Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.


ThThTh Labs

Here at ThThTh Labs we aim to put our data where our mouth is. We want to know if all of the buzz around changing assessment truly has an effect on metrics that go beyond initial student achievement.

Currently, we’re targeting this NSF initiative to help fund our research. ThThTh Labs will (pending funding!) take up residence at the University of Iowa’s College of Education in the fall of 2013.1

Our First Question:

Does a criterion-based reassessment scheme in the classroom have an effect on the efficacy2 students develop for course work in the areas commonly referred to as STEM?

That is, independent of teaching style, independent of worksheets, lab experiences, or whatever else, does the way students get credit for learning ultimately change the long-haul view they have on their potential abilities in science and math?

This question grew out of personal experience: I was terrible at math in high school. My achievement was low, but my efficacy, for some reason, was high. This led me to a nearly masochistic major in Physics & Astronomy that drug my self image through the mud. I took and re-took a lot of coursework.

For many students, this kind of experience is enough to spur a flight from math and science with feelings of failure and resentment. It took me nearly 10 years to become what I would consider proficient in algebra, and, in talking with teachers and students around the country, this punctuated time to proficiency seems more common than not.

What this hints at is that we may have a crisis of assessment. Assessing achievement on a time scale of weeks and/or months is both ubiquitous and possibly inaccurate as a way to measure whether someone will be able to use STEM-related skills in their years-later professional life. What’s worse is that obsession with short-term achievement may retard efficacy in the long run.

Efficacy is the difference between a below-average student persevering and eventually becoming a STEM-literate member of the professional world, and someone who settles on a major that wasn’t originally their passion. More to the point, STEM careers need diversity as much as any other field. You just can’t know what breakthroughs are being squelched when someone drops Physics I at 16 years old.

Hop on the Bandwagon!

We need you. We need your students.

I need 50+ classrooms to join in the study. Right now I’m looking for folks to raise their hands and say, “Yes, I would like to be compensated for running a standards-based classroom using ThThTh standards and assessments.”

If that’s you, SIGN UP HERE. (no commitment yet, just interest)

1. Shawn Cornally will continue teaching in a public school during this time.
2. Efficacy: A person’s belief in their ability to be successful at a novel task.

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