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April 15, 2014

Make your own examination

I had met a teacher who corrected 10th grade board papers and said that he would fill out answers if a child was failing in the examination as failure unnecessarily ruins the child's life. He had suggested that children should just be asked to write whatever they know. I had started preparing graded papers for different children in the final examination...but I wondered if I holding back from experimenting the whole way.

For the term examinations there was scope of formative assessment being useful for areas that I could work with the kids on, but this is not the case with the year end examinations. Perhaps, like a Dojo it was time for the kids to show what they could do.

I gave the areas we had covered over the year and a score for the questions in that area. For the Udavi 7th graders this was:
A=(addition), S=(subtraction), M=(multiplication) and D(division)
Integers  -  ASMD- 10 marks
Fractions - MD - 20 marks
Fractions - AS (including using %) - 10 marks
Decimals - ASMD - 10 marks
Algebra - Curves, Puzzles, equations, story for equation - 10 marks
Geometry - rotation, angles of a triangle, relational (complementary, etc) angles - 10 marks
Practical Geometry - 10 marks
Ratio/Proportion - 10 marks
Area - 10 marks
Puzzles - 10 marks
Anything else they could think of could be for another 10 marks.

The guideline for making a question in any area was that 
a 'sum' is for 2 marks, 
a word problem is for 4/5 marks, 
a picture question is for 2 marks, 
a picture question that involves algebra is for 4/5 marks and
the puzzle can be just one and is 10 marks.
To cover 10 marks in an area you could use 2 (5 mark) word problems or 5 (2 mark) sums.

I wanted to see if children given a chance would just do sums and check meta-cognition - can the kids really do the questions they come up with.

One of the first questions the children asked is if they can make the questions really simple. I let them know that this demonstrates what they can do, so if simple questions is what they can do, so be it. The idea of demonstrating how much you can do appealed to them though I was not sure to what extent it would be implemented.

I mentioned that I expected them to understand what they were doing and not just copy a question from an example and repeat it by rote. I mentioned that I would change the numbers in the question paper if I felt they were too tailored.

Though I did not allow the cheat sheet that I usually do, stating that its their own examinations and they know the questions I did allow it to be open book on the examination day.

The children were very excited with the prospect and worked seriously in class, through only a few students worked at home to complete it and and we made most of the question papers over two classes. The classes also served as an opportunity to review some of the topics that the children wanted. 

Come exam day, Fif (clinical clown) had made a bunch of clown noses with plastic bottle caps, so it was quite a sight with the kids writing their examinations with clown noses. One kid in her feedback even remarked that this doesn't feel like an exam, it feels like a party.

I used this time for retrospection and did a one on one interview with each child. The inputs were interesting and something I need to ponder over.

I have put together a chart of how each of the 17 children organized their paper in Level 1: sums (blue), Level 2: advanced sums with multiple operations (brown), Level 3: Word problems and those involving abstraction in algebra (green). These fill up the score of the bottom 100. It was interesting that almost all children tried at least 10% of word problems. The graph also shows how they did in their examination from 100-200, 7 children were able to do more than 90% of what they felt they could and 6 of them were confident enough to use more then 40% of Level 2/3 questions in their paper.

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