Thursday, October 17, 2013

Emails From the Front - SBG and Final Exams

Because I teach a modeling workshop class over the summer (with my amazing teaching partner Laura Ritter from Troy Schools in Michigan) I get a lot of email from participants that encounter both everyday problems and unique problems in their classrooms and at their schools.  Normally I respond and the responses end their existence in my "sent items" folder.  But I've decided to put some of the questions and responses here so that they live on in infamy.

Chuck White from Ann Arbor asked about how SBG works with final exams.

This is a good question and one that hinges on how much freedom you have.
Do you have to give some sort of common assessment that is the same as other physics teachers at your school or in the district?  If so – you probably have to give that. 
If not you've got a  couple of options.

A really good discussion of some of them is here:

As for me, I have to give a 70 question multiple choice test.
I have made sure to link that individual questions with the appropriate standards so that I know that I’m testing them on the things that I've stated. 

But the final exam is not the same as the assessments throughout the quarter.  This is a summative assessment, the only one that we really give.  So I tell them that there is no reassessment and we are testing what they have actually learned by all of the practice along the way.

However, to mitigate the high stakes nature of that, I provide them with a review that is very similar in both structure and content so they know that if they practice that they will be ready.  It makes the final exam kind of like a reassessment.
To be honest with you, if the final exam is really a measure of the skills that they have developed then why should the actual questions be a surprise?  I’m not saying the actual text but the question types…

There isn’t a great answer to this question, just a bunch of  “this is what I do”. 
I hope this helps!

The original email is below.

hey don! 

can you tell me how you handle final exams, since you use SBG?  Students have been inquiring about what my final is like (format, style, etc) and to be honest, i have not thought that far ahead.  what do you do? and how do you grade it?

my students have bought into  the concept of standards and mastery thus far.  I do not want to fall back into giving some sort of multiple choice format final exam if i can avoid it.

any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

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