Wednesday 22 April 2015

Show Me Your Knowledge - An Alternative to Tests

I had become fed up of marking my year 10s' fortnightly assessments. They are aiming for a grade C, and following the Higher syllabus, which means the assessments are quite challenging for them. Marking takes a lot longer when the student has got almost everything wrong.

One day I decided to do something different. I offered my class the choice. They could either do the assessment as normal, or they could Show Me Their Knowledge (Patent Pending). I explained what I meant by this. I wanted them to pour out the contents of their brains on that particular topic (it was averages) onto an A3 sheet of paper. I told them they needed to make up their own examples to demonstrate all of the skills. I gave them a list of skills so they wouldn't forget anything: mean, mode and median from a list, mmm from a frequency table, mmm from a grouped frequency table.

What was quite interesting was all of the boys chose to take the normal test, whereas all of the girls chose to Show Me Their Knowledge. And the girls loved it, they were begging me to do this every assessment. This gender difference is worth exploring in more detail, so I will save that for a separate post.

The pages that were created were impressive. Most girls did an example for each of the three sections, and heavily annotated the solution with explanations. For example, "You find the midpoint here because you don't know the actual number" then an arrow from this led to, "To get the midpoint add them together and half it or just work it out by looking at it".

Some girls put up their hands at various points and said they didn't know how to explain a certain bit. I told them that means they maybe didn't understand that bit. I told them to leave a bubble or box where they wanted to write the explanation, so that they could see there was a gap in their understanding. I told them I would help them fill that gap in the follow-up lesson.

When it came to marking, I read through the explanations and tweaked some of the wording if it wasn't quite right. I did this very neatly because girls don't like you defacing their work (male teachers please take note of this). If I thought some bits needed further explanations, I drew bubbles or boxes (copying their style) but left them blank, or started the sentence for them. For example, I might have written, "If there are two numbers in the middle..." or "The question will usually tell you to r____ your answer...".

When I gave these back, they filled in the bits they could by themselves, then I talked to them on each table to explain any bits they didn't understand. They also talked to each other to fill in the gaps. By the end, they all had a poster explaining the whole chapter. That is now a very useful resource for their revision. The best looking one I could have copied and had laminated for future classes to use.

I will continue to use this method of assessment, although I will still do some normal tests too, as at the end of the day, they will have to sit a traditional exam, and they need to be prepared for this. I can't help but think the fact that girls prefer this method suggests that maybe they are disadvantaged by our exam system and that girls could do much better if we changed this. But again, that's a post for another day.

Emma x x x


  1. Hi! Your blog is very useful for me. I will try to apply your methods in practse while testing students` knowledge.

  2. I think that your recommendations are very useful! Thank you for this blog. I will show this post for my students.

  3. I think that your methodology gives good results and therefore I will wait for each article with the continuation of the study of this topic.