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There are No Stupid Mistakes, Just Stupid Tests.

As we at Brookfield Central finish up our 1st term final exams, I want to tell you a story that helped push me to a realization. A student came up to me the other day to talk about her test in AP Physics.  She said that she would have done so much better were it not for her stupid mistakes.  She went on to show me not how she made math errors in the free response portion of the test, but how she had the correct answer circled in the multiple choice section of the test but then second guessed herself and changed the answer. She went on to show me that all of the 5 multiple choice questions she got wrong, out of 10, were ones where she had first circled the correct answer only to switch it to a different answer.

Now, it's important to point out that this student wasn't looking to get points back by showing me this. She was just looking for some sympathy.  She wanted to show me that she knew the material despite her poor grade.  It was frustrating  for me to see that this test had misrepresented her understanding of the material.  I have a policy in my course that students can complete corrections to get minor points back.  Once corrections are completed, students have the opportunity to be retested on the objective in an attempt to show that they have now achieved mastery.

But back to this test, it was the first thing that made me think that what I was doing in AP Physics wasn't working.  So what is the solution?  In the 2013-14 school year, I implemented a project based learning model in my course.

This is a presentation outlining the process I went through that first year.  I was lucky  enough to be able to present at the CESA #1's 5th Annual Convening focusing on personalized learning.



This video was in the presentation, but I think goes to show the benefits of Project Based Learning from the mouths of the students who experienced it.



So starting this week, we are getting rid of tests in my AP Physics course.  If the goal of the AP redesign was to put a greater emphasis on science process, why is my ultimate form of assessment still a paper test? Especially a test that doesn't result in an accurate measurement of what my students know.

In order to measure student progress towards learning objectives, students will be required to complete projects which incorporate multiple objectives.  It will be the students' duty to first understand the objective completely and then apply it to the larger project.  Projects will have individual and group components.  These objectives will need to be addressed in both parts of the project.

But what about the AP Test? Well, that's easy.  I can still ask my students test questions, I just don't have to give them a grade for it.  In my mind, it makes sense to take the time to learn how to attack stupid test questions.  So, every other day we will take a quiz.  In my class, quizzes are practice opportunities in which students will be able to measure what they know.  It is not a grade.  But I'll save quizzes for another post.

As we continue through term 2, this blog will highlight project design, deployment, successes, and failures.

So it looks like AP Physics for my students will be Mo Physics, Mo Projects.


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