>Yesterday was a great day in my Standards-Based Theoretical Mechanics course. It was the first of four consecutive days of scheduled oral assessments, a time to pause the flow of new material and let the students have a chance to catch up on the standards that we’ve covered so far.
Every fifteen minutes I randomly selected a student and a standard. That student went up the to board and I gave them a situation off the top of my head for them to deal with around that standard. Four students went to fill the hour and lots of really cool things happened.
First off, no one got a 4 (exceeds expectations) and no one clamored for one. In fact, one of the coolest things that happened was the class-wide discussion about what score to give each student. They all know I get the final say but the sbg-inspired way that no grade is truly final loosens things up a bit. One student was stuck on something and wanted to approach a problem from a different direction. I said “sure” and let him have at it. When he was done I asked the class what other standard he had just done. It took a while but they realized it was a standard from a completely different chapter than the one he was at the board to do. He said “oh, if I had known it was that one I would have done it much better!” I asked the class if he should get an assessment for both standards and it was great to hear them debate the value of that. Eventually we decided that, yes, he should get two scores. We focused for a little while on the notion that he would have done better if he had named the standard and one student said “well, we need to know these things and know the connections among them.” Awesome.
At the end I asked some questions about how to improve the process since we have three more days of it next week. One thing we discussed was that I talked too much. When students got stuck I would give them some hints, or, more often, ask them a question to get them thinking about it from a different direction. What they want is the ability to add those hints instead of me. But one student pointed out that it had happened a couple of times already and sometimes the students in the audience are too quick to offer help. It was decided that I would be the gate keeper, deciding when help is needed, but that they would provide the help. I’m really excited to see that in action on Monday.
At the end I also asked the five students who weren’t picked whether this was a good learning experience. They commented that it was neat to see how other students make similar mistakes. It was also good for them to see slightly different approaches to things. And of course they liked to see what follow up questions I and others had.
Overall I was really pleased with how it went. I’m glad we’re taking this extended break from new material to give them a chance to really show me what they’ve learned. They’ve also really picked up the pace in asking to check out my LiveScribe pens so I’m looking forward to lots of pencast assessments this week as well.