I used to buy into the timed test. I bought into the cut throat nature of academia. If your processing speed didn’t match the test I had designed, tough luck. But then I got older and realized that I was just following that model because it was all I had ever known and I was one of the few people for which it worked. So now to start the process of improving assessments.
Effort #1: At first I thought reassessments were a solution. The student would want a better grade and then they’d earn the right to a retake and I’d give them something similar to the test. The issue with that was that the reassessments were never as good as the original. They were stripped down versions. It was like “hey you couldn’t do the hard test, so here it is stripped down, it’s bare form and if you can do this then you pass.” Also, it was difficult for me to have a second version of everything. Also, what about the student striving for an A but happened to get a C+ on that one test? This model doesn’t really work for them.
Effort #2 and part of my current solution: I include in the tests a “Patrick Says” box. In that box I write feedback after their test. I don’t put a numerical grade on the test. I just say things like “Are you sure that’s where the angle of elevation goes? Is it the angle made from the horizon?” The day after the test I hand it back and allow a bit more of a conversation to happen. Kids are encouraged to grab a uniquely colored pen and redo their work. Anything they need from me to answer the question, I write on their test in my pen. This way I can tell what they were able to do with no assistance, what they could change with redirection, and what information they needed from me. This is real world. This is me going to my Head and saying “so this is my first draft of the project, what do you think I should change?” I then grade this piece of work.
Effort #3 and part of my currently solution: My test is worth 30 points. Why? I dunno. My last test was worth 30 points so I figured they should be worth the same. I don’t make the rules people. But the summative journal due Monday is worth 10 test points. The prompt to the students is as follows:
Discuss all the problems that led to the development and understanding for sin, cos, and tan (including inverse trig). These are the problems where you even learn what the functions are about.
Discuss 3 problems that demonstrate how trig functions can be used (ie angle of elevation/depression questions, how tall is the building question, etc)
Find 1 application in your regular life and discuss how it can be used.
This allows them to start over. Plain and simple. They can bomb the test and then start over. This is extremely difficult. At the point where a student fails a test miserably and then is told “now write ~6 pages about this topic”, it seems impossible. I just try to carve out class time to go over the initial problems where the topic was developed and hope that it seems easier the second time around.
At the end of the day, these efforts place emphasis on the student. It’s the student owning their learning and efforts. With teenagers, this sadly isn’t always going to lead to success.
But that’s another blog.