Category Archives: assessment

Giving the tests back

a-time-saving-assessmentMy school follows the Maths Mastery programme, which involves pre-assessments at the beginning and post-assessments at the end of each half term. The final week of each half-term is then review week where we go over topics highlighted by the assessments as needing more work. The first lesson is, of course, giving the test papers back to the class. I have never particularly looked forward to these lessons. I often feel that pupils have the wrong attitude to this important part of their learning and don’t use the time well in lessons. So I took to Twitter last week to get some ideas and have combined these with my own in this post.

Some approaches will work with some classes, not with others. But hopefully this is a useful menu to chose from next time round. I’m working on the assumption that the assessments have been marked by the teacher (not always strictly necessary) and that the results have been recorded in an APP-style spreadsheet which means marks are recorded for each question. This is the bare minimum. A successful lesson is going to require further preparation, some approaches requiring more than others. Some approaches also present greater classroom management challenges or risk of disengagement and require a good relationship with the class. I have ranked each approach with the classic Indian restaurant scale of 1, 2 or 3 chillies! I’d love to hear your opinion on these!

Teacher exposition of questions

Possibly the least imaginative approach, but sometimes necessary especially when the whole class struggled with a question that you feel they should have had the skills and knowledge to attempt. OK for the odd question or two but avoid going through a whole test like this. Having said that it is a good idea to have the whole test ready to write on in a way you can display it to the whole class either on slides on the IWB or using a visualiser if you have one.

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Pupil experts in groups

The core principle here is that pupils who were successful in a topic deepen their understanding by explaining to others so everyone is benefiting. The process needs to be explained to pupils so that everyone knows what they need to do. i.e. experts are there to give explanations, not answers and those being coached need to ask questions as they go. Requires you to identify the experts beforehand; nice when different pupils are experts in different topics but more difficult when it is always the same pupils as experts. Make sure mini-whiteboards are available.

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Pupil experts by question

A variation on the above is when you chop up the exam paper and put the individual questions around the room. You designate an expert for each question and then ask pupils to go round the room with their red pens getting help on the questions they need. Again, nice when there is an even range of success across questions, more difficult whn this is not the case.

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Self-analysis of marks using a structure / template

To analyse their own test I have used the following codes a lot with A level classes, but I think they could work for any assessment.

  • SM: Silly mistake. Something you can immediately see where you went wrong and why.
  • R: Revision. Something that was forgotten. If your revision had been more effective you could have got these marks as this is a topic you understand.
  • ET: Exam Technique / timing, i.e. you didn’t read the question properly or took too long working on something that wasn’t necessary and therefore ran out of time on other questions.
  • U: Understanding. You don’t understand this topic well enough yet to answer this question.

Then get pupils to add up scores they would have got if they add back in SM and R. Can be a good confidence boost. This could form the basis of an “Exam wrapper” – a reflection sheet that is filled in by students after their test and filed with the test. Here is a great example of one of these, thanks to @takepi21 for contributing this. More detail on exam wrappers here.

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Self-assess using mark scheme / worked examples

Mark schemes provided by exam boards are often not very helpful if you didn’t understand the question in the first place, so I’m reluctant to just give these out. I often write out full sets of worked solutions to a paper, or you might find something good that already exists. Even if you have to do it yourself, this is quicker than writing the same explanation on 15-20 individual papers. I believe in writing the bare minimum on the paper when marking tests. Sometimes I’ll even just enter the marks directly onto the spreadsheet and not actually “mark” them at all. Pupils are given their totals / grades only after they have spent the required time engaging with their assessment. This causes groans the first few times you do it, but they will get used to it and hopefully appreciate the progress they make in these lessons.

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Do a re-test with different numbers soon after you have reviewed the test

This can be a powerful motivator if students know it is coming, as they will have a very clear measure of progress. Clearly this could be quite a bit of work but if you are using packages such as Exam Wizard, Exam Pro, Test base, Exam Quest, Create-a-test, Maths Print or MathsNet to create tests in the first place, then it gets a lot easier.

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Exam question carousel

Another way of following up the test review lesson is with an exam question carousel or “Gecko game.” You have individual exam questions on separate bits of paper. Students do them one at a time and come up to you with answers. If they get it right, they move onto the next one. I have found this particularly effective with A level classes but it can become unwieldy once you get above 20 pupils.

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