I haven't posted in a while. To be honest, I have been rather busy trying to keep on top of school work and life in general. However, I am compelled to post about midterm exams.
**Blogger's Note: I know at the end of this I am posing a lot of questions. Right now, I have no answers. Please feel free to add your own answers and comments at the end. Thanks. --LMH
I generally feel that this year has gone well. I have been doing what I felt was a good job teaching, although I know there are a lot of things to improve on. Students have been doing well. Some have been reassessing. Grades for the grading period have looked pretty good this year. Generally, I feel that my students have been "getting" what I have taught. Then midterm exams hit.
In my 21 years teaching, this has to be the worst year yet for midterm exams for me. My students did so poorly. We were to give exams over two days and I did a multiple choice portion and a non multiple choice portion, both of which I made up. I went through as I have done in previous years and put together a review sheet that had one or two of each type of question on the review (although I did find out that I missed one). I gave two days in class time to work on the review so that 1) students would (hopefully) complete the problems and 2) students would have time to ask questions. I allowed students to compile an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of notes and formulas (they could not have example problems on it).
Students did NOT do well on the non-multiple choice portion at all. I had some of my more motivated students ask me about a couple of the questions that were on the review that were a little different than questions they had seen before. I knew when I put them on there that they were not the exact type of question I had on an assessment before, but I also felt that they had the requisite knowledge of the mathematics involved to solve the problems. There were two word problems on there that students had seen before. The one question I had inadvertently left off the review was a question that involved algebraic manipulation and I felt that students should have had the requisite background knowledge to successfully solve the problem. They struggled and in some cases, didn't even attempt these problems.
What I cannot for the life of me figure out is that in spite of warning students that they needed to do all of the problems on the review, they did not listen. In spite of telling them they really should take the time to put together their own note page so they could review the material, I had many students come in without a note page and I had several students who had a copy of a note page that another student had compiled for himself and that he shared. I cannot figure out why students who had done decent or well on assessments over the course of the year did so poorly on the midterm exam. What in the world did I do wrong? How can their midterm exam grades not even come close to what their grades have been all along?
Is Standards Based Grading to blame? Are my students so focused on the short term that they truly don't focus on really learning and owning the material for the long term? I honestly think this last question is a good part of the reason. I am thinking of a few students who choose to reassess (and reassess often in some cases) and they earn 4's, 4 1/2's and 5's many times but then did not do well or attempt some of these other problems at all. Am I setting up a culture in my classroom (not intentionally) emphasizes short term learning? How do I change that?