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Kahoot! and the Pressure of High Stakes Testing

In my AP classroom, I have presented my students with a conundrum.  I have created an environment where it is OK to fail because they will get an opportunity to try again.  But, many of them will be taking the AP exam for the course in order to get college credit. This is a high stakes, high pressure test.  How do I prepare them for the test but still allow them the freedom to fail on a daily basis?

There are many high pressure professions in the world.  I can't imagine a greater pressure cooker, though, then active military duty.  Within that microcosm, it doesn't get any more life or death than being part of an explosive disposal team.  Katherine Bigelow's best picture winning film The Hurt Locker puts the viewer into the high stakes world of these brave soldiers.  It is important to note that Katherine Bigelow won the Academy Award for best director for her work on this film, the first woman to ever win this award.

This leads me to a recent classroom activity I was turned onto by a teacher at Menomonee Falls High School.  Later, I found out that some teachers in our world languages department at BCHS were using it as well.  It is called Kahoot! It is a web based trivia game that students can play along with on any device that has a web browser.  Students don't need to create an account.  They just sign in with a a specific pin for a quiz.  Then, create a nickname for the quiz.

All students are posed with multiple choice questions one at a time.

Students use their devices to answer these questions and are awarded point based on whether the answer is correct and the time it takes to respond.  After each questions the top scores are displayed.

The quizzes themselves can be written from scratch by the teacher.  Or, there are large number of public quizzes available that cover a wide range of topics.

Yesterday was the first time we did a Kahoot! in class.  I created the questions from scratch and the engagement was off the chart.  Games in the classroom are usually highly engaging and create competition.  The competition is not what I was looking to create, but it has had a wonderful side effect.  It has created the pressure cooker environment for my students. Unlike the quizzes I do on the Smart Response remotes, where students get assistance from their notes or peers, Kahoot! recreates the intensity of a testing environment where time is a factor.  Students have even commented that it is more intese than having to take a high stakes test like the ACT or other AP tests.

The Kahoot! itself is not graded, so there is no fear of it affecting their grade.  But it does create an increased sense of anxiety and desire to succeed. So, there is now a link between the pressure to succeed in a high stakes environment (even though it is artificial) and no fear of failure affecting a grade.

When I am creating a quiz, I am sure to align the questions to learning objectives.  The purpose of this alignment is so that students can still use the Kahoot! to track progress towards mastery of learning objectives. I have found that although story problems are not great in a Kahoot! some of the AP Physics questions where variables are used instead of numbers work perfectly.  Kahoot! allows for easy integration of math and Greek characters in addition to exponents. So, the questions I create can use the exact same variables found in the equations from the AP formula sheet.

So, that's why I like it.  But, what about my students?  Here's a feedback board I had my students complete.

Did I mention it's free?!

Check it out at 

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