“It’s not about the test. It’s about the data you get from it.”

Last week Dr. Shannon Wells, CEO of Key Data Systems, presented an intriguing and thorough look at how to use assessments and the data they generate to effectively differentiate instruction. Among the many nuggets of wisdom she shared were easy ways to ratchet up the critical thinking skills and depth of knowledge of your assessments:

  1. Write from sources, not just prompts

Giving students a passage or excerpt as context and background for their writing requires them to think more deeply about their arguments and cite evidence from the text, versus the more unstructured simple prompt.

  1. Use listening comprehension as a method to assess

Sometimes if students have trouble with comprehension, having them listen to a passage will help, allowing you to better diagnose the student’s challenge in understanding.

  1. Substitute calculated answers for multiple choice problems

On Edulastic it’s actually easier to create a Numeric question than a Multiple Choice one. Having to calculate an answer, or even better, figure out what math to use, gives students practice in essential skills. In a real-life landscaping project, for example, the hardware store doesn’t give you four choices of how much sod to buy.

  1. Use the PERFECT method to pick apart a problem

In this method, the teacher chooses just one well-constructed multiple choice question and asks students to do one of the following with it:

Prove or Explain: Determine the correct answer choice then prove or explain why it is correct.

Rewrite: Write the question such that an incorrect answer choice is correct.

Find the Error: Choose an incorrect answer choice and explain what error you would need to make to think it was correct.

Create a Trick: Creates a new incorrect answer choice and explain the error in thinking that would “trick” another student into choosing that answer.

According to Dr. Wells, you can get more mileage out of assigning just one multiple choice problem going through these steps than from a 30 question homework assignment. Watch her go through an example of this method in the webinar recording below, starting at 29 minutes.

How to Use Data to Differentiate Instruction Effectively