Sunday, June 2, 2013

Final Week

From my standpoint, class this week went about as well as it could have, and was a great way to end the course.  The two days of school next week are exam days, so at this point the discussion portion of the course is finished, and the positive results of running the course with a Harkness philosophy were on full display.

On Tuesday, the students took the test for the final unit of the course.  For various reasons, the other honors pre-calculus teacher and I decided to make this a group test.  The "rules" for the test were:
  • the groups were slightly smaller, with 6 or 7 students in each group
  • this was not an open book nor an open note test
  • the students were to discuss the exercises as close to usual as possible
  • the test was worth 12 points, as usual, but 2 of the points came from participation in the discussion (I went from group to group noting the participation like I do every day)
  • each group turned in one test; however, each student was required to contribute to the writing of the solutions
I love stumbling upon a great idea, and boy was this one of them.  I have never seen a group test go as well as this.  There is always the concern with any group work, especially when the grade is significant, that one person will do all of the work and the others will just latch on to that one person.  That didn't happen.  All of the students participated and contributed, pretty much equally, to each of the five questions on the test, and I had no reservations assigning the grades earned by each of the groups.  In fact, the whole thing went so well that we are considering incorporating group quizzes into the course next year.  There still is, and always will be, a need for individual assessments, but considering the group-discussion  nature of the course, it really only makes sense that some of the formal assessments be group assignments.  Probably should have realized this earlier in the year.

As the students left class, I gave them a set of twelve exercises to prepare as a means of studying for the final exam, and on Wednesday and Thursday they discussed the exercises.  On Friday, I was gone at graduation rehearsal, so I prepared an additional twelve exercises for them to work on without the usual preparation at home.  These three days of discussion were the review for the exam...a far cry from the usual review for the exam which tended to consist of me going through the review exercises in detail.  The fact that they were able to get through most of the exercises on Friday without me even being in the classroom is a huge testament to the progress the students have made this year in terms of taking charge of their own education.  And as I sit here writing this on Sunday night, I have received two emails, both of which were requests for answers so they could check the work they had done.  Again, quite the change.

All in all, a great way to end the course.  Hopefully, the grading of the exams over the next couple days will be just as enjoyable.

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