Assessments are an experimental playground for me. The frequent assessment I do under an SBG system really helps make them a feedback tool rather than the scary do or die moment like the tests I used to take. And yet, despite all of the retesting option i build into my system, all the stress I put on learning from your mistakes, I still have students who resort to cheating. With plenty of their other classes sticking with do or die tests, I suppose it's a natural response.

Iterative Solution

I have tried all kinds of solutions. I versioned the test (in some cases up to 4, which is a PAIN to write and grade). I spread them out. I got a bunch of manilla folders to set up as blinders. And still, I'd catch a few. Simultaneously I've spent a few years experimenting with group tests. At first I had four people submit one paper. Then it was four copies of the same test where collaboration was allowed. Then (after it became apparent that this just invited super blatant copying in rare cases), I said ok, you can work with each other, but there were different versions of the test within a group (rather than group A all getting version A, group B gets B, etc). And finally, by the end of Spring 2013, every test was either a group effort or notebook w/ whispering allowed. 

Flash forward to the Interactive Notebook session at TMC13, and none other than @cheesemonkeySF says that her notebooks are allowed on quizzes. Like, all of them. Many others nodded in agreement. At that point I was sold. This year, I still version tests (just two, not three or four like I had been)  but hey, use your notes. Use your old tests. No talking to your neighbor or anything (I still hear a few idle whispers but whatevs), but use all the reference material you have.

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Effects

You might freak at this violation of test purity. But hear me out. All that classwork you do? Valuable. Knowing how to navigate your notebook? Valuable. Reading feedback from a prior test? Valuable.

Fewer students freak out on me. Shoot, a good 30% take the test with the notebook closed anyway. A small minority leave a section blank (5% or less). I get a chance to see what my students are fully capable of AND see them make use of my feedback. It's encouraged me to be more detailed with my feedback now that I know they'll turn to it. I also dictate how certain answers should be written and not have to worry about posting the phrasing somewhere during the test. Write it down or bust, kid.

In Algebra II (a group of students who blow my mind daily with their "ok, when exactly does this get difficult, dude?"), they don't even want to review. I try. They refuse. Seriously, when posed "you want to talk about things?" "Nah, we're good. Get on with it, man." First year me would be so confused. 

BUT IT DOESN'T PREPARE THEM FOR COLLEGE! A 200 person college math course? You're probably right. Sophomore, Junior, and Senior level courses of the STEM variety? Totally. You live and die by your professor sanctioned formula sheets. 

Posted
AuthorJonathan Claydon