.

A few kinks will need worked out based on the initial run with my freshmen classes.  Right now, I’m semi-requiring a meeting with each student to review their test corrections, practice problems, and try to reexplain any concepts that still seem shaky.  Time will be a constraint.  Additionally, student awareness seems to be the biggest obstacle; awareness of what actually is confusing or difficult (common answers still circle around ‘everything’ being confusing or ‘nothing; I just didn’t study’).  Genuine self-analysis should improve with doing.  It does take time to develop.

This, unfortunately, has not completely alleviated my ambivalence.  The extra time investment required now, had it been applied initially, would preclude the need to do the test over again.  I keep coming back to doing things right the first time.

Ultimately, if it helps them figure out how to study better, it’s a good thing; and with better study skills, fewer retests should result.  It boils down to the students figuring out there’s no shortcuts.  They have to be diligent and put in the time required to understand.  I can’t learn for them, but I can give them opportunities to do so.  Here’s to my retesting the retest.  We’ll see how it goes.


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