the problem with points #edchat #sbar

the problem with points, or, things students said about me while complaining to another teacher, or, how cramming sucks.

"The test only had twenty questions on it.  That's not enough!  You could only get 2 wrong, or else you'd get a B and that would totally ruin my average.  5 percentage points is too many points for one question to be worth." 

I guess you could say this student keeps the big picture in mind, it's just not the same big picture that I'd like to keep in mind.  This student is looking down the road at their GPA.  In the interest of that GPA, this student would like all tests to consist of 25 questions or more, so they can continue with their successful strategy of answering questions quickly by parroting/paraphrasing definitions from the textbook.  They're good at that, as they should be -- they've practiced reading textbooks for many years now.  This student knows they don't understand the topic well enough to reason out the answer, so if they're going to have to guess at a definition they don't remember, then there should be a large enough number of questions to dilute this possible error.  To this student, studying means reading the textbook until you remember enough of the stuff in it to get an A.

Apparently, I found a way to defeat the cramming strategy:  put only a few questions on the test.  But that brings me  back to my previous problem of asking my students to be mind readers and guess what I think is important enough for those few questions.

Aside from those resilient students who encouraged me to try standards based grading, this is the other type of student that motivated me to move towards SBG.  The cramming strategy students employ is biased towards fast readers and processors, and disadvantages students who have typical or above-average intelligence, but need more time for reading and understanding.  I'm tired of ranking, tracking, and placing students in honors classes based on how quickly they can read.  I'm ready to let students show me what they know in varied ways.

So for that student, in a way, I'll be giving you what you want.  Lots of chances for reassessment, but it won't be a way to improve your guessing average -- it will be ways to show me what you can really do.

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