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Fewer Tests? My precalc experiment

April 27, 2011 pm30 9:31 pm

Actually, no tests. Just quizzes, and a final exam. Quizzes are 1 – 6 questions, most typically 3. And anything wrong? They can take the quiz again. Some topics, I want a one question quiz. Or even, in one case, a one question quiz that counted for 3 questions (Gave the kiddies 3 sides of a quadrilateral, and an included angle, and an unincluded angle, and asked for the area and perimeter of the quad).

Is this the vaunted standards based testing? No. No standards were consulted. This is part of playing with developing a new precalculus.

At the end of the year, I’ll need to summarize. For now, the kids love it (a few are neutral. One or two miss tests). Parents love it. Me, I’m okay. Motivation seems higher. There is less discouragement. I am concerned that there is less synthesis, but perhaps I am wrong. The paper work is annoying, both due to the frequency of the quizzes, and the tracking with requizzing individual questions.

But I think eliminating 6 tests a year, even if they are just itsy bitsy classroom tests, is a teensy blow for justice.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Zulma permalink
    April 27, 2011 pm30 10:10 pm 10:10 pm

    It a great idea. When I had a precalc class several years ago, I gave more quizzes than tests; of course, I gave them a mid-term and final. The students did well on the quizzes and were more prepared for the mid-term and final.

  2. April 27, 2011 pm30 11:26 pm 11:26 pm

    Sounds a lot like my mastery tests. How often do you quiz them? Maybe I should call my tests quizzes. (They’re very short.)

  3. Jim McClain permalink
    April 28, 2011 am30 7:58 am 7:58 am

    I did this a couple of years ago with my 8th grade classes, when time spent on mandated external tests exceeded 10% of our instructional time. It’s worked well.

  4. pbpcbs permalink
    April 28, 2011 am30 8:04 am 8:04 am

    The “no long tests” strategy works for lower functioning courses as well. To satisfy the testing fascists, the 1-5 questions are selected from old regents exams (turning most multiple choice into short answer). The paperwork for 150+ students is annoying, but when parents want to know why junior isn’t doing well, being able to specify by topic where extra work will raise the grade shifts the burden of change onto the student. I’ve even had students failing a specific topic seek out others who have mastery for help. Of course, the kids who choose to be disengaged remain so, but the path to improvement is easy to chart should they change their ways.

    For the long tests required by the administration, I make them two-day take home exams. No more review classes. And for those long test questions the students as a whole do poorly on, they become, with appropriate modifications, fodder for the upcoming mini-tests.

    For me, the biggest reason to deal with the bookkeeping requirements is the reduction in the number of discouraged students. My population doesn’t need much excuse to tune out and mentally quit, and the mini-test approach has consistantly produced for me fewer students lost (either dropped out or confused) than any other approach.

  5. April 28, 2011 pm30 10:22 pm 10:22 pm

    Sue, it depends on how short your tests are. Mine run from 5 to 15 minutes. Twenty if I goof.

    p., one difference is that none of mine are multiple choice. Almost none would make a regents exam, but if they did they would be parts 3 or 4. But a similarity is how the system reels in the kids who are not at the top.

  6. pbpcbs permalink
    April 29, 2011 am30 11:18 am 11:18 am

    I asked my kids today what they liked the most and least about the now daily mini-tests. By far the most frequent positives were “no test pressure” and “knowing I will have a second chance”. The most frequent negative was that having 1-5 questions every day meant there was never a break from being tested on the material. (I started the year with weekly mini-tests every Thursday, then added Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Mondays, and Fridays incrementally starting the first week of the 3rd marking period. As the frequency went up, the typical test length went down to 1 or 2 questions per mini-test.)

    j., I limit the multiple choice questions to ones that are “naturally” multple choice, e.g., “Which graph shows y=2sin(x+pi/2). It averages about 1 question out of 15, but they cluster around visualization and picking between alternative strategies (e.g. which sampling technique is least biased).

  7. April 30, 2011 pm30 2:44 pm 2:44 pm

    I do similar things with my calculus class. In addition, I give lots of take-home tests, really just homeworks that are marked and counted. I encourage them to get help and to work together.

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