Friday, August 10, 2018

Ten Weeks of Summer: An Alternative Multiple Choice (Week 8)

I finally finished reading the book "Grading Smarter Not Harder".  During the school year, I couldn't garner enough interest from my colleagues to have either a face-to-face or virtual book group.  Then, I was able to lead a twitter chat over the past 5 weeks with each week focusing on a different chapter. This meant that I had to finish the book and really think about how I will implement some of these ideas in my classroom for the coming year.

The last chapter was called "Creativity". At first I thought the chapter would be about the importance of creative projects in the classroom and how to grade the creativity of my students.  Since the author, Myron Dueck, has a history background, I will admit that I had a bias against what he was going to say before even reading this chapter.  Creative projects in math can happen and do have value, but they can potentially take too much instructional time.  Plus, I wasn't comfortable with the subjective nature of grading student's creativity.  I thought the book would give me tips on how to grade creativity and how to judge if one project is more creative than another.  In fact, Myron Dueck did the opposite.  He emphasized that projects should be grounded in learning targets and that it's perfectly fine to not grade creativity at all.  In fact, just a written comment to a student about the unique way they did their project or displaying the more creative projects in class or the hallway is enough to "grade" creativity.  What a relief!  Grading a project that has a creative element based on learning targets, which are made known ahead of time, should be what we assess.

However, the big take away for me from this chapter was being more creative on assesments.  In AP Statistics, students need to be comfortable with multiple choice questions.  In fact, multiple choice questions make up 50% of the AP exam for Statistics.  Multiple choice questions are graded as right or wrong.  A student that has a solid understanding of a concept could potentially narrow down the answer to one of two possibilities.  This student could still get the question wrong, even though he or she knows much more than the student who got it wrong because they had no clue and simply guessed an answer.

What is the solution? Strategy #5: Use the "I Know I Am Close" Multiple-Choice Response Format.  I have done something similar for multiple choice questions in the past.  I called it scratch one, choose one. A student scratches a wrong answer and then chooses the right answer.  One point is earned for scratching a wrong answer and three points are earned for selecting the right answer.  However, the student might still narrow it down to two choices and get it wrong.  In the end, I am not certain what the student was thinking that led to choosing the wrong answer.  I may have a sense of what they are thinking, but I don't know for certain.

Here is an alternative that I will try this year - "I Know I Am Close" Multiple-Choice Response Format.  Here is how the directions are worded (as found on pg. 143 Figure 5.6): "Write the letter that corresponds to the correct answer in the first space provided below.  If you are unsure of your answer, write the letter that represents your second choice in the second blank."  Then, under the spaces for the answers, there are some blank lines for writing an explantion for choosing them both. 

I typically have 8 multiple choice questions on my AP Stat tests and would limit studnets to 4 "I Know I Am Close" questions.  So, why might this better than scratch one, choose one? Myron Dueck listed 7 reasons and here are the ones that resonated with me.

1) Teachers gain insight into their students' answer-selection process.  Although I could probably guess which
questions my students will get wrong,
I still can't tell what they were thinking
by scratching a wrong answer and choosing another answer. This helps me to understand
where I may have fallen short in my teaching
and helps me to re-teach or work with
individual students.
2) Multiple-choice tests become more than just guessing games.This encourages students to think more deeply
about what they know and understand.  It helps
them to think about their thinking - metacognition
is a great tool for all students to develop.
3) The format can guide revision.If I want students to revise their work before a
re-test (and I sometimes do give re-tests), this
format helps them to review what they were
thinking and can help them to see where their
thinking may have been in error.
4) Test anxiety and stress are reduced.I was probably a strange child, but I enjoyed
test days.  I saw tests as a challenge for me to
master and I loved being challenged. Plus, I
often finished early and then I could quietly
read whatever my latest book was for enjoyment.
Until I became a teacher, I had no idea that
students were stressed about tests. Increasing
student confidence and reducing stress will
ultimately help them to not only translate
into higher grades, but increased understanding.
And what teacher doesn't want his or her students
to understand the material on the test better?

I'll be sure to post in the fall after I do this alternative method to multiple-choice on my first AP Statistics test.  Stay tuned.

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