I think it can…(I know this is against the grain!)
I am all for students showing higher level thinking but I am not sure my test, regardless of what type it is, lets students do this. The higher level thinking in my classroom happens when students are working with one another engaging in math. It may be a math lab, a whiteboarding activity, or perhaps just helping each other out on a workbook question. This is where the magic happens, not on my test.
I give summative assessment tests because I feel I have to. Maybe I don’t have to, but that is the current culture, students/parents/administrators expect it… so for now I’ll keep them coming. The test is a method of generating a grade for me, simple as that. I would be much happier using my professional opinion to give my students a formal grade, but again that isn’t the culture. (I do change students grades all the time, if I feel a student deserves an ‘A’ but couldn’t demonstrate it on a test, no problem, done deal, ‘A’.)
Last year when I chose to embrace the Flipped Classroom as my method of instruction I also brought in Mastery Learning. In my classroom I now require students to achieve 70% or greater on their quizzes before they can move on in the course. Those students who do not achieve mastery go back into the learning cycle until they have achieved a basic understanding of the content. I have been able to do this with Moodle. Moodle is a Learning Management System where students can write quizzes, among many other things, digitally. I manually created a database of roughly 1600 questions that are broken down by difficulty and learning outcome. This gives me the ability to give each student a different quiz yet control for certain parameters. Students like the quizzes because they are only used as formative assessment, there is no grade attached, the focus is on learning not the old points game. There are huge benefits to using Moodle for my formative assessments including: Self-Pacing, Differentiation, Personalization, Immediate Feedback, etc.
Lately I have been having an inner struggle if I should give Multiple Choice tests or continue with my traditional paper and pencil assessments. Here is where I am at now…The Pros and the Cons:
- Students get immediate feedback on their tests
- Students can begin working on the next unit or spend some more time and do a re-test sooner
- I don’t have to spend hours marking them
- Easier to generate re-tests
- I don’t get to see what students are actually doing / thinking
- Silly mistakes = no marks
- No part marks for correct logic/steps/thinking
In weighing the above I feel Multiple Choice tests seem like the answer for me, here is why:
- The tests are marked for me. I hope this doesn’t seem selfish but is my time best spent every two weeks marking over 120 tests? I don’t think it is. I think it is best spent creating activities that support student learning. Activities that engage students in mathematics. Inking up a test and seeing what students do and do not know seems redundant because I already know. In the Flipped Classroom I get a chance to work my every one of my students every day and see how things are going..I even give them a quick interview (hot seat) before the test to make sure they are ready to go…The effort I put into grading seems to be for nothing. By the time my students have made it to the summative assessment test the learning is over, if students want to keep learning because they don’t think they have demonstrated their learning then they do a re-test. But does that require me to have marked the test?
- I can have everyone write at different times. Students do not learn in the same way, they also do not take the same amount of time to learn. Students in my class write tests when they are ready. With a traditional paper and pencil test this is harder to do, I have had to create up to 5 different versions when I do self-pacing with written tests.
So that is where I am at. Not sure where to go from here but would be interested to see if you have any thoughts. Perhaps I am missing something but it seems to come down to time. In the Flipped Classroom I always hear ‘What is the best use of our face-to-face with our students? I now ask what is the best use of my time as teacher? Is it marking?