Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Project Idea: Students Create the Test

Looking for a way to break the monotony of weekly quizzes? I have an alternative assessment idea that I believe is actually more effective at ensuring your students know what they need to know. I don't claim this is an original idea, but like all good teachers, I beg, borrow and steal.

Instead of giving the students another quiz, have them assume your role and create a quiz. You provide the topic, source material, and as much or as little guidance as you think appropriate to start them on their way. They are forced to think about the type of questions you would have asked them anyway and how to answer them. If they create a multiple choice quiz, they also think about the type of mistakes students would typically make in order to create logical, challenging answer choices.

Last year I had students become Teacher for a Day and write a multiple-choice quiz on adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing integers. Since that group of students was complaining and stressing out over the work, I geared the assignment toward assuaging their concerns. They would create a quiz, and to make it a bit easier, I borrowed a trick from my favorite teacher, Mr. Cosgrove. Cos (as we called him), my 10th grade US History teacher, would always throw a few jokes into his tests:
This is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the end of the Civil War:

A. Appomattox Court House
B. Gettysburg
C. Bull Run
D. In a steel cage match
Even better, sometimes he just made sure you were paying attention:
A result of the French and Indian War was that King George III declared:

A. The Proclamation of 1763
B. Go back to answer A.
C. Seriously, check out A again.
D. Why are you still reading this? The answer is A!
This made the arduous testing schedule a little easier for last year's students to swallow. Being the "Teacher for a Day" was fun, different and most importantly effective.

This year, my students seem to be much better prepared for Algebra I work, so I used "joke" answers as an example of an ineffective assessment. I used the "Create a Quiz" project to assess them on slope-intercept form. The day before, I gave them the Slope-Intercept Study Guide consisting of 5 multiple choice questions, each of which had a hint guiding them towards the answer. These are the questions I would have included on a quiz, and would serve as examples for the project.

The next day, the Slope-Intercept Project worksheet included answers to the study guide, which we went over in class. The quiz they create would follow the same format and wording; they would supply their own equations, numbers and answers. I pointed out work we had done in two separate workbooks and the textbook as sources for other questions, but noted they could also create their own.

Besides the obvious benefits, there's a small bonus: students see how much work goes into creating even a small assessment and learn it's not easy to be the teacher. Hopefully, they come out of this with a little more appreciation for what you do every day.

Create a Quiz project examples