Posted by: lboudreau | March 5, 2011

Second thoughts

Or not exactly second thoughts, but re-evaluating the algebra test.

The test went very well.  I listened in on great conversation, as they talked each other through each process, and caught each others errors with negative signs, and shared factoring strategies.  For the most part, they got even the hard equations right.

Feedback from students– written notes requested on the back of the last page– tells me that they REALLY likes this assessment.  Most thought it a good balance of easy and hard (a challenging test if it had to be taken individually).  Most liked the lively nature of the test event itself.  One student wasn’t so sure about it; she thought they were making mistakes, but no one was listening to her.  She was right, there were two class-wide errors that she might have caught.  But the class average was 90. something, so I feel like that wasn’t a dreadful problem, and will actually be a conversation topic when we debrief the test after break.

But as I graded today, I started thinking about the next round of issues.  Have I fairly and accurately measured what students can do?  Could they, individually, repeat any of those problems if I gave them out again?  Was this a gauge of long-term learning and retention, or a quick and easy way to test at the end of the chapter?  Could they mix it up with even more challenging problems?

I sat in a math colleague’s class room today to proctor the SSAT.  I always peek at what’s on the walls– it’s all so interesting.  I saw a couple of algebra II problems that asked for factoring skills we haven’t used.  Not a surprise– there are so many skills, deciding what to teach is a lot like smorgasbord eating, and some days it feels like a bit of a crap shoot.  But I wondered if my students would be able to tackle them.  Probably three students, but isn’t my goal to bring everybody along?

In the end, the question is, did I choose a good strategy to help my students with deep learning?  The problem is that, things that seem good on the page and that fit innovative designs, may have lackluster results.  At least in the short term.


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