10 proctor tips for engaging students

10 Proctor Tips for Engaging Students - TLG-IMG-09052019If you’re in a MAP® Growth™ school or district, your students will notice a big change this year: MAP Growth will auto-pause as many as three times—reminding them to slow down and try their best—if they answer questions too quickly. Proctors will be notified, too, so they can work with students one-on-one to get them reengaged.

Moving too quickly, or rapid guessing, says more about a student’s engagement with a test than their knowledge. And it can, unfortunately, lead to inaccurate assessment and growth data. Enter the proctor.

A study by NWEA researchers Steven Wise, Megan Kuhfeld, and Jim Soland found that proctors can have a tremendous impact on kids who disengage during a test. We sat down with Steve as well as Darin Kelberlau, executive director of assessment, research, and evaluation at Millard Public Schools in Omaha, to learn more about what proctors can do. Here’s what they suggest.

1. Intervene

Some proctors may be used to statewide assessments and being hands off. But with an assessment like MAP Growth—that’s focused on measuring what students know and what they’re ready to learn—the opposite is true.

“They think they are not allowed to intervene,” Steve says. “But that’s exactly what we want them to do. If a student is disengaged, you should do something about it.”

A proctor shouldn’t be helping a student take the test, of course. But they can check in to see what may be causing the rapid guessing. Maybe they’re not used to adaptive tests and are discouraged by questions they don’t know the answer to. Maybe they’re reading the proctor’s body language and sensing the assessment isn’t all that important. Maybe they’re just too tired, or maybe they’re young enough to benefit from breaks during the test.

2. Explain the adaptive nature of MAP Growth

MAP Growth begins with a question appropriate for a student’s grade level. A correct answer generates a more difficult question. An incorrect answer triggers an easier one.

“All kids will get some questions right. All kids will get some questions that will be more challenging,” Darin says. That can be hard for students who are used to always knowing the answer. Fully explaining the adaptive nature of the test before it begins can help prevent frustration.

If a student is disengaged, you should do something about it.”

3. Lead by example

“Students look to teachers for cues,” Steve explains. They’ll look to them for non-verbal cues about the importance of any given task. Both he and Darin agree: if proctors themselves are disengaged from the assessment—if they’re looking at their phone, grading at their desk—students might reasonably assume the test doesn’t matter.

Proctors can model engagement by checking the proctor console regularly, to see if a student is having trouble, and also by walking around the room, to appear approachable.

4. Consider the time of day

Do you get a little sluggish after lunch? Students do, too. Additional research by Steve, and his colleagues Lingling Ma, G. Gage Kingsbury, and Carl Hauser, shows engagement deteriorates as a day goes on, so it’s best to schedule assessments for earlier in the day, when kids are fresh and ready to put their best foot forward.

5. Account for age differences

Younger kids simply don’t have the same test-taking stamina as older kids. When scheduling assessments, Darin recommends having older kids go first and moving backward through the grades so that kindergarteners go last. That allows for plenty of classroom time with those younger students to focus on building stamina through other activities, like reading time.

Also be prepared to give younger students breaks or even to test them over multiple days.

6. Prevent interventions

In a perfect world, an intervention won’t have to happen at all. In a perfect world, students will know exactly what to expect and will be ready to be engaged on test day.

“When you prepare for teaching, you create a lesson plan. You have what your best game plan might be,” Darin says. “Do that with assessment as well.”

Prepare students days or even weeks ahead of the assessment. Make sure they know the test is adaptive. Explain that it will auto-pause if it detects rapid guessing. Walk them through what testing day will be like, from where they will sit and what technology they’ll use to how long the assessment will take and what their score means.

A successful testing event—one where students can focus on showing what they know—leads to more reliable data about what kids are ready to learn. It can also prevent additional disruptions to day-to-day learning. “We find it very beneficial and very efficient to minimize interruptions to the flow of instruction and curriculum,” Darin says.

Encourage students to take ownership of their performance and growth”

7. Ask for clarity

Request help preparing for test day with clear communication and guidance well in advance. There are many ways to approach this. In Darin’s district, an internal website works best. It includes information on getting kids ready for the test, how to proctor, troubleshooting, and more. When proctors know what to expect, it’s easier for them to prepare students.

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8. Echo what you teach every single day

Assessment day should be no different than the rest of the school year, Darin says. If you value grit and perseverance, if you believe in a growth mindset, then remind students that all of that still matters come test day. That can help them focus on doing their best.

9. Get students invested

Encourage students to take ownership of their performance and growth, Steve and Darin agree. Students could be involved in setting their own growth goals, for example, or in deciding on a way to celebrate when goals are met.

“It’s amazing,” Darin says. “Kids often can’t remember their locker combination. They forget their lunch number. But when they hit submit and see their RIT score, they’ll know instantly if it went up, went down, stayed the same.”

10. Share what works

Put proctor tips on the agenda for the next faculty meeting. Teachers are bound to have plenty to share about what works well (and what doesn’t) when proctoring MAP Growth. Make space to get the conversation started.

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