In the “why didn’t I think of this before” category: my students now grade their own quizzes. No, they don’t get to give themselves whatever mark they want.  Here’s how it goes.

I used to learn a ton from going over their tests with a fine toothed comb, trying to figure out what they were having trouble with.  It finally dawned on me that I didn’t need that learning opportunity nearly as much as my students did. So my students now do quizzes like this.

  1. Write quiz.
  2. Copy all answers to the provided answer sheet.
  3. Hand in answer sheet to teacher.  Keep question sheet with all your work on it!
  4. Twiddle thumbs for a few minutes waiting for everyone to finish.  Wish you could ask someone “what did you get for #5?”
  5. All papers are in.  Burst at the seams and ask “what’s the answer to 5!?”
  6. Participate in class or small-group discussion of questions and answers.  Compare your problem-solving approach to others’.  Figure out what you did right.  Figure out what you did wrong.  Make notes about how to do #5 differently, since now that you’ve found your misunderstandings or found new ways to tackle the question, you’re already planning to reassess next Wednesday.
  7. Put checkmarks on skill sheet.

I love this because it allows the students to go over the problems immediately after the test, during those 7 minutes of burning curiosity, yet still have their own test paper in front of them.  They remember what they did and why they did it (by tomorrow it’ll be gone into the ether of “oh, just a careless mistake” or “I understand it now”).  The downside is that they have to copy their answers from the question sheet to the answer sheet, which can take time.  I collect the answer sheets before the discussion/review, grade them on a complete/incomplete basis, and update my gradebook.

Because each person needs to know whether their answer meets the standard, they share.  This gets into a great discussion of the many possible right answers.  If I hand the tests back already graded, there’s no incentive to share.  Downside: you must risk speaking up and exposing a possibly flawed answer.  Upside: everyone else is doing it.  Sometimes the top students get things wrong, and take a good-natured drubbing, and it becomes more clear that smartness isn’t a magical quality that enables you to skip the “learning” phase of the learning.

Every once in a while, I collect the work sheets after we’re done reviewing.  It lets me see how they’re doing with grading their tests and writing feedback to themselves.  It also lets me have a look at the common misconceptions and confusions (although mostly I collect in-class work for that kind of intel).

Unexpected discovery: their negative self-talk shows up in their corrections.  I was blown away by the brutality of the things they were writing to themselves.  (“Stop being a moron!”  “Stupid, stupid, stupid!”).  Collecting the work sheets gives me a chance to write back to them, try to interrupt negative self-talk, and do some coaching about self-assessment.

When they request reassessments, the web form I use has a spot for “What have you learned about this skill that you didn’t know before.”  The answers there are almost as enlightening, and have evolved from “I learned that I am stupid” to “I learned that capacitors in parallel do not get added up if they have been converted to reactance.”  All of these things become the beginnings of conversations.