Sunday, October 28, 2012

Webbed Assessment

I have been playing around with several ways to get students to realize why they make mistakes. I am fed up with the traditional grading process where the student completes a task and then is handed dead feedback--stuff to do the next time. In my opinion, the student needs to be the one seeing the diagnosis. 

I guess you could call it "active assessment" or "confidence assessment". My goal is to get students looking into the patterns of their mistakes and isolating skills that they need to practice.

My school has a short 35 minute period every Thursday. I decided to take this period as an assessment focus period and give a series of weekly quizzes. They are not for marks (and I am very clear on this point to my students). I have been 100% transparent with them about the purpose and goal of these formative activities.

I call them "webbed" quizzes because each question is constructed to have something in common with another question on the quiz. That way incorrect answer trends can be attributed (with reasonable accuracy) to certain, isolated skills. 

For example, if question #1 and #6 both require a certain skill or concept, and both are answered incorrectly,  I can then point out that pattern to the student.

I build these quizzes using a specific framework:

  1. Create a list of skills to be covered.
    • Should include 3-6 skills
    • Should be specific, measurable skills
  2. Pair up skills to create a question make-up
    • Questions should cover two skills
    • Every skill should be used at least twice
  3. Create questions that test specific skill combinations
When I build the quiz, I place an "assessment map" on the back of the page. When the quiz is over, I work through the questions, students grade their papers, and then we go over the possible combinations of mistakes. Students are asked to circle which situation they fall into and write out the specific skill they need to practice. 

For example, if a student can simplify square roots and write entire square roots, but cannot simplify cube roots, then there is a specific problem with cube roots. Students can then practice changing the index. Maybe students can reduce both square and cube roots, but cannot write any entire radicals. They are then pointed toward their specific problem. Having students search out these patterns will help them with their self-diagnosis.

The web results in a specific diagnosis; it also saves considerable grading time for me. I am able to communicate specific assessment information to large amounts of students with a single handout. Students begin to partake in the assessment process in a low-pressure environment. 

No quiz is perfect, but so many are slapped together haphazardly through Google searches and exam generators. Allowing a short time for students to see assessment as a means and not an end will keep them looking toward what they can improve and not at what they have done wrong.

NatBanting