Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Group Test after the Test...Here's How It Went

I tried something that I learned by reading a conversation on Twitter this summer.  I would only be guessing at who was having this conversation, so if you read this and it sounds familiar, let me know so I can give you credit.  Anyway, the conversation was about tests and retesting.

What I found interesting was the idea of retaking the test as a group the day after they take the test individually.  The group has limited time, say 15-20 minutes, to complete the test.  I tried this with our first skill quiz in Algebra this year.

My reasons for trying it were to:
1) help students see that they are not the only ones with a question,
2) allow peers to work together and think through the quiz, 
3) to give me and opportunity to listen to how students were explaining the math to each other, and
4) to make sure that everyone had a copy of the quiz in their math binders with the problems worked out (some students will never bring back the signed test to put in their binder).

I have two completely different groups.  My first group is a higher ability group that doesn't enjoy being quiet and still for more than 10 seconds.  This has been a challenging group so far.  My other group is quieter, but as a group, they struggle a little more to understand the material.  They present a different type of challenge.

I say this because there were two different outcomes for this activity.  In my first group, I walked away feeling "meh" about the process.  It took a lot of work to get them started and on task, even with regrouping them so that students that did well were placed with students who didn't.  They were also more argumentative with each other in a nonproductive way.  I struggled to convince them of the value of their work.  We will try this again on another quiz/test, but I am thinking to take it another way.  I am thinking of making it an error analysis activity and using mistakes that students actually made on the test.

My second group had a totally different experience.  They got right to work, helped each other, and talked about the questions.  I heard thinks like "I thought you had to..." and "But why wouldn't you..." while they were working with each other.  This was completely beneficial for them.  I also was able to answer questions that stumped the entire group, which made for a great dialog between the students and I.  I felt like this group walked away with understanding of what they did wrong and what still needed more practice.  It was a good use of time and we will try it again in the same way.

In sharing this technique, others thought that I should do this before the quiz/test.  I don't think that it is a bad idea by any means, however I have two concerns.  My first concern is that the only way that they will review for the test, will be the group test.  I want them to know how to study for math without me giving them questions.  The second concern that I have is that the questions are standards based and more open ended.  I am a novice at writing questions this way and am just not confident I can write three or four questions that I really like, so I can do a practice test, test, and re-test.  I'm not ruling it out, but I'm just not ready to go there, yet.

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