The only class I'm teaching this year is an Advanced Placement (AP) Biology class. It's a challenge for both the students and me. The College Board provides us with a syllabus and it is then up to us to figure out how to manage it.
AP is not standards-based, which makes it a vastly different animal than other courses in our department. I am training some biology thoroughbreds to run a race at the end of the year. It is a race in which they are competing against one another---and well over 100,000 other students. Only the top 20% of them can get the most desirable score of "5." Not everyone can "pass" the test and it is designed to make very specific distinctions in what students know. This is a contrast to the WASL---in which every student can pass (although not all of them do).
I've been working on the first exam of the year for my kids. We've had some really good classes so far, spending time working with the information in different ways: reading, using graphic organizers, building models, creating "foldables," etc. These are bright and highly motivated students. But as we wrap up this unit, I am wondering if they know what they do and don't understand about things. How do I help them reflect on the material and figure out what their level of understanding is? A test is really too late---in fact, tomorrow (the day before the test) is likely too late. More often than not, a test says more to me about what a kid knows. I could change this by developing some questions for them to think about as they look at a graded exam. I assume that they do this, but it's likely that most of them don't---they're just too focused on what the "right" answer was as opposed to why they missed it.
Obviously, this sort of reflection and metacognition needs to be built into the daily routine. But we'll start tomorrow with our review (better late than never). I'm trying to create some sort of generic diagnostic tool for them...something to help them pinpoint what concepts they do and don't have. The next part is then helping them identify ways to "fix up" their weak points.
I'm having a hard time with the "diagnostic." What questions should one ask oneself in order to determine a level of understanding? How do you know if you know something? Anyway, I'm starting with that...reflecting on how I do it...and trying to put it on paper. I hope to be able to process this some with students tomorrow, along with some different resources they can use when they need help.