Talking Myself Out of Requiring Homework, and Other Loose Ends

Here are the heckles from the peanut gallery inside my head.  Sometimes the voices sound like the irascible, cranky teacher I’m destined to become; sometimes they sound like students.

Q. In this hare-brained scheme of yours, scores of 4 and 5 come from different problems.  You’ve also decided to let scores go down, so you can measure retention.  What happens when you give a test with a 4/4 question on it, and a student already has a 5?  They get it perfect, and their score goes down?

A. Not great idea: I could make sure all tests have both a 4 question and a 5 question for each skill (lots of work for me, longer tests for students, and creates another quandary: what to give the student who nailed the 5/5 question and bombs the 4/4)?

Less bad idea: once you have 5/5, you don’t have to assess those skills anymore.  Pro: motivates students not to let it sit at a 4.  Con: they drop it from memory after getting a 5.

Better idea: Do as above but give a final exam worth 20%.  If you bomb skill X on the final, it doesn’t change your “skill score” of 5/5.  Decent compromise? Does it give the student the info they need for their next course?  Does it give the next teacher the info they need?  So far, I think so…


Q: You say you want them to do something to prepare for the assessment.  Is it good enough to just tell you what they did?

A: No.  My students have mad finesse for detecting unenforceable rules.  Sometimes I think they flout those rules just to show their disdain for what they see as hypocrisy (even if I see it as “the honour system”).  If I’m serious about making preparation necessary for assessment, I need to actually have proof.  Should they just show it at the door?  I couldn’t possibly even tell what it was .  Should I require that they pass in “something”?  That entails passing it in early enough for me to write some comments and get it back… not to mention constant vigilance that students who didn’t pass in any prep item don’t sit the test… and now it’s a way to get out of class.  And tests.  You can just retest later, right?  And now the process is getting slower when I want it to get more agile.

*sigh*  I think I’ve talked myself out of it.  Best-case scenario: we have time in class for them to practise all the skills for the test, so I can give feedback that way.  Chances of this happening: remote.  I seriously need to look into videorecording some presentations, and assign those… Worst-case scenario: they don’t practise, they come for assessment, they do badly, feel stupid, are too upset to come see me about it.  All I can do is keep an eye out and approach them when I feel it’s needed.


Q: You ripped off the idea for those little squares on the skills sheet, and you’re going to have a bad day when someone’s score goes down after they’ve coloured it in with glitter pen!

A: Yeah.  Ok, I’ll probably take the squares off.  There’s been some interesting talk about pros and cons of students tracking their score history.  In earlier grades I think it’s probably just depressing to see that you’ve attempted something 10 times without progress.  But by the time they’re in vocational training, I think it’s time to a) be able to handle that truth about yourself and b) use the results to troubleshoot.  (No progress over 3 assessments?  How do you prepare, and how could you prepare differently?)  It can lead into a conversation about learning styles and their ability to tailor their practise.

So out go the little squares, and instead I’ll have them record prep methods and assessment results in their work-record books.  If they’re not up to date, that’s the first thing that we’ll do in a tutoring or reassessment session.


Q.  You really covet that feedback sheet from MeTA Musings, don’t you?

A.  Yep.  So I made one.


Q.  You stole the words across the top.

A. It’s true!  I confess!  I stole everything!  *sob*

Um.  But I can’t remember from whom.  I think it was Sue Van Hattum in a comment she wrote on someone else’s blog.  If anyone knows, fill me in, ok?

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