Around this time of year, coaches and mentors may hear versions of this statement as teachers begin their end of level testing and end of year activities. "Don't bother coming in, I'm testing. You won't see any teaching."
At first, we may believe it when we say it or hear it. Testing doesn't always use a lot of instructional strategies, exciting delivery instruction, or intensive management. It definitely wouldn't be what you would want to do for a professional evaluation. But, quite contrary to our thoughts on "seeing nothing..," an observer will be able to see and conclude a lot from watching a teacher administer a test.
Jim Dillon, in his blog post Voice of the Educator: Invisible Learning, talks of an experience with a teacher he was coaching. She was doing individual assessments on kindergartners at the end of the year. He stayed and watched her class for a half hour anyway. And his takeaways were big.
- Students learn from everything around them and from each other, not just from a teacher.
- Learning is not just a cognitive experience but involves emotions and the social context.
- The teacher’s role is to provide the right conditions for learning primarily by creating a safe and supportive environment.
- A strong and trusting relationship between student and teacher is the foundation of a safe environment.
- A teacher needs to learn about the interests, strengths and needs of each student in order to create the right conditions for learning (Dillon. "Invisible Learning").
Each of these components are things that are not always observed immediately--but are essential to learning taking place. If things are running smoothly during an assessment, we can tell a few things right off. The teacher has taught expectations for testing, the students know the rules and procedures for that time, and if the students are independently working--they will know the appropriate management routines for that time as well. If there are some inconsistencies in these, that will be evident as well.
So next time you hear, "I'm just testing, there's nothing to see..," reflect on that thought and see if you can identify where good teaching is still happening. You might be surprised.