Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action

By Marilee Sprenger | Go to book overview

8
Producing the Evidence:
Assessment That Mirrors
Instructional Strategies

I love teaching Greek mythology. It is one of my favorite units. I fell in
love with the genre in high school, and I have collected paraphernalia
and added to the unit since 1971. Through the years, because of my
training in brain-compatible teaching and learning, I have changed the
unit and made it more brain-friendly. Or so I thought.

Just a few years ago I made some big mistakes. The unit was
great. I divided the kids into teams named for the gods and goddesses.
They thought it was cool. They had to read myths, do some fun activi-
ties, and produce a final product of their choice. The students presented
fabulous puppet shows, made interesting newspapers, acted out
scenes from their favorite myths, created posters, and did radio and tele-
vision interviews. They made advertisements for Greek products like
“Medusa’s Favorite Make-up: It may cake a little, but it won’t crumble!”.

I had a great time teaching the material. The students had a great
time learning and producing—at least, I thought they were learning. At
the end of the unit, I did what most of us do. I gave the students a writ-
ten assessment, containing only the material we had covered. I took
the test before I gave it to them to be sure it was fair.

We have all taught units that we thought were wonderful and then have been disappointed with the results.

The results were embarrassing. The grades were horrendous. I
was very angry with my students. Why hadn’t they studied? Did they
think this was all fun and games? Was it possible that I had failed? Then
it finally occurred to me. I couldn’t blame the kids, their parents, or
even the full moon. I had taught them through various memory lanes,
and I had assessed them through only one. The one I chose was the
one I had used and reinforced the least.

Retrieved memories are the only evidence we have of learning.

-81-

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