A few weeks ago I posted the tweet below (see figure ) about how my students were applying the law of conservation of mass. I gave @ChemixLab a shout out because I had created the images of the balances included in the questions using the Chemix platform.
Figure 1: September 2, 2019 Tweet
A few people commented and contacted me regarding the design of my assessments, particularly the three boxes at the bottom of the page (see figure 2). This small addition to my assessments has helped me reinforce the culture of learning in my classroom. I use a standards based assessment and reporting system in all my classes so I don’t give traditional exams or quizzes. Instead of end of unit tests, I give frequent assessments targeted to one or two learning objectives. I have found this system of grading places the emphasis on learning and encourages student growth. In my class, students can use the feedback they receive on their assessments to improve their understanding. They have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and growth. Their grades are updated to reflect new understanding - this encourages learning and doesn’t penalize students for needing more time to master a concept. (You can read more about SBG in Lauren Stewart’s blog post!)
Figure 2: Boxes to use at bottom of assessments
I did not create these boxes, or come up with the idea. My brilliant colleague, Jeremy Horner (@chschemcrazy on twitter), has been using them for several years and he was kind enough to share the idea with me. He created them and showed me how he embedded them in every assessment at the end of each learning objective.
First, the placement at the bottom of the page is not an aesthetic choice. Since moving the scores to the bottom of the page, I’ve noticed students actually read the feedback I provide. They need to scan the entire document before seeing how I scored their understanding on the concept. Second, I ask them to rate their own understanding before handing in the assessment. This encourages them to think about their own learning. It’s important information for both them and me. They are learning the importance of honest self-reflection. There is no penalty for rating themselves lower, and their rating can help foster conversations with me about their challenges. This is a simple idea, but one that could have significant payoffs for you and your students.
This is the very first assessment I give on the topic and my students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate more in depth knowledge of the law of conservation of mass. One of the skills we work on during the first unit is the difference between a closed and open system.