Two summers ago, I read an article by a Baylor Sociology professor that claimed students in his class performed better on assessments when the teacher reframed "Test Days" by instead referring to them as "Learning Celebrations." So, always looking for ways put a positive spin on things, I decided to make the change myself starting last school year. I told students that instead of taking "tests" where students are worried about what they didn't learn, we would instead focus on celebrating what they did learn.
While I definitely received numerous odd looks and eye rolls from students when I first introduced the idea, "Learning Celebrations" have become an important part of the class vernacular for both myself and my students. We even blast "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang as students arrive to class (in addition to some really bad dancing by myself) to give them an extra boost of positive vibes before we start the Learning Celebration. And though the simple name change hasn't done away with all anxiety students may feel when taking a unit assessment or magically led to all students earning A's, I did see an increase in class averages from previous years on a majority of my assessments.
Taking Time to Reflect on Learning Celebrations
A vital part of Learning Celebrations is actually getting to celebrate how well students performed the day after. My classes set aside the day after a Learning Celebration to give students time to reflect on how they did and give them opportunities to see what they knew and what they didn't. Student are always anxious/excited to see the grade they received, but it is even more important (especially in a class that is cumulative like AP Psychology) that students get a chance to fill in any gaps of knowledge that may exist.
A student who scores an 85% on an assessment is seemingly in a pretty good place grade-wise, but that still means that the student did not know 15% of the content. If students don't reflect and learn the right answer to a question they missed, that 15% could continue to get wider and wider. This would then form a considerable gap in their knowledge, leading to them making the same mistake when faced with a similar problem later on. I have a poster in my room that states, "An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." That kind of thinking guides our Learning Celebration Reflection.
Team Retake of the Learning Celebration
I have various activities I use on reflection days throughout the year, but the one I like to do with the first unit is a team retake. Students are placed in homogeneous groups of 3-4 based on their individual scores (but they don't know how they scored until after the team retake). I also try to group students that don't normally sit by each other or work together as much as possible to get them interacting with more of their classmates and possibly reduce distractions. They are tasked with retaking the entire multiple choice section of the Learning Celebration, with the promise of earning some extra points if they do even better on the team retake than they did individually.
The conversations, debates, and friendly disagreements are incredibly rewarding to listen to, especially when they have "Aha!" moments related to questions or answer choices they may have read or interpreted wrong the first time through. Their ability to arrive at those moments through self-realization or guidance from classmates is a lot more meaningful with a longer-lasting impact than if I simply told them the right answers myself. When groups finish the retake, everyone in the group gets their individual scores back, getting time to see what they got right and wrong themselves, helping peers with questions they answer incorrectly, and ensuring their errors do not become a mistakes.
Using Statistics and Modeling Content
Once all groups have finished the retake, I talk about the class average and single out the most-missed questions for further review. Last year, I added one more thing to my reflection days as a way to further connect to the content we learn in Unit 1 of AP Psychology. The first unit is on Research Methods, which includes a part on statistics and how data is used to interpret results of studies. On an Excel spreadsheet, I calculated the Mean, Median, Mode, Skew and Standard Deviation of the data on an Excel spreadsheet, along with creating a Histogram (bar chart) to see if there was a Normal Curve....all terms we learned in the first unit. I'm no Excel whiz, but YouTube is a magical place to learn how to do things!
I share all that data and the graph with the students so they can see the statistics at work, especially with a concept such as standard deviation, which can be confusing for students. Statistics are not overly relevant in most of the other units over the rest of the course, but I continued inputting data from the Learning Celebrations to show students on reflection days and it has become a mainstay in the reflection process.
Correlation Does Not Prove Causation! (But it's still informative!)
One last way I tried to connect the content with our reflection was through a demonstration of correlation. In the Research Methods unit, one of the most important concepts is that "Correlation does not prove causation!" However, identifying correlations can give us valuable information on how two variables might be related. One required assignment I have for each unit is completing a Unit Review Quiz on Schoology that takes 20 random questions from a question bank. Students can take the Review Quiz as many times as they like, getting a different set of questions each time, and I take their highest score as their grade. Since there is no way to reasonably gather data on the amount of reading, studying, note-taking, etc. each student does to prepare, the best accessible and objective data point I have to see if there is a correlation with success on the Learning Celebration is if students had actually taken the Review Quiz.
I calculated the average score of students who completed the Unit Review Quiz at least once vs. the average score of students who did not do the quiz at all.
- Period 1: 78% (took quiz) vs. 67% (no quiz)
- Period 2: 74% (took quiz) vs. 70% (no quiz)
- Period 3: 80% (took quiz) vs. 74% (no quiz)