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25 November 2012

Review packet for conceptual physics trimester exam

My review assignment for the 9th grade first
trimester exam is available here.
It's a fool's errand to expect high school students of any age to simply "study" for an exam without giving them some sort of clear guidance.  And just saying "go over your old tests and problem sets" doesn't cut it.

I've always been in favor of creating assignments -- whether as part of the course right before the exam, or as an extra credit opportunity outside of class -- that themselves serve as effective exam preparation.  Perhaps the most diligent students will do more than just exam review assignments, but you can ensure that everyone has at least done a measure of preparation.

My 9th grade cumulative trimester exam included "justify your answer" questions to the tune of 60% of the exam.  We've certainly practiced justifying answers all year on homework, but since these questions take time to answer, I've only been able to ask a few of these on each test.  I needed to prepare the students for increased scrutiny of their justifications on this exam.  

Yet, I didn't want to make a review sheet entirely of "justify your answer" questions.  A review sheet doesn't help unless it's taken seriously, and done RIGHT.  Without me standing there grading their responses, the students wouldn't have gotten appropriate feedback on a full set of "justify your answer" items.

So instead I mixed in some multiple choice with some more complex items.  Many of the review sheet questions were "multiple correct," in which multiple choices were listed but any number of them could have been a correct answer.  Some review questions were ranking tasks.  Others required a numerical answer, with units.  Here's a copy of the sheet.

Point is, each question came with a huge box for the answer.  At our nacho party before the exam a teacher could quickly mark each response right or wrong; sure, it's not a scantron, but grading this was simple because we could just look at what was written in the big box.

THEN, the students had a few days before the exam to correct their wrong answers with a clear justification.  No credit was awarded unless all the corrections were done; credit was awarded based on how many of these corrections were actually, well, correct.

Interestingly, I discovered that my freshmen were just as diligent (or sometimes not-diligent) as my seniors at doing the assignment and the corrections -- about 90% of the 9th grade class turned in the corrections on time and with appropriately attempted responses, in line with what I used to get from seniors.  But, my freshmen were way LESS diligent about getting the correction right.  A whole bunch of them wrote utter BS as a justification; they failed to collaborate with their classmates or with me.  And, most of these students made mistakes on the exam similar to their mistakes on the review packet.  The moral here:  practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.  Thank you, Bosco Brown of my old marching band, for etching that saying into my brain's permanent storage.  

So for NEXT trimester's exam, I'm going to have to think of a way to make the students get the corrections right.  I'll let you know what I come up with; the suggestion box is in the comment section.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, yes. Perfect practice! I tell my students that same thing frequently when they ask why I want them to draw FBD and use units if it's "just practice".

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