“Never mistake activity for achievement.”
I can’t help but wonder what Coach John Wooden, the UCLA men’s basketball coach that won 10 national championships during his career, would think after watching my students spending hours working to complete their Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) state standardized tests. To casual observers, they may walk away very impressed at how hard my students silently worked — sometimes for 80 minutes, or more, at a time without a break — plowing through the test questions and filling in the answer bubbles with their #2 pencils. Possibly, they would walk away thinking how ‘engaged’ my students seemed to be in their learning.
I don’t think Coach Wooden would see it quite the same way! My guess is that like most teachers, he would have walked away shaking his head thinking that a lot of activity doesn’t necessarily lead to real achievement. He would probably contend that it’s the quality of the activities that the students are engaged in that will lead either to their success or failure in the classroom and beyond.
However, I don’t think Coach Wooden would tell teachers that spending time on lower level engagement activities like this is a complete waste of time. I think he would remind us that because this is how the game is currently being played, it is our job to help prepare our students and teams to do the best they can under this system.
I think what Coach Wooden would advise more than anything is for teachers to find more balance between lower level engagement activities that will help students excel on these mandated standardized tests and higher level engagement activities that lead to deeper, richer learning. Instead of choosing one type of engagement activity over the other, we should be looking to find ways to create more balance between the two in our classrooms.
This is going to be my goal…my game plan!
To help execute this game plan, I am going to create more balanced lessons using Bloom’s Taxonomy to ensure that my students are using all six cognitive levels that include (from lowest level to highest level):
* Knowledge — remembering previously learned information
* Comprehension — grasping the meaning of information
* Application — applying knowledge to actual situations
* Analysis — breaking down objects or ideas into simpler parts and seeing how the parts
relate and are organized
* Synthesis — rearranging component ideas into a new whole
* Evaluation — making judgments based on internal evidence or external criteria
(*Note: The above words and definitions can be downloaded at www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/edref/bloom.htm)
I will also include ‘learning objective verbs’ at each Bloom Taxonomy level to create deeper engagement activities other than just filling in bubble sheets with sharpened # 2 pencils — engagement activities that allow students to demonstrate, dramatize, illustrate, manipulate, modify, produce, sketch, solve, analyze, appraise, breakdown, calculate, classify, compare, contrast, examine, experiment, arrange, assemble, create, design, reconstruct, defend, estimate, evaluate, rate, and summarize just to name a few.
I am going to copy the complete chart of verbs from the website I mentioned above and staple it to the cover of my lesson plan book to make sure that I include some of these verbs in my lesson plans each day. I am confident this will help me consistently provide deeper engagement learning activities for my students throughout the year that will encourage them to problem solve, innovate, and think outside the box.
I believe students should equally experience all six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to achieve! My hope is that this is a game plan you can use as well to create varied learning activities for your students to engage in that will help MAKE IT HAPPEN!