Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Write your answer next to mine

I would like to thank everyone who reads this blog for NOT emailing me yesterday when you noticed that a new installment failed to appear for the first time since I've been creating my blogs (and my fan base.) To think of fielding ALL those electronic messages would have only increased my tremendously busy schedule, the very reason I never got around to writing a new entry to begin with.

But enough of my delusions of grandeur and my misconception of some imaginary readership. The fact is that I was the only one who likely missed because it was not there. Most people missed it because they did not look for it.

But enough of me going on about me saying that I've said enough about it.

Yesterday I pulled off a feat that I have never done before in my 9 years of teaching: I gave students a test with the answers on the test itself!!! Now I know that that sounds like bad educational practice, but I realized afterwards how brilliant it actually was--it made it more unlikely that people would fail, which is one of our district's goals!!!

It wasn't as bad as I'm exaggerating it to be, though. First of all, only one had answers printed on 25 percent of the test, so the students still had to "guess" the answers to the other 75 percent. Secondly, not everyone taking the test immediately realized what I had done. Some even worked the problems and boxed their "wrong" answers right next the the printed "correct" answer. Perhaps they were too afraid to ask me. Perhaps they thought they were the only ones with the answers printed and didn't want to exploit it. Perhaps they didn't even know.

Finally one girl had the integrity (and the perplexity) to quietly walk up to my desk to ask me what "those numbers" were. I could see all eyes in the class curiously looking at me, awaiting my response. At that moment, I felt embarrassed and let out a giant laugh. The cat was out of the bag--I told the entire class about my mistake. Somewhere in the room, the erasers went into action, changing their answer to the correct one I had given them. I told them that I would still count the question as part of the test so, in essence, they were getting a 25 point curve. Everyone, still laughing from such an egregious oversight on my part, transitioned to a victorious shout of approval.

Here's why it happened. I thought I would put the numeric answers to the free-response question directly on the test, so that when I used it in subsequent years, I wouldn't need a hard copy. Having highlighted the correct answers to the multiple-choice sections, I remembered to un-highlight them before printing the test for mass photoreproduction. What I FORGOT to do, however, was delete the answers to the second section of the test. The result of my blunder was the guarantee that no student would score below a 25 on the test (an some barely ended up beating that out!)

I now realized that even with limited hard-drive space on my school desktop that, as small as the file was, it was worth saving it in two forms: a printable, student version (without answers) and a teacher, key version (with answers). Or, I could just be more thorough, which I usually am.

The reason behind the reason it happened was that this week is the end of the first semester, and I'm trying to desparately squeeze in one more chapter test in each my three different subject areas. Creating my own exams from scratch, this takes quite a bit of time in deciding what I want to test, how I want to ask it, and how difficult do I want to make it. Even after this is pinned down, the actual typing of math symbols in a Word document takes a while too. Once I've got the test made, I need to work all the problems to make sure it is an appropriate length and to catch an mistakes I might have made in its creation. Only then do I run-off copies for each student. Oh, yeah, and all those tests must be graded once they are taken.

This is what I had to do this week, and since it is also Final Exam Week . . . . . I also had to create a 33 question multiple choice for each the three courses, something even more time-consuming that creating the chapter tests. I'm glad, though, I caught the blooper during one of the first tests I gave; it made me a increasingly aware of it as I created the other exams.

I sure would have hated to give a final exam with all the answers on it. That would have been catastrophic--someone might have actually passed!!!!!!

1 comment:

bob s said...

Well that's not much worse than all the typo's I make which result in the problem being impossible from the student's point of view and than I end up giving them credit for it anyway. Oh yeah and than there is the curve that somehow still seems necessary!