On Thursday night I was up until about 11 pm – far past my normal weeknight bedtime – working on finishing some grading as midquarter grades were being posted the next day. As I worked my way through 40+ copies of a Big Unit Test, I realized that I was being surprised by them more often than I’d like.
I’ve never mastered formative assessment. I have a hard time putting emphasis on it and time into it for the same reason that my students do – I’m a procrastinator and heart and work better with deadline and attached value. So we worked through a right triangle trig and area test in my geometry class, and some students never really got it, and I didn’t know that. Then there were some students who just screwed up on test day – as one student told me later, her test grade was collateral damage to a lab report. And there were just as many positive surprises – which is nice, but still tells me I didn’t know what I was doing.
I wrote this tweet:
I really hate tests. But I struggle with follow through and being too generous on other assessments.
Frankly, I'd rather not grade at all.
— David Griswold (@DavidGriswoldHH) April 16, 2015
And then, after finishing grading and writing necessary comments, I stayed up a little later, in a tired-but-annoyed fugue state. I stumbled upon this tweet by Kyle Pearce:
— Kyle Pearce (@MathletePearce) April 17, 2015
Go ahead and read his post. I’ll wait.
I followed the link, read the post, and realized that I needed to try it out. Immediately. And I couldn’t wait. I decided that I would try it starting the very next day, with the unit I had already been doing for two days with my geometry classes: circles.
The next morning, I had 80 minutes to prepare for my first geometry class. I was able to get their names entered on Kyle’s spreadsheet, create a sample web page to show them, get some preliminary standards written up, and make assessments for my first three standards – naming parts of a circle, sketching parts of a circle, and moving between area, circumference, and diameter of a circle. You can see the assessments I made here: Circle Standard Assessments . The assessments are not particularly clever or good – I made them fast – but it’s a start. I ended up doing standards 1 and 2 at the end of class with them, and assigned standard 3 as homework – they can either do it for practice and attempt it again later OR pledge not to use notes/books/others and do it for Mastery (we have an honor code that makes it reasonable for me to offer this option).
I’m really excited about this. I think it is going to be awesome. My students were excited as well.
If you want details on implementation, see this post on how exactly to use the spreadsheet to implement this system, with some modifications I added.