One of the things I am focusing on this year is building the capacity of students to self-assess accurately and reflect on their progress and learning. I am using group quizzes in my statistics class as one way to support this. I generally choose free response questions from the AP Statistics exam- even though it’s a regular level course, all students are capable of doing challenging things and when they work together, it’s even easier. Instead of grading it myself, I read their papers and give them back the next day with no notes and no grade.
The first time I did this in my class, I gave them the answer key and the scoring guide from the actual exam. I explained to them that I had already read their responses and knew what I thought their grade should be, but I wanted them to be able to see the rubric and determine how they did. After all, a key part of my research this year is on building a student’s ability to self-assess accurately. Students had 10 minutes to compare their answer to the key with a few guiding questions: “What did you do well on?”, “What could you do better next time?”, “What did you feel like you didn’t learn yet?”
Most groups did really well with this activity and thoroughly annotated their paper. It brought up a lot of clarifying questions about what the questions were actually asking and the level of detail required to be proficient. It also helped me notice how students were interpreting what was a “correct answer”. Some students felt that if their answers were not identical to the key, then they were only partially correct or fully incorrect- they generally had a hard time determining if two things stated differently were both essentially correct. This was surprising to me at the moment but after reflecting on it I realized that it was because they really did not understand the concept yet. It also made me think that for those students who just copied the “correct” answers verbatim, they were just going through the motions of the activity but not learning from it.
One group specifically did NOT want to participate. A student in the group said to me, “You should have just graded it yourself.” I asked why she felt that and she said, “Because you know the answers already.” I asked her what she would have done if I gave the quiz back to her with a grade, assuming I knew her answer and that I could use it to make my point. She didn’t say anything so I asked if she would read my comments and see what she could change or if she would look at the grade and put it right in her bag. She said she’d actually read the comments and I told her that she’s a rare student because in my experience most students don’t actually do that and they never learn what they can do better. I told her what my goal was (they’re all aware I’m part of TRC and that I’m trying out new things) and that I wanted her to be able to compare where she’s at to where she should be and make a plan for progress. She didn’t say much after that, and did end up putting her head down when I walked away, but after a few minutes I noticed that she had picked up the answer key and was doing the work. She’s a very grade-motivated student and I think this new system is not validating her the way she is used to – which means she’s the perfect student to build that intrinsic motivation with!
The second time I did this activity, we worked through the correct answers as a class and then I gave them time to annotate and improve their responses. This served two main purposes. First, I wanted students to be better at comparing and evaluating different answers so I specifically modeled how to do that. I called on students to share their answers and intentionally pointed out how, even though the words were different, they were essentially saying the same thing. It specifically helped those students who didn’t really understand how to interpret the key the first time around. Second, in an ongoing effort to balance who has the power in my classroom and build community, it allowed us to craft exemplar answers together. Instead of me giving the answers in a static way, thus me being the one with the power, the answers were dynamic and built upon by the whole class which helped to validate their knowledge and power, both individually and as a team.
Some additional things I would like to do differently:
- Instead of going back to giving the answer key, have students partner up with others from 2 different groups and share their answers. Then they should give some sort of feedback (including positive) and work together to construct one complete answer with all the best parts from their individual responses.
- After annotating their paper, students give themselves a grade (and justify it) based on how well they understand the material now. They will reflect on the process and this will be the “pre-work” for our check ins.
- Finish with student/teacher check-ins to discuss their feedback and mine. Some students felt that because I did not write a grade on their paper, I was not aware of how they did (even after saying I read them all). This check in will be focused on growth and identifying specific things they could still work on to improve.