Thursday, May 6, 2010

Test-Savvy Principal #3: Collaboration

In James Suroweicki's book, The Wisdom of Crowds, he talks about how groups of people who are focused on a task can often come up with or develop better answers or closer approximations, than if they were working independently.  He discusses that how many times the task of finding solutions to problems that pertain to a specific area of specialization are left to the experts of that field.  For example, economists discuss how to reduce our national debt and get us out of this recession, but homemakers are not invited to these conversations.  But Suroweicki argues that we need a wide variety of individually who have a vested interest in a particular topic to contribute to the conversation in order to develop better, more meaningful answers.  Listen to his 2004 interview with NPR News Radio. 

How does this apply to creating test-savvy test takers?  Simply put, while taking a standardized exams is an independent endeavor, the preparation needs to be a collaborative process.  Students need to have opportunities to listen to the ideas of others, but remain firm enough to state their point and understanding.  It is through the process of collaboration that we generate new and better ideas, solutions and products.  In order to effectively collaborate we need to 1) provide students time and training needed to document their initial thoughts and solutions to a problem; 2) provide a venue where all students can compile, share, and evaluate the data gathered; and 3) encourage students to voice their opinions and support them with facts.  Think about how you are fostering true collaboration, not just getting the students to think like you.