Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quiz Time Blues Again

I just gave another round of quizzes over the last few days. I am not pleased with how it's going. This is nothing new. I can't decide if it's because I'm not happy with doing teach 3 - quiz (3 for feedback/3 for grade) - teach 3 or because I have a lower-ability/less-motivated/less-knowledge-of-Algebra-1 group of students this year.

As we continue with the quizzes - grading the three concepts that were given feedback only the last quiz and giving feedback only on the three most recently taught (details on my SBG system this year is here and reflections on why I wanted to make changes from last year is here), I am seeing that several students are not trying or making little effort on the feedback only questions. It is not a majority of students, but with each new quiz, I am noticing there are more students each time who are not attempting the feedback questions. This worries me and I feel it defeats the purpose of giving the questions for feedback only the first time. The students are cheating themselves of the opportunity to seeing what they know about the problem in a practice situation.

I have been giving them review sheets for the concepts that are being graded since in some cases it has been 2 weeks or so since they had the original instruction on the topic. I suspect what that is doing is focusing the students on preparing for only those problems and they are not doing much preparation on the newer concepts. I am afraid that if I give review sheets with all 6 concepts, we will be spending one day reviewing and another day quizzing every 7-8 class days. As much as I don't want to dwell on what content I am covering over the course of the year, I am already concerned that I will not get to many concepts that I should be for Algebra 2.  Last year I ended with exponentials and logarithms and I am deeply concerned that I'm not going to get there this year with their lack of Algebra 1 skills and the time I've had to spend remediating those skills - and that's not factoring in the additional number of testing days (and some review days).

In two of my three Algebra 2 classes, students expressed that they weren't ready for today's quiz. Now, I know it's not due to lack of time and energy we I've devoted to it in class. They weren't ready because they weren't prepared. Students aren't preparing well - they aren't taking the time to work through problems as they should be. I have watched as I have helped students who have wanted the help and seen several students not using the time well. They choose to talk instead of starting the problems. I'm not sure if it's due to lack of confidence in doing the problems or if they don't want to after spending class time listening and (maybe) taking notes. The last few sections I have given students a note sheet to fill in. I did this partially because we were doing graphing systems of equations and inequalities and I thought it would be helpful to have the problems with graphing spaces ready to go for them. I also did this because I thought if they had the examples in front of them, they would actually take notes. I'm not sure how well that worked.

I'm at a bit of a loss tonight. I cannot continue to go backwards. Students have to learn they have to pick up the slack at some point. I feel like I am wasting time quizzing every 5-7-10 class days if they aren't preparing for all of the concepts. Part of the reason I changed to the quizzing concepts twice system was that I thought they would do better on the concepts since they had a chance to get some written feedback from me as a part of the process. If students aren't even going to attempt the feedback-only problems, then the purpose of quizzing this way is moot. I could go back to the way I assessed last year (at the end of a "unit" with a couple of days of review in front of the assessment) and end up with the same results with hopefully less wasted time, not to mention less stress since I would only have to prepare an assessment every 2-3 weeks. Part of what also appealed to me about the teach 3 - quiz 6 - teach 3 - quiz 6 system was that it would be smaller chunks for students to focus on and hopefully they would find that to be more manageable.

So what to do, what to do? At the moment, my plan is to put the How to Study Mathematics article that crstn85 referenced in her recent blog post in front of my Algebra 2 students tomorrow. I am going to do it a little differently. I gave the article to the Advanced Algebra 2 students today (since some of them were still finishing their quiz) and had them read the introduction (through the middle of page 3). Then I counted them off and had each pair read one section instead of one page. Each pair shared with the class what they thought was important. I did not have a chance to share the Cone of Learning with them - I am going to do that tomorrow. My hope is with my Algebra 2 students to get through all of that in class tomorrow. I also had my husband print out in color 11" x 17" Cone of Learning posters that I am going to put up around the room. I want a visual reminder to my students that they need to take an active part in mathematics.

I need to continue to reflect to see if this is how I want to continue to assess, or if I want to go back to what I was doing last year, or if there is a different way I want to try. If I am going to make changes, ideally, I would do it after the end of the 2nd 9 weeks in January. I just don't know what the "right" answer is. If anyone has some thoughts to share that would be helpful, I sure would appreciate it. I am having a hard time separating myself emotionally from this decision. There is a part of me that feels that I am failing my students here. I feel like I am teaching them (not intentionally) to prepare for the short term rather than learning the material thoroughly. Intellectually, I know that this group of students does not have good study skills and that is part of it, not to mention that there are several students who are not strong mathematically. Their experiences in Algebra 1 isn't helping the situation either. Regardless, I have to work with the students I have, where they are at, and make the best of it I can.


Damion said...

WOW!! This blog post almost perfectly sums up my frustrations teaching geometry this year. We 'revamped' the course this year in a way similar to yours. Here's what we currently do:

Teach 3 sections over 5 days
Assess on Day 6

The assessment is broken into 4 parts:

Review (material you should always know or is applicable again soon): 10%
Introduction (material from the most recent 3 sections): was 10% at the start of the year, but now is 30%
Developing (material from the 3 sections before that): 30%
Mastery (material from the 3 sections before that): was 50% at the start of the year, but now is 30%

So if we just taught sections 7, 8, and 9, the next quiz would look like this:

Review: stuff you should know
Intro: sections 7, 8, 9
Developing: sections 4, 5, 6
Mastery: sections 1, 2, 3

On paper, it looked good. But as the year has progressed, it is not working so hot. Same problems as you're having: not preparing, not studying their notes sheet that we provide for them to fill in, no practice. I STILL have kids asking what the distance formula is; we taught it in section 1.3 on September 7...we are now in 4.5. We still have kids that have no clue about slope (they instead to the distance formula for this) or do (delta x)/(delta y). ARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

This year has been worse than normal. I attribute part of it to the fact that students don't need to retain any information anymore in life: they either know it because they enjoy it or have done massive repetition on it...or they just Google it. That's the conundrum I'm facing...and struggling with.

Year 12 has been a bit of a challenge so to speak. It's good to hear I'm not alone...if that's a good thing :)

crstn85 said...

Sorry to hear you're having a tough time, but I love the idea of making a poster of the cone of learning. Adding that to my to do list!

Lisa said...

@Damion - You said:
"This year has been worse than normal. I attribute part of it to the fact that students don't need to retain any information anymore in life: they either know it because they enjoy it or have done massive repetition on it...or they just Google it. That's the conundrum I'm facing...and struggling with."

I think that's the God's honest truth - I hadn't thought about it that way, but I really think you're right. And if that's truly why students aren't doing as well - they feel they don't *have* to retain it, I can see this problem getting worse, not better. So the question becomes, how do we deal with it?

misscalcul8 said...

Have you seen this?

It might help with the feedback part, maybe?