September 15, 2017

3.03 Linear functions

A quick note on why I chose this assignment: I originally had picked an end-of-module test to use for this activity. However, I teach for a virtual school and academic integrity is a huge focus for us. I did not want a PDF of the actual test floating around the internet (I’m sure it’s already out there, thanks to some tech-savvy students, but as the teacher, I could not, in good faith, post that to the open web).

This assessment is an open-ended assignment (teachers in a brick-and-mortar school would likely use this as a group classwork assignment) to gauge a student’s ability to identify the key aspects of linear functions and manipulate equations in meaningful ways. Students then are required to apply the equations to make assumptions about particular situations.  They are essentially creating an algebraic representation of a real-life situation. The assessments that come before this one are multiple choice assessments, so the fact that this one is open-ended requires a higher level of mastery and effort than before. It is a good opportunity for a mid-module checkpoint to see if students are truly understanding the material or just breezing through the multiple choice parts. They are required to write in complete sentences and explain their thinking and processes.

• Students know how to show their work in a type-written format.
• Students know how to use computer software to create graphs of linear functions.
• Students understand the basic vocabulary in the assessment. (Isn’t this a valid assumption, though, since the purpose of the assessment is to determine if they do, truly, understand the vocabulary and terms?)
• Students understand the concept of “profit” as opposed to income/sale price.
• Students can follow a written list of directions that have multiple steps within each numbered segment.
• Students can interpret and apply the specifications of the included rubric to ensure they demonstrate each piece of the assignment.

The criteria for an effective assessments that I addressed in Rubric 1.0 include:

1. Assessments must allow for frequent, timely feedback.

Students receive immediate feedback on their multiple choice assignments. This one, being open ended, requires some time to grade, but all items submitted to my virtual classroom are required to be graded within 48 hours of submission. This ensures students still remember doing the assignment when they receive their grade. The fact that this assignment comes in the middle of the module rather than at the end (as in the case of a summative assessment) let’s students see if they truly have understood the material and provides them an opportunity to resubmit if they did not adequately complete each requirement.

2. Assessments must avoid overemphasizing the grade, and instead focus on meaningful feedback.

Every open-ended assignment requires informative, meaningful feedback for every student. I tell the student what he or she did well, tell them where they could improve, clear up any misconceptions they might have, offer my assistance if they aren’t understanding, and let them know that I appreciate their efforts on the assignment. Students are assigned a grade based on a rubric, but I hope that the feedback they’re given is more important to them than the grade. Students are given two additional opportunities to fix any inadequacies in order to earn more points. If I deem an assignment to be “failing,” as per the rubric, I assign a grade of 1% and require the student resubmit after receiving remediation and support. I don’t assign the “earned” grade, because then the student sees a 50% and thinks they only have to do a tiny bit more in order to “pass.” A score of 1% means the assignment was inadequate and did not meet the criteria. I would rather a student resubmit over and over again, taking constructive criticism each time and making edits, while having meaningful and supportive conversations with me, eventually resulting in a high grade, rather than assign a mediocre grade for mediocre work. I tell them that their grade is not the most important thing to me; their learning is, and their assignments should reflect that.

3. Assessments must be ongoing and continuous.

This assessment, as I stated before, comes in the middle of the module and before any tests or quizzes. This lets me see which students are grasping the material and which students need additional supports before they get to the “real” and higher stakes assessments.  Students should (hopefully) use the feedback I give them to help them understand the material more fully, and then use this information when moving on throughout the module.