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Pre Testing

In the field of teaching Graphic Arts pre-testing is essential to understanding the level at which the majority of the class is at, basic understanding of color, value, and composition coupled with software knowledge is inherently connected in today's industry. Without these tools it is impossible for a student to move forward. Sometimes in the teaching of Graphic Arts the software knowledge is stressed to much and not enough awareness of concept and effectiveness in design. It is important that the student becomes aware that after leaving the institution they will be career learners in software changes. They must stay invested in self learning/directing as they are now with their education while in school. Teaching to each students strengths and constantly reminding them that of the challenges that they face when they graduate, while building their confidence is one of the keys. All the while giving them information in manageable parts suggested in the reading.

I have to admit that pre-testing in ANY field of study allows you to customize your approach to teaching new information so that we lead the student to the material rather than the material to the student.

I also agree pre testing is a great way to see where each student is before the course begins so you know where the direction of the class is going.

I agree that pre-testing is a useful way to chart a course for your class from the start.

Teaching beginning-level graphic design at a career college, however, I have repeatedly run into a problem. Some students will come in to the school with considerable professional experience under their belts; however, as often as not, the school will not recognize this in-field, hands-on experince as sufficient to allow the student to test out of the course. Consequently, the pre-testing of my course will reveal a massive gap in skill levels: on the low end, the noobies, the absolute beginnners; and on the high end, the experience veterans, in scvhool to get their "piece of paper" so that they may advance in their already established careers.

How does one teach to these two groups simutaneously? Certainly, one wants to challenge the advanced students so as to allow them to grow as students and designers; but, at the same time, one must tach at a level rudimentary enough that the newbies can keep up.

The temptation, then, is to split the class into two tracks, with more challenging material for the more advanced students, and more basic material for the beginning students.

Such a two-track system, however, strikes me as fundamentally unfair (and, in all likelihood, at odds with the learning objectives established in the course syllabus, and, therefor, placing the institution's accreditation in jeopardy): if one evaluates students in the same class according to different criteria, then average work done for the "advanced track" might receive a lower grade than strong work done for the "remedial" track. (Note: I don't actually do this "two-tiered" approach, but it has come up as a possible solution in discussion with other instructors.)

How does one "learning-facilitate" learners who need different degrees of facilitation?

And, as a side note: would the student with a love of gamesmanship not do well to "throw" the test? If the bar is set low, then when they begin to achieve at their actual starting skill level, and then begin to surpass that starting level as they actually learn, they look like superstars. It's great to be awarded the Most Valuable Player award, but even more impressive to be awarded both the MVP and Most Improved Player at the same time.

Hi Scott,
When working with students that have a diverse base of knowledge and skills it is always good to start with the basic competencies that everyone has to have in the course. Once these are identified then you can work from there. I use learning teams where I have them work on different projects. I mix the teams with all range of learners. As a result the students share and help each other with their skill and knowledge development. We get great results from this method.
There is a difference between different range students and those that lack basic academic skills such as reading and comprehension. I refer those students to the Student Services Center where they can receive tutoring and other needed support services. This helps them to be successful in my class as well.

Yes, in all arts, pre-testing of any sort is positive in the beginning of a class, as it gives the instructors an idea of 'where everyone is at.' In a drawing class, for example, I think it could be very advantageous to give the students the pre-test of drawing objects in a still-life AND GIVE THEM THE SAME STILL-LIFE TO DRAW AT THE END OF THE CLASS within the same time frame -- say, an hour and a half -- as in the beginning. This would be a provable, measurable way of seeing the results of one's teaching.

Hi Anne,
I think this would be an excellent way to get a "picture" of where the students are so you could build your instructional delivery around the results of these baseline assessments. This would lend to more customized instruction.

Even in a fundamentals course pre-testing can be useful to gain an understanding of student background knowledge.

I can understand the need for such a test and the value of using it to asses the level of your students.


I totally agree. As an instructor in the culinary arts I try to have my students perform basic knife and cooking skills as a pretest at the beginning of the module. I teach restaurant practical so the pretest can assist me in making decisions as to menu difficulty, product use, and concentration in areas of practice. I also have them perform the same test at the end of the module. For most, this allows the student feel confident in what they have learned and the skills they have acquired. Rob

Pre testing will let instructors know the technical level of students in class, also let students know what are expecting from them to know before attend the class.

Hi Jing,
I like to use pretesting as well. It really helps me to understand where my students are starting from and then I can plan my content around their starting points.

I start a new class in 3 weeks and I am going to wright a pretest today. I think it will help me not only see where the group is but what students may need some extra help but also allow the students to see what information they need to work on!

Hi Scot,
I think you are going to have great results with your pre-test strategy. It really helps you to establish a baseline for the class so you can plan accordingly.

Pre testing allows me to identify areas of weakness for not only my students, but, myself also. I deliver information, pre test the information. If a majority of the class has the incorrecto response I review the information once again. Using this technique a high percentage when final testing take place they perform well with the materials being tested.

Hi Anne, I appreciate your idea to ask students to repeat the pretest* at the end of the term, however,I have several reservations:

*(In a foundational drawing class, I believe the pretest happens in the course of the very first drawing exercise, which usually involves drawing objects representationally using line only. Through this drawing exercise, I can assess a student's skill level and comfort level immediately.)

1. The career college time frame for coursework is usually accelerated: a university semester is condensed into 10 weeks, and to devote an hour and a half to an introductory lesson that also served as a pretest may not be the best use of time at the close of the term.

2. Student learning in a drawing class is sequential, with one skill building upon the next: instruction begins with line, then shape and space, followed by form and value, while always considering composition. Students may find it a bit anti-climatic to go back to an introductory drawing (especially a still life, which most students consider an exercise) at the end of a term.

3. The final drawing is cumulative of the skills learned and demonstrates the students progress. I don't believe it is necessary to prove that learning has taken place by asking students to redo a prior drawing: it is evident in the final drawing.

I would enjoy your perspective, if you have a chance to respond!

Best, Jocelyne

I to agree that pre-testing is important. As a instructor you dont want to teach below the students current level. On the other hand you dont want to teach over the students head either. A pre-test give the instructor an idea of where each student is.

I concur. By giving students Pre-test it allows you to focus on where students would need the most help. Also, the pace you would need to go when delivering content to students.

Hi Jamel,
What types of formats do you use with your pre-tests that give you the most accurate picture of where your students are coming from?
Thanks in advance for your input on this.

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