It is so simple, provide a student with some guidance and time to get better and then offer another opportunity to show if his or her understanding and learning has improved. From my experience, a student’s understanding WILL improve, and you have started the most important change in that student’s educational life. This might sound dramatic but it’s not. I’ve seen it happen, and it not only changes the students’ lives, but it will change yours as well.
Here is how I do it and why it works so well.
Every 2 or 3 classes, there is a short quiz covering the specific learning targets discussed in class. The quiz is completed at the beginning of class and is graded immediately or that night. At the latest, the quizzes are returned to the students in the next class. Most of the time, I post the answers on the screen after everyone has completed the quiz and have them grade their own quizzes. The results of this quiz do NOT count toward a student’s grade. Its only purpose is to guide the student’s practice. To be honest, I rarely even look at the score. The students can correct the errors on the quiz in a variety of ways and are encouraged to practice questions based off the quiz results. There are worksheets and practice questions posted online or found in the textbook. This creates an efficient personalized study plan.
An optional re-quiz will be offered at the end of the next class. Students who feel they are not ready for the re-quiz can take it at a later date. It is my responsibility as a teacher or facilitator to help guide the practice and monitor the progress of the students. The result of this re-quiz is NOT counted toward students’ grades. Once again, it only serves to provide immediate corrective feedback for the learning targets being studied.
I have changed my mindset when it comes to the purpose of assessment. I consider the quizzes and re-quizzes completed in class as practice. I decided long ago that I will not count practice towards a student’s grade. The same goes with homework…it no longer counts towards a student’s grades.
Two years ago, in a Chemistry 11 class, there was a student whose dad was a chemical engineer. This student had a full-time tutor and a human answer key at home. He was also a high-level hockey player who was very busy outside of the timetable. In the same class, there was another a student whose mom was in the hospital with a brain tumour. Believe it or not, these two students were in the same situation in terms of the time they had available to practice at home. Both of these students benefitted dramatically by using the results of the quiz and re-quiz to focus their review and practice. The fact that the homework, quiz, and re-quiz did not count towards their grade reduced their stress and anxiety dramatically.
Why can’t assessments, quizzes, or even tests be enjoyable? Why do they have to be stressful? I have created an environment in which the students are walking into the classroom the day of the summative assessment with more confidence than they ever had before, feeling calm and ready for the challenge. Teachers are nervous that if they do not count the homework and quizzes for grades, then the students will not try their best. Well I can say with the utmost certainty that the students will surprise you.
I am looking forward to once again sharing my experience in creating environments that engage students and accurately assess their learning. I have had the most amazing conversations with educators at the ATI assessment conference in Portland, and I hope I can have more on December 3rd and 4th.