Day 149: Rethinking Test Formats

Monday, 10 April 2017

For the last five years, I’ve assessed almost exclusively on computers. The test software I use[1], allows for instant feedback like this and this. Over time and with different groups of students, I’ve seen this system work better and worse.

Recently, I’ve been frustrated with the process. Problems I was seeing included:

  • Students showing next to no work on paper,
  • my own lack of testing led to a number of errors,
  • some students getting upset over the preliminary grade reported by the computer scoring system (before I even looked at their partial credit), and
  • fixation on numerical answers over thought processes or partially correct work.

So this week, I went back to paper assessments and I think they have solved all but the last of my problems.

One feature students love about the computer quizzes is the ability to immediately know about a mistake and the 2nd chance I give them at each problem. I was able to implement that on paper, and it’s totally Frank Noschese’s quiz idea, which despite being over six years old, is my favorite thing I’ve ever gotten off of Twitter (thank you, Frank!).

Students do the whole quiz, then take their paper to the side of the room where I’ve laid out answer keys, and check their answers against mine. This student, for instance, missed question 3.


The erasure marks on the force diagram are telling.

But then, here’s where I added my own twist — everyone goes back to their desks and takes their time to rework the problem. This student left a great note to themself:


This student note is gold: “if (@rest, constant velocity) equilibrium, all forces horizontally & vertically balanced no matter the direction force is applied.”


[1] Moodle then WebAssign


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