Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Dreaded Final, Part 2

Well, the finals that I talked about a couple of weeks ago have come and gone.

I had some plans, some hopes, and some fears, and think that, on balance, it went pretty well.

Using PollEverywhere, I surveyed the two sections, asking them to reflect on the final: what preparation did and didn't work, and how they think that it represented what they knew.


"The preparation that worked for me was to memorize the problems and use some of the problems in the back of the book. What didn't work for me were the harder problems by myself."
  •  This seems telling to me.  I really feel like the first sentence (memorizing) implies the second (trouble with something that you didn't memorize).  I try to communicate this all the time, but it's difficult when memorization has worked so well for so long with so many of them.
"i wrote down all the equations i needed to know and key ideas that went with them. i asked questions before the test and did all my reassessments."

"I wrote down all the equations and reassessed before the exam. I did a few goalless problems on my own."

  • Woo-hoo, SBG!  Reassessing isn't as much about the grade as it is about increasing your understanding.  Doing is more effective than reading, watching, etc.
"I wish I had worked a little bit more in the ratios area."

"having more practice problems would have been helpful for me"
  •  Fair enough.  Though we've done lots of WCYDWT? problems, which also require students to construct their own questions, we'll practice goal-less problems more often in the future.
"so generally I felt that while I was doing the goalless problems at home I was never really sure if the questions I was asking were the "right" questions to ask or if there were any "right" questions to ask or if doing goalless problems was the right way to study. I attempted to read possible questions and mimic them with regards to the setups you provided but i'm not sure if it worked. It seemed like it worked better than just trying the goalless problems. I wish that I had done a few with you rather than try to figure it out on my own.  

"I think doing problems from the book helped me see different ways to solve the questions"

"The preparation I did was less about specific problems than about overall concepts . I made sure that i could do basic to middle range difficulty in all the standards before pushing to harder problems . This preparation worked great for me."
  • Concepts... yeah!  I also like the differentiation between different difficulty levels with the same skills.  There are flavors of SBG that work that way explicitly.  Mine does it implicitly, but it's something to think about in the future.


"I felt rushed to do this since I felt like I spent more time coming up with variables for the problems than solving them."
"I liked the test, it gave us a chance to do well on the test."

"I liked how it gave us a chance to show what we know than specifically asking us to find something."

"I also felt that after I left the exam there were all sorts of things I knew but didn't get the chance to work it into the exam, but overall I did feel that this format of test had the right concept and I just needed to find a different way to prepare for it." 

"This format , though i did well on it , is very stressful . Because of no limit , I did not stop writing until all my time was up. It was difficult for me to feel satisfied with not either filling everything in or doing everything I am capable of doing. Despite this, my grade reflected what I thought it should be in terms of what i knew so i can't really complain." 
  • I'm pretty pleased with all of that.  Every format of test has its own quirks, but I'm going to stick with this one as a final format for a while.  I really think that I got to see a better picture of what they knew on this one, decoupled from their ability to decode the questions or picture the scenarios that I ask about.
Upgrades for Next Time:
  • We'll do more explicit goal-less problems throughout the course, so that there shouldn't be any "newness" factor.
  • I need to account for the large number of standards vs. short time issue.  We did all of the mechanics that we learned in 90 minutes.  I gave everyone a 4% lift to account for the fact that it's not unreasonable for someone to miss a concept or two with those constraints.  I don't want to just select some of the concepts, because the goal is to see everything that they know.   The time is 2 hours for the spring final, but there'll be E and M concepts added as well.  Hmmm...  Comments and suggestions welcome!
  • I'll print out paper for them to use, with a big box for scenario number in the upper right corner.  Numbers in the upper left + staple in the upper left = hard to read.

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