Preparing Students for Life: How Retakes Help Instead of Hurt

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In This Post:

  • A common argument against retaking assessments, and why it doesn’t quite work.
  • The benefits of allowing retakes in your classroom.

You can’t do retakes, they won’t have redos in the real world.”

This is one of the most common arguments I hear about allowing for reassessment in our classrooms. And honestly, I don’t think it’s valid. At all.

First of all, when we use this phrasing about the “real world”, we diminish our students’ experiences, emotions, and, frankly, their worlds. 

Our students’ lives are real. The world they live in is real. The experiences they’ve had, while they might seem minuscule to us, are very real to them. We must honor that and respect it, which means we must choose our words wisely. Ensuring our language is inclusive and communicates value is important, and this is absolutely one of those instances.

So you might then say, “Fine, if reassessment isn’t “real world”, retakes certainly won’t prepare them for their futures.”

And again, I disagree.

In any job, commitment, or obligation, we are expected to do things well. Correctly, even. And when we don’t, it is usually our responsibility to learn from our mistakes and fix them.

We preach this to children all the time. Learn from your mistakes is such a common phrase that kids hear, I’m surprised we don’t make the connection to reassessment.

In reassessment, we are advocating for our students to literally go back and fix their mistakes after they learn more. We are pushing them to achieve a better, deeper understanding and demonstrate their ability at a higher level. It is our expectation that they learn the material, master the skills, and become better humans in our classrooms.

So why in the world would we stop them from doing so by not allowing them to retake an assessment?

It is our expectation that they learn the material, master the skills, and become better humans in our classrooms. Click To Tweet

Retakes provide our students with tangible opportunities to demonstrate their progress and their growth. They give students room to continue learning, and then show us when they’ve come further in their journey. I absolutely want my students to continue progressing in my classroom past the assessment, especially if they didn’t achieve their fullest potential the first time around.

Reassessment also promotes accountability in our students. While many believe that students won’t take the first assessment seriously, I have not at all found that to be the case. Retakes aren’t a ‘crutch’ they rely on. Rather, students see them as an opportunity to show what they know, especially if they take a little longer to know it.

At their heart, retakes are an accountability measure. It’s literally in the design. Didn’t master the material the first time? Well, I expect you to have these skills, so let’s continue learning.

They are held accountable, in the truest sense of the word, to actually meet our learning goals. Doing  poorly isn’t a way out. It’s not the end.

Also, there are plenty of structures that require our students to show accountability in reassessments. I know many teachers who have a retake form or contract, which requires students to acknowledge their previous level of understanding and speak to what new learning they have done. This not only promotes accountability, but also reflection

Our goal in our classes is to help our students master material. If that is the case, we should honor the fact that some will take longer than others. And we should provide them with the opportunities to showcase their growth and mastery, even after the initial assessment.

I would argue that reassessment is a necessary component to all of our classes as we attempt to prepare our students for their futures. After all, if our content is so vital for them to master, we should expect them to actually do it.

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About Katelynn Giordano

Katelynn Giordano is a 6th grade language arts teacher in the Chicago suburbs and the Digital Content Editor for the Teach Better Team. She loves writing, both on her blog, Curriculum Coffee, and for the Teachers on Fire magazine on Medium. She is a dynamic educator with a focus on student empowerment in the classroom.

Katelynn is active on Twitter and Instagram, and loves to collaborate with educators everywhere! In her free time, she enjoys relaxing with her husband and her cat, Chickpea, drinking coffee, and reading YA books.

Katelynn is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.