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The Best Offense Is a Great Defense

If you've read any of my previous posts you know how I feel about the current state of student assessment. For those of you who are not caught up, simply put, this is how I feel.



In my last post, I ended with the question "What makes a good assessment?"  I have come to realize very quickly, and this is not an original idea, that the best assessment is one that the teacher doesn't write.

At the end of last term, I gave my AP physics students the option of taking a traditional paper and pencil test as we had been doing all term or completing something I've termed an Objective Mastery Defense.  Turns out the students like it and some said that it was the best innovation I have brought to the classroom.  What is it and why did they love it?  I'll save myself some typing and let my students explain it all.  I took all the video today and cut it on my phone during 4th block. So, please forgive the uneven audio levels.  It's my hope to have a more complete video of the process with student examples by the end of the semester.




So, what does a teacher need to complete this?  Not much, just clear objectives, willing students, and the flexibility to make time in class (or outside of class) to let your students speak.

How do I grade the defense?  Well the rubric is pretty simple as you can see below.  Just the learning objectives on a 0 - 4 scale.

Objective Mastery Defense Rubric

Objective 1: I can design an experimental test of an application of the principle of the conservation of linear momentum for a two-object interaction that is explosion, predict an outcome of the experiment using the principle, analyze data generated by that experiment, and evaluate the match between the prediction and the outcome.



4
3
2
1
0
All components meet completely and connections made beyond classroom
All components meet completely
One component is incomplete
Two components incomplete
1 component missing


Objective 2: I can classify a given situation as explosion and use conservation of linear momentum to solve for missing variables, and calculate their values.



4
3
2
1
0
All components meet completely and connections made beyond classroom
All components meet completely
One component is incomplete
Two components incomplete
1 component missing


The great thing about the Objective Mastery Defense is that it also ties in Common Core Literacy Standards.


Speaking and Language is one of the four areas of the Common Core Literacy Standards and anchor standard 4 in speaking and language ties specifically to the defense.  Is reads as follows:

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

In addition the 1st anchor standard in writing is specifically about being able to present effective arguments.. The anchor standard reads as follows:

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

So you can give traditional paper and pen tests, but give students opportunities for retakes.  You can have students demonstrate their mastery of objectives through a defense with a teacher led Q & A.  So, why not try it out.  Trust me, your students will thank you for the opportunity.

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