Algebra 1 • Topic 2 Assessment, Before
The second half of my original Topic 2 assessment assessed whether students were able to evaluate expressions involving integers and various operations (including radicals, rational exponents, and a few other things). My original approach included a single question, with everything all smashed together:
For those who were able to evaluate the expression correctly, I got precisely the information I needed (“Johnny can do this, that, and the other thing.”). But for those who answered the question incorrectly… Was it because they were lost on everything? Or because they struggled with one skill in particular? While a close look at their work would often reveal the answer to that latter question, I find that I’ve stripped one of the benefits of SBG (specific insight into specific strengths and weaknesses) right out of the question.
Algebra 1 • Topic 2 Assessment, After
To address that weakness, I bumped this section of the assessment up from a single question to several (three, in fact):
I lose a minute or two more of class time to administer the assessment, though I gain a quick and clear sense of who’s struggling with exponentiation, rational exponents, and simplifying expressions involving multiple radicals. Note that while grouping symbols are entirely absent from #9 above, they make an appearance in some of the other assessment forms, including this one:
Something’s Still Missing…
Even with this more discrete-ified set of questions—which I view as an improvement over the original—I still feel like this assessment is short on critical thinking and “explaining your reasoning.” A nice quick addition might be to present students with an expression (similar to #9 above) with two (or three) incorrect step-by-step approaches (each of which has exactly one error). Ask the students to identify the error in each approach and then show their own (100% correct) step-by-step solution. Here’s a quick mockup:
I’ve now written four of these “better-assessments-in-sixty-seconds” posts. Since I’ve taken two posts to address each topic (the content fell rather naturally into four categories, rather than only two), I might want to consider breaking these apart for the purpose of grade book entries. I might even leave the assessment handout itself unchanged, but the idea of more refined grade book categories for tracking student mastery certainly has its appeal.
Thoughts on that last thought? Comments on something else? You know what to do.
P.S. Disclaimin’ the Naming’
I’m terrible at coming up with imaginary student names for my handouts. So I often use my students’ names or my kids’ names (I have lots to choose from in this second category, now!). Today I borrowed some names from a list of fictional butlers. Oh, I also have a preference for names to follow an A, B, C, etc., pattern.