Monday, October 9, 2017

Teachers. Grading Over The Years #7 – Group Tests

This is the seventh of a series of 8 posts that ran sporadically
from 4/18-7/24 of this year. 
I never posted #8 because I decided
to reprise the series for the new school year.
I'm running all 8 posts on consecutive Mondays starting 8/28. 
If you're not a teacher and you're reading this,
let a teacher know.
I've been in enough "inservice" sessions to guarantee that the information in this series is better than most they'll be sitting through this school year. 

If there is part of the topic of grading that is more despised than “Group Project Grades” it has to be “Group Assessment (Tests/Quizzes) Grades.”

I hope you’ve read the previous blog post about my Group Grade policy and procedure. If not, it might be a good idea to do that before continuing with this post.

Ultimately each student should receive a grade that accurately reflects her/his level of understanding at that point in time.

That’s fairly easy to do on an individually completed in-class assignment. Assuming you were monitoring the session.

It’s harder to do on homework—who (student/parent/buddy) did what?
It’s harder still on tests.

It can be hardest for a semester grade. That doesn’t have to be the case. I’ll discuss semester grades in the last post in this series.

Today we’re looking at Group Testing.

Before that, a “bird walk” into testing in general . . .

One of my pet peeves was hearing a teacher say as they were leaving school in the afternoon, “I’ve got to get home and write the test for tomorrow.”

If you—TEACHER—don’t know what you’re going to hold students accountable for before you begin planning a unit—or EARLY in that planning process—how can you expect the students to know what they are supposed to learn/retain/understand during the unit?

OkayThat bird has taken flight.

I used group assessment at various times, most commonly for quizzes.
Whether the questions were handed out on paper, projected on a screen, or given orally, on a group quiz the rules were as follows.
  1. You may not communicate orally during this quiz.
  2. You can write on scratch paper, which I will collect with your answer sheet.
  3. If you talk once, you get a warning and a mark on your answer sheet.
  4. Subsequent talking infractions result in additional marks on your answer sheet. Each additional mark is a __ percent deduction from your final score.
  5. Each group member must physically write about the same number of answers on your answer sheet as every other group member. This was modified in classes with special needs students, but it was rare that each group member wasn’t able to write at least one answer.

Although the written communication often included significant amounts of pencil pounding at a specific answer on the scratch paper, it’s amazing how quietly kids can argue. 

It wasn’t uncommon for a silent group quiz to use a whiteboard as an answer sheet. That made grading quick and finished by the end of the quiz time.

The most evolved group test I gave was on "evolutionary theory and process." I gave this test to 1) AP Biology Students at Monte Vista High School; 2) General Education Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University; and 3) biology students of all levels at Great Oak High School.

What follows are scans of the directions and the test itself.

The formula for calculating a student's grade is not easy to read. Here it is in "older eye" size.

Your Question Score +
Your Question Score +
The Group Question Score +
The Average of All Individual Questions =
Your score on this exam

A conservative estimate on the number of groups that have taken this exam in this format is 150. Not once did every person in a group receive the same numeric grade.

I had some PLNU students come to me and ask if they had to be in a group. My answer was this

"If you choose to take the test by yourself, you are still responsible for turning in answers for the same number of questions as each group—that means you have to answer five individual questions and the group question in the same time period that the groups answer six questions. However, each group member answers only one alone."

By the next class meeting, all PLNU students were ready to be in a group.

I only had to give the above answer once in high school. It was an AP Bio student. She also chose to become a group member.

Grading A Group Test

Group quiz grades were almost always the same score for all members. Quizzes were of significantly less value than tests, and I could watch group members interact.

Below is the grading KEY for this exam. Point values for each part of each question are designated.

Students normally took this test around a lab table. 

  • On the table was a box with enough "correcting" pens/pencils so each group member had one to use in step 4 above. 
  • Once the "correction" time began, all "non-correcting pens/pencils" were traded for "correcting" pens/pencil in the box on the table.
  • Only correcting pens were used for crossing out and adding material.
  • Student pens were traded back once the exam "packet" was turned in.

When grading the GROUP version of this exam, additions were worth less than an original inclusion of the specific information by a student. 

For example: 

  • For Question C, each correct inclusion in the "list" part of the answer is worth one point. If one of those was added in correction pen, it would be worth 1/2 point.
  • This rewarded the student and the group without devaluing the effort of students who needed no corrections.

One of the things students like about the group test was that they had a choice of questions to answer. If you’ve never offered choices, I recommend you give it a shot.

Below is an alternative test for similar evolutionary content. This is an individual test.
  1. The content of these questions mirrors the group test content.
  2. Questions are clustered by point value.
  3. Each "cluster" of questions is diverse in content coverage.
  4. Restrictions apply to ensure that every student demonstrates a breadth of understanding.
  5. There are enough questions to allow achieving the maximum points possible in a variety of combinations.
  6. Students can answer questions that equal fewer than the possible points. If they answer questions totaling more than the points possible, points are subtracted from their final score.

This is another way to reduce some of the anxiety that accompanies testing. 

I'll do an entire blog post on ways to help students reduce stress later...
Although some might argue that I was more stress-inducer than stress-reliever...

Next Teacher blog will discuss final/semester/end of term grades. That post has not been written as of 8/5/17. This may end up being an 9-week series.

Email me: with questions/ comments.
Or, if you'd like more information or samples of anything described in this series, send an email there!

The next Teachers. Thoughts on Grading will focus on semester/term/course grades.

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