Honors students failing open notes test...grr

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by beccmo, Nov 3, 2011.

  1. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Nov 3, 2011

    I gave my honors physics classes a 14 question test. 13 of the questions involved critical thinking and problem solving (diagrams and math). I thought I would be nice and allow this to be open notes, so students could see plenty of sample problems we had done in class and on homework.

    Disappointment #1: Honors students needed 2 full class periods (100 minutes) to complete this test.
    Disappointment #2: One third of the students failed.

    Guess I will prepare to have lots of requests for tutoring appointments next week.
     
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  3. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Nov 3, 2011

    I do worse on open book tests. I am the worse at second guessing myself. When I was in college I would study hard and try not to open the book. I would do better if I just went with my gut.
     
  4. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Nov 3, 2011

    I find many of my students (even honors level) are absolutely terrible at critical thinking. They've gotten fantastic at memorizing and regurgitating information verbatim. And in turn, they've gotten terrible at actual thought. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but I've seen similar frustrations in my upper level history courses.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 4, 2011

    Kids frequently blow open book tests for a variety of reasons:

    1. They tend not to study. They KNOW they'll have all the answers at their disposal.

    2. Time is a huge issue. Having not studied, they don't know where to find what. So the entire test period tends to be a huge scavenger hunt, as they rifle through their notes trying to find the answers.

    You might consider telling them they'll be retested on the same material, minus the notebooks... or with only a 3x5 index card full of notes. I think the results will probably be a lot better.
     
  6. Joxepa

    Joxepa Rookie

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    Nov 4, 2011

    if I may chime in here as a student, I think you'd have better results with the note card or "cheat sheet" method. I personally do better with those because you have to go through the material to find the important stuff and you are limited with what you can write down so you still have to study. many of my classes allow this and I think it works well for most of us students, but of course i'm not in high school, and we may just be used to that system.
     
  7. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Nov 4, 2011

    I remember having only a limited time for open book/notes. Like the last 10 mins of the test or something of that nature.

    I also remember the note card method in college. I agree you study and put your "tougher" things on the card. Or something that jogs your memory.
     
  8. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Nov 4, 2011

    I like the note card idea. One of my math professors allowed us to use that and I found I rarely had to look at the card during the actual test.

    Last year, I gave my 6th graders an open book pop quiz. We had done the odd problems for homework and they all said they understood the material, so I told them to do the even problems for the quiz. They bombed...even though I pointed out the book tells them exactly which sample problems to look at for each section.

    They didn't have to go through pages and pages of info. Everything they needed was on the two pages preceeding the quiz and we had covered that material the day before.

    So I decided to give them a retest. First, I assigned the same even problems as homework and we went over them in class the next day. The day after that, I gave them the same pop quiz with the same questions again.

    Even though they had worked on those 10 problems 3 days out of 4, I STILL had students fail the test...and not just fail, but completely BOMB the test. One kid made a "10". :eek: I couldn't believe it.

    Later in the year, I allowed them to use the notecard, but I only had 1 student out of 40 actually take advantage of that.

    Finally, I told them they could use their math journals (which they were supposed to be using for their daily notes and class assignments). When they said "But we didn't write that down", it was the perfect opportunity to reply "Then perhaps you should take better notes on the next section."

    Of the three methods, allowing them to use their journals actually worked the best for me.
     
  9. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Nov 5, 2011

    My calculus and physics teachers allowed us to have a 5X7 index card for every test. We could put anything we wanted on it, but we couldn't have anything more. That way we actually had to think about what would be important to know. I always had formulas, notes about things I forgot on my calculator, and notes about things I'd messed up on other assignments. I was really helpful.
     
  10. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Nov 5, 2011

    Normally I only allow an index card for equations, since there can be many possible choices to problem solve as the year goes on. I thought I would try allowing the use of notes so that they could see sample problems to assist. Critical thinking skills are not what I expected from honors students. I know they will get better with practice. Ironically these same students do wonderful in their calculus class. It seems physics story problems are a different beast altogether, causing confusion in the most able student.

    On a positive note: after students learned of their scores, several commented that they obviously need to actually write the sample problems we do in class. Students are already wanting to come in to take a retest.
     
  11. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Nov 5, 2011

    Application of math can be tough for kids. Some really struggle with it and depending on the level of math application in their algebra series and pre-calc series math classes, they may not know how to set up and apply math to life examples. They may have had very limited application of algebra in their instruction. The other problem I see with kids and physics is making sure they remember the step of converstion prior to plugging in the numbers. I do know that our math curriculum is weak on application and relies heavily on understanding the sequence to solve equations not real-life math problems.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nov 6, 2011


    Sometimes, when they get stuck on the homework, recopying the model problems has some value.

    And honestly, at this point in the year, Calculus isn't incredibly hard. It doesn't require a whole lot of problem solving skills yet- it's more like VERY advanced algebra until they hit integration.

    It appears that your kids HAVE learned something.
     
  13. bondo

    bondo Cohort

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    Nov 9, 2011

    In college, I remember a "formulas" only sheet for certain math classes. I still had to learn to apply the formulas and the components, but not a complex, and often long formula. For other classes, the notecard method was used. I usually wrote down memory devices for longer lists. Did you give an outline for the test or review sheet? In my experience kids tend to study better when they have a guide because they KNOW it will be on the test.
     
  14. Different

    Different New Member

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    Nov 23, 2011

    In my years tutoring physics, I have found that teaching approach is as important as teaching the concepts.

    I have my students write every value they are given or find along the way down the left side of their sheet of paper. Then have them skip a few lines and write what they are trying to find. Next, they draw a free body diagram off to the right (or two if they are dealing with both movement and rotation). After that, they list a formula that uses the given values (which are conveniently listed down the side of their page). After each formula they use, they find more values, and list them down the side of their paper too.

    The benefit to this method, whether it is a chemistry, math, or physics problem, is that it always reduces word problems to a set of values which better utilize their knowledge. As an added bonus, revision and grading become easier since you can tell very quickly where they went wrong and assess what their weaknesses are.

    Also don't forget to have all students submit test corrections to demonstrate learning, since allowing a student to not learn something tells them that it wasn't important enough for them to learn in the first place.
     
  15. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Nov 24, 2011


    I also teach AND model this problem solving method. It is very useful. Unfortunately it seems that I am the first to require "all that work" to solve a problem and am meeting with resistance from some. This is nothing new, and I know from past experience that many will embrace the method and recognize its usefulness in other courses after high school. It is always a good feeling when past students visit and mention how easy other subjects seem since physics; all due to learning how to solve problems.
     

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