Algebra 1 • Topic 3 Assessment, Before
When I first drew up this assessment, my goals were to evaluate students’ ability at simplifying linear expressions and solving linear equations. Here’s what the two questions of Form A looked like:
I had the same all-my-eggs-in-one-basket problem with this original Topic 3 assessment as I did in an earlier assessment. If students aced these two questions, I knew they were capable of what they ought to be able to do. However, if they missed one or both, I was stuck without much information. There was no gradation in the all-or-nothing results.
Another issue: the assessment focused entirely on procedural skills and demanded nothing from students in terms of demonstrating deeper conceptual understanding.
Algebra 1 • Topic 3 Assessment, After
As was the case with Topic 2 (detailed in posts here and here), I addressed the above concerns by lengthening the assessment quite a bit. The revised Topic 3 assessment weighs in at two pages and a total of ten questions.
In the first three questions, I try to get a read on whether students understand conceptually what a solution of an equation is. (For the record, what I’m looking for is something along the lines of “this value does/does not satisfy the equation,” along with numerical support—via substitution—of that claim.)
After that, students move through a series of four increasingly difficult linear equations, giving me the leveled progression I was lacking in the original assessment that would help me distinguish the “almost there” from the “completely lost.”
Next up, an error-analysis/explain-your-reasoning style question:
And to close, two more “solve” questions (including one at the same level of difficulty as the original Topic 3 assessment):
The net result of the these changes is a much stronger assessment, with improvements in at least two categories. The new assessment (1) provides me with more specific insight about student strengths and weaknesses, and (2) demands more of students in the way of critical thinking and clear communication.
I fully expect that this new assessment could be improved in half a dozen ways. Part of the beauty of teaching (and writing many of my own lessons and all of my own assessments) is the opportunity for continual improvement over the years. This job will never leave me bored!
Is there anything in particular you liked about the improvements I already made to my Topic 3 assessment? Do you have a few more ideas for making it even better? Share away!