Assessment for Quick Feedback

This is a difficult time of year, as exams loom, the work piles up, and students need targeted help more than ever before. This post is to give a quick overview of a style of assessment I have been using lately. As I go along, I intend to write a follow-up describing how well it works.

Premise: students need to write summative assessments (ie: tests)
Problem: tests take a lot of time to grade, so feedback is usually too slow to be effective
Solution: a two-page test that separates easy-to-grade questions (multiple choice, calculate-a-number) from hard-to-grade questions (diagrams, solving problems, writing responses).

A two-page test is, as the name suggests, written on two pages of paper, stapled together. The first page consists of questions where:

(a) the answer can be instantly checked for correctness
(b) incorrect answers are anticipated, and understood to reflect some common, relevant misunderstandings

Critically, the first page needs to be something that can be checked for correctness in about 10 seconds. I design for this by having the students write their answers on blank lines on the right side of the page.

The second page consists of the regular sorts of questions where you need a few minutes to read, figure out what the student was thinking, and so forth.

When the student submits the test, the two pages get pulled apart. I quickly mark the first page. There is usually a 10-20 minute window between my first student handing in their work, and the last straggler wrapping up, so if I can mark while the tests are coming in, I can return the first page to the students about a minute after the last student finishes.

Now, the students get their near-instant feedback, and we have some time to go over the questions that gave most students problems. If I designed the test well, that means our post-test class time is spent directly addressing some of the major conceptual hurdles in the content.

As for the second page… I mark those in the regular way: when I can make time for it.

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