A/B Testing Your Classroom for Student Achievement

MjAxMi0zMDUyZmIwYjBkNDUyNDg3Teacher Pinterest boards are filled with innovative, new classroom ideas. “Oh, awesome lab for teaching the water cycle.” “Oooh, I like this classroom motivation strategy!” We Pin and bookmark with the intention of elevating lesson plans that will reach a level of engagement and learning all teachers strive for. But are we truly experimenting in a meaningful, purposeful way?

The relationship between teaching and digital marketing

In digital marketing, there is something called A/B testing. It’s a strategy (or experiment) where just one variable is changed in digital content. Red button versus a blue button, large font versus small font. The idea is to continue to experiment with little tweaks to see which garners the greatest returns, i.e. click rate in emails. As a former teacher and now a student of digital marketing, I know that teachers already do A/B testing, even if it’s not explicit. You might start with a Think-Pair-Share instead of your Do Now between first and second period iterations, or you might pass out scissors before passing out construction paper between yesterday’s and today’s iterations. Which decision had the greatest classroom workflow or student thinking? You’ve just A/B tested your lesson plan.


Image via Six Nutrition

Now that it’s summer, it’s time to go to the next stage of A/B testing and that is evaluating, “grading,” and iterating. Teachers know first and foremost what works and what doesn’t work, but do you truly know? Is it backed up by evidence of student work and with identifiable patterns? Our teaching should be laser-like and precise, but it cannot be that way without hard-won evidence. Let’s do a deep dive:

1. Evaluating gives you a map of where you need to go

After you gathered and organized your evidence, it’s time to study your past work, just as you ask your students to do, and ascertain its success. Did the students “get it?” What was the response level? The purpose of evaluating is not only to prove the lesson’s success level, but to also give you cold, hard evidence of what did not work. Nominet Trust provides 10 reasons why you should start evaluating: evaluating gives you insights into unexpected outcomes for more variables in future “A/B tests.” And most importantly, if it is working, you can know why it did work. You are then better prepared to show the value of your experimentation to your colleagues and administrators.

Image via Mappio

Image via Mappio

2. Grading yourself

Lifehacker quotes one teacher that graded herself by asking, “How many kids am I steering in the right direction?” Grading your teaching might be in the form of how many “got it” or what kind of lessons were created. You’ve graded yourself on college course evaluations where the professor asked you to grade your own participation— and you were always stumped, probably giving yourself a lower grade than deserved. We’re our own greatest enemy, but when you ask yourself the right questions, you can give yourself a truly authentic grade that measures the value of your work. The data you gain from this grading exercise will be helpful for the final step in A/B testing your classroom.

Image via Soda Head

Image via Soda Head

3. Iterate, iterate, iterate

I hear this word a lot in the digital marketing world, but it’s also a word I didn’t hear much about when I was a teacher. However, as with all of the previously mentioned topics, teachers already do this! First we’ll evaluate our work, then we’ll grade ourselves. The next step was always to make little changes in the next experiment and see what the results are for that with the whole process starting over again. A/B test your lesson plans! Maybe in a scientific method lesson plan, you taught the fundamentals of graphing before the lesson to mediocre success. In this next iteration, you can teach the graphing lesson within the scientific lesson plan so that students can better contextualize it.


Evaluate. Grade. Iterate. It takes a great teacher to be able to look at their past work, student work, and ideas and give an objective evaluation and grade, but in the end, it is all part of the journey of fine-tuning our craft to become the best teachers we can be.

Tomorrow, we’ll have a ProTip that will help take this first step further— by asking the right questions.

Want to teach your students how to evaluate, grade, and iterate their learnings? Sign up for Gradeable and learn more!

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