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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Experiment #2

Many of you weren't reading when I posted Experiment #1, so I'll take a second to clue you in. The Experiment posts are where I mull over an idea I have. In most cases, it's something I would like to try with my future students, but am still working out the theoretical kinks.

Recently, I've been thinking more about how I would like to design my tests. Instead of being the mean teacher who makes the hard tests, I was thinking about letting the students write it themselves. Each student, under my supervision, writes one multiple choice style question. Over the course of several drafts, I will help the student make any necessary clarifications or corrections. The student must explain why all answers were chosen. They must do their best to predict how a test-taker might make a mistake on their problem, thereby providing the "wrong" answers to go alongside the correct solution. This will not only help them better understand the techniques we are using, but will also help in taking standardized tests, where the show will be on the other foot. I expect they will design a test that is much harder than any I would give, and they will have only themselves to blame.

I will then compile the individual questions into a single test to be given at a predetermined time. Of course, there will be a certain amount of collusion on their parts. In theory, with total cooperation they could share all answers and each get a perfect score. To temper this, I will not only award points for correct answers, but will give each student one bonus point for each of his/her peers that was tripped up by the question he/she submitted. This should give an incentive toward competition. The opposing forces of selfishness and altruism ought to make for an interesting outcome, to say the least. In a class of 30 students, the top possible score would be 129%, a perfect 100% plus 29 bonus points, one for each classmate. The lowest score ought to be 3.3%, since we can assume the students will get their own questions correct.

That's basically the concept, and I have no idea how it would turn out. I thought of trying to predict the outcome beginning with a typical bell curve and going from there, but there were way too many assumptions to make. I think I'm just going to have to try it and see how it goes. Comments would be very much appreciated on this post, especially from those of you who are have some experience teaching and are not simply talking out of your ass like me.

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