Saturday, November 28, 2015

I enjoy creating assessments

I really do like creating assessments, shhhhh, don't tell anyone.  I went to WGU (Western Governors University) for my Masters program and my favorite class was through BYU (Brigham Young University) and it was on how to write assessments. 

I have a whole process and it takes time to create the quizzes or tests I present to my students.  After all, it is the way I am asking them to show me all they know to their best ability.

When I create an assessment, there is a lot that goes into this process.  Here are some of the steps and questions I ask myself, not necessarily in order, but pretty close:
  • I start with my unit's learning targets and pull out the big ideas.  Will this problem best represent this learning target?  (I find my problems from a bunch of different places or just create them myself)
  • I have both non-calculator and calculator portions of the assessment.  Which part should it go on?  Can it be easily done with a calculator but I need them to show me all their steps? - then non-calc.  Are the numbers more difficult but I want them to go deeper into a problem past the numbers - then yes, calc, do the numbers, show me the more difficult stuff.
  • Do I have the best directions for each question - the details?  I want to write it so the kids are clear and don't have to ask me any clarifying questions during the quiz.  It does happen.  I make note of it year to year, so I can update for the following year.  I consider the verbs I use.  Do I need to make anything possibly plural (ex. find the x-intercept(s))?  How many decimal points?  What is the format of the answer (ex. simplified square root form)?  What is the method I want them to use or is it up to them?  What notation do they need to include in their answer?
  • I like problems where they get to pick how to solve something.  For example, in a unit on solving systems using graphing, substitution, and elimination, I give them 3 systems set up the "best" way for them.  They have to solve each using the 3 methods and explain.  Or given three quadratics - solve using factoring, quadratic formula, and completing the square.  I make one that is not factorable and inevitably someone chooses factoring for that one, only to answer "not factorable".  
  • I think about the types of numbers I am using in the problems.  I teach accelerated, so they should be able to deal with fractions, decimals, large numbers, imaginary numbers, etc, but do the numbers create too much of a mess that I can't really tell if they understand the process (ex, completing the square - they should be able to do it when a is not one and gasp, b is not even)
  • I think about the order in which to present the problems.  Sometimes, I like to put the most difficult one first.  I have learned that the accelerated kids do not like to work out of order.  Must do each problem to completion in order.  However, if something is just 2 points and you are stuck on it, move on, skip it, come back later.  Maybe something will remind you of how to do it later in the test.  By putting a difficult problem that is worth more points, they have a fresh brain to work on it, get into it and hopefully are successful with it versus as the last problem on the test where they are crunched for time and their brain is fried.
  • Time is my biggest limiting factor.  I try really hard to make it work in a 60 minute class.  I apply the 3x rule - it should take the kids 3 times as long as me to do it.  I make up the test.  I then take it with my phone stopwatch on, as if I am testing, and I see how long each problem takes me.  When I am done, I can see if a particular problem or page is too long.  Then, I decide, why is that problem too long - is it the numbers - can I change them?  Do I need to give more information so they can move along in the problem?  Then, I have to start deleting.  In Accelerated Algebra 2 right now, I am teaching a big unit on quadratics, polynomials, radicals, and rationals.  Last year, I gave 3 quizzes on it, but this year I am consolidating to two.  It is tough.  It is a lot of material and I need to find the best questions to best represent what they can do.  I told the kids I was working on it and I was cutting it down for time's sake but I don't like getting rid of quiz questions because they are like my babies.  One students said, "I have another teacher who said the same exact thing yesterday.  That's weird."  
  • I think about how to assign the point values.  On a quiz, is that a 2 point question, a 4 point question, maybe it has so many parts it is a 6 point question?  I write down the parts and points I will look for within each question.  I make note of where I think they will make the mistake (ex, did they forget to multiply by the reciprocal when dividing rational expressions?)
  • So, I have cut the questions down.  I have checked the formatting which I also like to do.  I have taken it.  I edit it for typos best I can.  I share it with a colleague and ask them to edit it. And, hopefully it is ready to go.  
  • The truth comes when the kids take it.  Did they have to ask me questions?  Was time okay?  And, of course, how did they do on it?  How will this shape what I teach moving forward or if we are heading into the test review, how does that shape what we will need to practice to get better prepared for the test.  Again, I make note of these for the following year, so I can make adjustments, so it is formative for this year's students and next year's students as well.
Want me to make your next test?  Just kidding!

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