Our First Quiz – What are the students learning? What am I learning?

Well, I can tell you I’m learning how to be a better teacher.

This hasn’t cured my shameful last-minute habits. Nor my inability to stick with the program. (How can I resist when a student wants to know why the indigent get free health care?)  The look of my handouts has not improved. I’m still photocopying these handouts (just before class, see above) on plain white paper, instead of the many available colors that would make visual sense of everybody’s binder.  I’ll never be as calm and collected as Joan Black.

But, I am doing a better job at a couple of things.

First, in writing this first quiz, I knew (from the rubrics) that I didn’t have enough information on my students’ writing.  In the past I haven’t always realized what a quiz was lacking until after it was graded.  Probably other teachers already have this all figured out, but I needed this kind of organization to keep track of the skills I was grading in addition to the content.

Second, by giving feedback instead of just marking the points taken away in the short answer section, the grading (corrections, feedback, comments) has information for everyone. In past years, students would get feedback only when they forgot something or were wrong.  If their content was correct, I took no points off and they never thought about that work again.  Now when they give a correct answer, I still give them feedback.  “Add an example of how absolute location is given, i.e. longitude and latitude, street address.” or “Include the definition of distortion here to strengthen your answer.”  Our school is full of students who know all the material, so I’m grateful for a methodology that encourages me to support and push them.

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When the answer is not correct, I’m giving feedback that they should be able to use the next time around.  “Remember to answer the question that is asked.” or “Your answers are correct, but not complete.”  So much more helpful than writing down the missing content for them – that’s information about a forgotten fact, not guidance for future learning.

So, I’d like the students to master this content if they haven’t yet . . . how do I create that opportunity?

And by the way, I spent probably five hours grading 26 quizzes.

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