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Subject:

Re: Alternative/unique student assessments

From:

MaryLiz Pierce <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 6 Oct 2000 23:16:04 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

Ted - One tool that I have found especially effective is going over the
basics of a subject fairly quickly so that the students have a good overview
and then putting the students to work on applications in groups. This way
they really see how the process works and how they can put it to use fairly
quickly. When I have them in groups I do go around and work with each group,
asking questions that will get them to think "out of the box."

     Another tool that my students really like is being able to correct any
mistakes on a test for partial credit. They really start to understand things
better when they correct those mistakes.  Often it takes the testing
situation to solidify where the problems are. Having gone through a situation
in High School Chemistry where I didn't understand until the instructor went
over the test, I have learned to use it to my advantage.

    I also give at least one, and possibly more than one, take home test each
semester. These tests are not easy.  In fact, they are extremely detailed and
encompass a wide variety of problems. I also encourage them to work together
on this and give them some class time to work on it -- maybe 15 minutes at
the end of a couple of classes.

    I have my students write about the content -- and how they will use it.
They produce an essay for me each semester.  They also develop some of their
own word problems, and explain how to do certain procedures.  In addition, I
have adapted the portfolio idea to the math classroom and require them to
keep a notebook. The structure of the notebook is up to them but I must be
able to find the information about a particular subject easily.  I tell them
this is done so that they will have a good reference for the next class --
where they can go back and see how they learned it and relate it to what they
are then studying.  It doesn't have to be a math class where they will use
it. I frequently have potential nursing students who must use measurement in
a lot of their other classes and must get 100% on a drug calculation test to
stay in their program. I point out that if I can find it, they can do it a
year down the road.

    I find that a lot of my assessment of a student's style goes on before
and after class as well as during breaks with the longer ones. I try to get
to class early and chat about almost any subject other than math.  By making
myself more human in their eyes, they open up a great deal more.  I develop
situations with my grandchildren into applications that we have fun with.
"Will Nana be able to clean up the house Damian is messing up?" is a great
work problem as are Chip and Dale storing acorns in a tree while some
squirrels are stealing them.  My linear equation problems may be buying gifts
for the kids on sale.  How many can I get?

    I also work with my students who have either math or text anxiety. I
start teaching them some relaxing techniques and make sure they have a glass
of ice water with them for a test. Research has recently shown that stress
can make us produce a chemical that will make us "go blank" and these
techniques help to ease the situation.  I frequently ask these students
questions to get them thinking on the right track. If I don't have to give
them any answers, they get full credit.  If they have to be led by the hand
and taught, I take points off for help -- points they can partially recoup by
doing the problem over again when correcting mistakes.  I have also been
known to give neck rubs to a particularly tense student though I let them
know I will abide by their wishes if they don't want it.

    I also take the time during the first few weeks of class to explore some
study skills and have the students take a Myers-Briggs inventory off the
Internet and explore what the results mean with my teaching of the class and
their learning style.  I find that the time I spend then is well worth it
when I see the grade spread in the class.  I include computer based learning
in all my classes and give grades for lesson completion or computer quizzes.
(I take the 10 highest grades of many 10 point assignments.)

    I also use MY MISTAKES as a starting point for learning.  It is often the
student who is struggling to follow something that catches me in a
calculation error. In addition to getting extra credit for it, the student
may see me modeling the type of behavior they need to use when trying to find
a problem.  I give practice tests before in-class tests -- with solutions. In
the solutions the method is always correct but the answers may not be. I use
copying and calculation errors to keep them on their toes.  The first person
to find one gets the credit.  They get credit for finding errors in the text
and tests -- including typos.

    All of these techniques help me assess the learning of my students. I do
not believe in using just one measure of assessment.  Throughout the entire
class, I try to model a good problem-solving strategy since students, like
children "do what we do rather than what we say."



MaryLiz Pierce
GateWay Community College
Phoenix, AZ

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