Literacy · Teaching Reflections · Teaching Topics/Activities · Topics for Parents and Students

OSSLT Student Feedback: What we can DO to Improve Their Experience and Scores

If you regularly read, you know that I’m all about student feedback. In my classroom, students share in decisions about content, assignments, organization, agenda etc. I’ve learned that to be a great teacher, I have to be a great listener – and that I have to cultivate and honour the student voice in my classroom, on my teams and in my school.

I genuinely believe that this practice is the cornerstone of relationship building with my students, as well as the mutual respect that exists in my classroom. Within my own school, I feel that my administration takes the same approach with staff, which in turn creates a fantastic atmosphere to work in which I’m very luck to experience. If only I felt my teacher voice was heard beyond the walls of my own building… but hey – I guess that’s why I have a blog, right?

Onto student feedback. The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) took place this Tuesday, April 10th across the province of Ontario. For staff administering the test, it’s a huge undertaking to prepare students and organize the effective delivery of the standardized assessment. For over a decade I’ve been ‘the’ person in my school responsible for this task (except when I was on maternity leave). In that time, I’ve tried many methods to prepare students, run the day better.

What I haven’t done before, though, is really dedicate a good amount of time to de-brief with students about the test since I’m usually in a hurry to get back to our regular unit of study. I often de-brief with staff about the OSSLT experience, but not students. This year, I changed that. I decided to dedicate a full classroom period for students to talk (formally and informally) about the test, their feelings, experience, etc. and how I can improve it for future students.

To elicit good, authentic responses, I decided on 10 questions to loosely guide the peer, then whole group conversations. Since each of my classes is smaller in numbers (16,22) facilitating these discussions was actually pretty easy, and the fact that one class is an Applied level group and the other Academic also added to the perspective of student feedback I generated.

I posed the following questions to my students:


To say I was pleased with the discussions generated from the prompt questions would be an understatement. I gathered some great ideas and feedback from students that will absolutely contribute to how I prepare students for the OSSLT next year, as well as run the day.

Student Feedback – OSSLT Preparation

  • students enjoyed using my Interactive Notebook as it had many links to practice activities and included videos to support visual learners
  • students rarely used the Google Classroom I set up for the OSSLT (so I probably won’t do that again)
  • students want in-class, skill by skill preparation – it eases their anxiety about the test; they also don’t care that it doesn’t really connect with any summative grades
  • students want formative, 1-1 feedback (short conversations) regarding how they’d score on writing tasks and specifically what they need to do to improve if not at a level 3 (I did this, this year and they all said it really helped)
  • students in both streams consistently stated that the most challenging parts of the test were multiple choice reading questions, grammar multiple choice and the two long writing pieces – they DO want these skills seamlessly integrated into other mandatory grade 10 courses (they specifically mentioned Civics and Careers and History)
  • students want faster feedback regarding their practice test scores (it took about a month get results to students this year – I’ll have to work on that)
  • special education students asked for more training with scribes (specifically the scribe they will work with), as well as even more Google Read and Write training (even though many use it in class regularly)
  • students in both streams experience anxiety on the test due to feelings of ‘pressure’, and ‘stress’ ; they would be interested in learning about strategies to curb test taking anxiety
  • students feel that ALL grade 10 English courses should be run semester 1 to allow for the same opportunities to connect with English teachers for OSSLT practice and support – they suggested running Civics/Careers and History courses semester 2 to continue refining OSSLT skills via embedding them in these courses

Student Feedback – OSSLT Experience

  • students want the OSSLT to be a more positive experience – from the first meeting in grade 10 about it to how the teachers speak about the test with them
  • to create a positive atmosphere about the test, students would like teachers to approach it in a positive manner, encouraging students and showing confidence in them – many felt like teachers made it too serious and this stressed them out which contributed to their test anxiety
  • in the first meeting students would like Mrs. Gray to be honest about the need to pass the test to earn a diploma, but also downplay failing – that taking the course isn’t the end of the work and perfectly acceptable if required
  • on test day, students suggested playing uplifting music and/or having a group breakfast in the gym or another area of the school (maybe main entrance) – they would like this INSTEAD of a group break in the middle of the test (more about this in next section)
  • after the test, students suggested holding a ‘celebration’ of sorts (i.e. to acknowledge the time and effort they have dedicated to preparing for the test and as something positive to look forward to) – ideas ranged from a dance party to a movie in the gym

Student Feedback – OSSLT Administration

  • students want fewer students in each room if possible – they mentioned 15 would be the max
  • students suggested if they could change ONE thing (other than the double time now allowed) it would be that all students could use a word processor – many prefer typing to physically writing – this would be up to EQAO
  • students found the break between booklets 1 and 2 in the hallway with other students very distracting – they would rather stay in the testing room and take a quiet, reflective break while having a snack at their desk; they mentioned that this would help them stay in ‘test taking’ mode and would diminish the noise, socializing and gear change away from focus that the break creates
  • printing in classrooms where tests are being written is also distracting – students suggest printing tests in other rooms

Phew! That’s a lot to take in, but so valuable for many of us who prepare students for and administer the OSSLT. I will definitely be implementing many of my students suggestions next year, and will be especially focused on their suggestions relating to non-OSSLT skills: establishing a positive atmosphere, celebrating before and after the event, sharing test taking strategies for anxiety/stress.

How did your administration of the OSSLT go at your school? What did your students have to say about it? Comment below!

3 thoughts on “OSSLT Student Feedback: What we can DO to Improve Their Experience and Scores

  1. Hi, loved this blog. It was forwarded to me by the ESL head in my school. We are thinking about your follow-up survey very carefully. However, I have a selfish reason for commenting as well; I am the editor of Rapport, the blog of OHASSTA – Ontario History and Social Science Teachers Association. I don’t know what subjects you teach but I’d really love to know if you’d like to write for my blog, or share this post with Rapport? Please let me know.



    1. Hi Risa! Thanks very much for reading my blog;). I teach primarily English/Literacy, but my other teachable is History. I actually have my specialist in that teachable. Yes, I’d definitely be one to writing for your blog. Email me at:


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