I have been working on developing a reasonable assessment model for my IBL Euclidean Geometry Course for a while now. I have several reasons for this:
1. It would be more fair, and better for my students, if I found a way to communicate with them about their progress. At the very least, I need to open the line of communication, so students feel they can have a conversation with me about how things are going.
2. So far, I have been going with a “you will have to trust me” approach. I have gotten away with it. But someone who wants to raise hell will make my undocumented life difficult.
3. This class is conducted as a lightly modified Moore Method course. Standard assessment with homework, quizzes and exams just doesn’t feel right.
4. The accountability movement is coming. Sooner or later, I will have to deal with a top-down mandate to deal with how I assess my students, and how I assess my teaching. I choose to start, on my own, with the parts I can control before that pressure gets here. First up: how I assess students.
The Main Idea
I will try to use a Standards Based Assessment scheme. I will attempt to focus on this mainly as a feedback mechanism. Grades will only happen to the minimal extent that is required.
What didn’t work well enough, and why.
I tried to implement a simple SBG/SBAR scheme in each of the last two semesters. Neither worked because I had not found a method of dealing with the administrative details. At first, I asked too much of myself. Then, I asked even more of myself, but on deadlines. Ugh.
What is working
I am happy with my set of standards (read that as learning goals). I am very proud that they are weighted toward process goals: what one does and how one behaves as a mathematician. This is intentional—I want students to become acculturated to doing mathematics, and to acquire some of a mathematicians habits of mind.
A New Attempt
For next semester, I have devised a two-prong approach to administering a standards based assessment mechanism.
The First Prong: Face to face meetings
In order to make for better communication about expectations, I will meet with each student individually every three weeks. This will involve splitting the class. I will meet with half one week, half the next, and then take a week break.
Before each meeting, I expect the student to write a one page reflection about their progress in the course. To tighten this process up, I have written specific prompts to which the students must respond. This must be done before the meeting. It can either be sent to me electronically, or it can be brought to the meeting on paper, but it has to be done before the conversation. Really, the paper is not important. But the time for reflection is crucial. The meeting could too easily be wasted without it.
Second Prong: Professional Feedback at each Assessment Opportunity
Each time a student participates in some sort of assessment opportunity (a presentation at the board, turning in a written paper), I will provide feedback. I have a little electronic system built (with the help of my friend Stephen Hughes) using a Google Docs form/spreadsheet/script combo. I have a web form into which I will type comments. When I click the “enter” button, my comments are saved in a spreadsheet, emailed to me, and emailed to the students.
It is too much to manage class and write out feedback at the same time, so I will be doing this during the hour after my class meeting. I normally take time to convert my notes into a blog post for the students anyway. Now I will just add a little bit to the “post meeting decompression” that I do.
What is left to do?
I need to think some more about how I will provide feedback. I want this to be a narrative process, but what are my aims? What constraints should I observe?
That should be my next post. 🙂
Where is all of my stuff?
Well, I keep a blog for the students, and it has a page all about assessment. Go have a look. Not all of the links are live, yet, but they will be at the appropriate time of the semester.
In the end, what about grades?
Here, I have no substantive changes, but Ed Parker has pushed me a bit…