Was I wrong?

Okay, so I had a math student come to me to help them understand a concept. The student showed me several examples of work they had done to try and understand it (which I require in order for them to be able to be re-assessed). While I was helping them with that concept, I became aware that there were some shortcomings on another concept that this student had scored well on over several previous quizzes. After the help, the student asked if they could be re-assessed on the concept they had come in for help on. I told the student that I would make a re-assessment for them the next day. I decided to add the secondary concept to the re-assessment as a separate question but had all the things we went over during the help session. The next day, the student was too busy to take the new assessment and it happened again the next day. So the third day, the student was able to take the assessment. I wasn’t able to score it at that time and graded it that night. The student scored well on the concept that was the primary concern but not well at all on the secondary one. The next day, I showed the student the quiz and where they had made mistakes. The student felt I was out of line to have quizzed them on the secondary concept and lowered their current score on it. I spent the next 25 minutes explaining to the student that if the concept was truly learned, as seemed evident by the high scores over the several previous quizzes, that the concept shouldn’t have given them trouble. And, I explained that I had told them they all concepts would be re-assessed at various times throughout the marking period. I didn’t feel I was wrong to have asked a question on something we had discussed and pointed out to them during the help session that was a shortcoming. So, my question to any of you who happen to read this, was I wrong to have added that secondary concept without telling them I was going to do so?

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4 Responses to Was I wrong?

  1. Amanda Dean says:

    I think that it was right for you to lower the score, assuming you’re using a “most recent” method for determining scores, because your most recent evidence indicated a lower understanding.

    However, I think it would have been *better* to give the student a heads-up when you met with him/her. “Hey, I see that you’re struggling with this, which I thought you understood before. Let’s make sure you get that one, too, and then on your reassessment I’ll put both so you can demonstrate that you do currently have understanding.” While I agree with changing the score – whether you gave the advance notice or not – I think that presenting it this way makes it seem less like a “gotcha” to the student.

    But the student knows now, and can improve understanding and complete another reassessment, right? So in the end, the score can (hopefully) end up high again, once mastery is demonstrated again. That’s something I’ve really tried to emphasize with my students: It’s okay to try, because then we can identify where there are weaknesses so that you can work on them and try again.

    • mbennage says:

      Amanda,
      Yes, I am using the most recent method. And, I agree it would have been better to explain to the student the way you suggested. Especially after having a discussion with the student’s father after the whole thing transpired and being informed that this student has never done well with those types of situations. I did end up giving the student another on-the-spot assessment after the 25 minutes of the “arguing” whether it was fair or not and then reviewing the concept. Not quite as telling as if I had waited, but the student was able to get it right.

      I guess that raises another question to anyone: Does anyone using SBG ever give “pop quizzes?” I certainly wouldn’t make a habit of it, but isn’t an occasional surprise another good way of determining just how much students are understanding that continual, current practice is necessary?

  2. Jason Buell says:

    This is a tough one. I do this too, but I try to be pretty clear up front that anything previous is fair game. Does this mean all the students really understand that everything is open? No way. But like you said, if they really learned it, it’ll stick (or at least brushing up is trivial).

    I’m really careful with this though. I don’t want students to feel scared of hiding their ignorance. Worst case scenario is a student won’t ask me a question because they think I’m going to lower their grade. That’s really really really bad. If it so happens that they reveal something (on accident or purpose) and it conflicts with my score for them, then I’ll try to help them out. I’m science though so 9 out of 10 times I’m happy with a quick verbal spot checks later on. Like…hey, remember that thing we were talking about? Tell me about it…

    I feel that’s informal enough that they don’t feel like they need to be on guard. Usually it’s just some sort of minor clarification anyway. Now, if things are really different, like I think they’ve mastered it all and they revealed some huge gaps, then I make them sit down because my cheating radar goes off.

    • mbennage says:

      Jason,
      Thanks for the advice. I probably could have done a better job at explaining the “fair game” scenario to all of them up front. Still learning the process myself.

      You bring up another great issue that I have been trying to overcome. I don’t have an issue with the students asking questions in class or out of class and being afraid their grade will be lowered. I do however have an issue with questions during quizzes. I am having a hard time making them understand that assessments are just a mechanism for me to know where they stand in their learning. They are still so grade oriented that they either start to ask me for help during a quiz and say, “Never mind. You’ll just take points off if you help me,” or they ask the questions because they don’t really know the concept and they don’t understand why I don’t score them as high because they needed help.

      Am I doing that process correctly? Isn’t it fair to say my evaluation of their knowledge depends on how much help I have to offer them during an assessment?

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