One of my most favorite EdTech people, Matt Miller, author of Ditch that Textbook, recently wrote a blog post about the “gotcha” game on tests and quizzes. He describes the “gotcha” game as one where the test or the teacher is trying to catch what students DON’T know, as opposed to what they DO know. Miller writes, “Assessments should show what students know, not catch what they don’t know.” And there you have it.

The key to avoiding the gotcha game is to think outside the box. I know what you’re thinking, “This is going to be more work on my part.” Well, you’re right. But we all know that doing what’s best for kids isn’t always what’s easiest for us. The good news is, iLearn (Moodle) has your back.

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Brain Dumps

One strategy to try, is to include an “everything I know but wasn’t asked” question. The idea behind this is sort of a “brain dump.” In this strategy, students write everything they know about a certain topic. This way, they can show exactly what they know, but weren’t asked. Now teachers can look for evidence of mastery of the subject. By adding an Essay question at the end of each topic on a quiz in iLearn, teachers can provide an easy place to “brain dump.” Teachers can make the question worth 0 points and optional, but can also override test scores to award more points if they wanted to offer credit for the information submitted.

Certainty Based Marking

By using Certainty Based Marking, or CBM, students can decide how confident they are in their answers on a test. There are several reasons why CBM is an excellent test choice, but the three that Matt Miller talks about are:

  • self-produced feedback
  • help students to know what they need to study in the future
  • help teachers decide on what follow-up instruction needs to take place

Matt Miller states in his post that these questions should be ungraded, and this can be set up in your iLearn course through the use of a multiple choice question where all choices are correct. This will, however, award a point for the question. But what is even better, is that iLearn actually has a built-in CBM question behavior that awards points based on the student’s certainty of his/her answer. For example, if a student answers correctly, with high certainty, they are awarded 6 points for the question. If they answer correctly with low certainty, they are only awarded 1 point. Conversely, if they answer incorrectly with a high certainty that their answer is correct, they lose 6 points, and if they answer incorrectly with a low certainty, they are docked 1 point.

For more information on CBM in iLearn, check out the help page at https://docs.moodle.org/38/en/Using_certainty-based_marking#CBM_Grades_and_Scores .

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Explain your Answers

On a brain dump, students basically write about everything and anything they encountered on the test (or didn’t), while an “explain your answers” question type gives students the opportunity to explain why they answered each question the way they did. This affords students a chance to explain their response in case a question was poorly-worded or there was a misinterpretation of what was being asked. This way, a teacher can tell whether a student grasped the concept or not, despite a wrong answer.

In iLearn, a teacher would simply add a zero-point essay question after each test question. This would make the essay question optional, and allow the teacher to override test questions where the student’s explanation showed understanding of the concept.

Student-Created Questions

Let’s face it, it takes a good amount of time to create a quality test. However, students may not appreciate the time, effort and goal of said test. They don’t understand the effort that goes into creating an assessment that is fair and unbiased. Why not let them do the work and make up the questions themselves? Much like teaching a topic to others helps you better understand the topic yourself, writing test questions will make students better test-takers. Matt Miller suggests three questions to ask students about writing test questions:

  • Ask them how they could show what they know on an assessment
  • Ask them to create some questions that could be used on an assessment
  • Ask them what they think is fair or unfair on assessments

The feedback you receive could be very eye-opening, as well as provide you with some quality test questions.

To gather this information, you could simply create an assignment in iLearn, and have students add to it as they come up with material.

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Writing good, quality assessments is a difficult job. Grading them could be even harder. Check out Matt Miller’s blog post for suggestions on grading. As always, if you have questions or comments, please contact the Tech Coach!

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