Update: Managing Extra Tests

At this point (just over 3/4 of the way through), I’ve written 221 extra tests this year for my 44 students. Extra tests are individual tests That’s in addition to the 72 in-class tests so far this year (and the 2 end-of-semester exams). Since I last wrote about keeping track of extra testing, I’ve made some small changes to my process and found some extra tricks that have become more and more helpful (especially as the number of tests has grown).

This post is a (possibly boring) musing about the ways that I keep myself organized for creating the weekend tests (a.k.a. reassessments). I thought I would write it anyway, though, in case it (a) helps someone else get an idea for making their own work/system more manageable and/or (b) someone reading it has (and shares) suggestions that could help me do this process in a better way.

I also have been thinking a lot about how I would change my process/grading scheme to work for 2 or 3 times as many students as I currently teach. I’ll pull together those thoughts in a separate post, though.

Objective Checklist

Last year, I gave in-class tests about once (sometimes twice) per unit. This year, I give more frequent, shorter tests (we call them “quizzes”, but same difference). I used to have a separate sheet that I would use to mark up each student’s score on the objectives. I would staple it to their test when I finished grading. With the shorter tests, most of which are only one sheet of paper, having an entire page to add on for each test seemed excessive. I now put the checklist right on the test itself (at the end or bottom). So the back page of a quiz might look like the following. In one of my sections of Honors Physics (actually, since this post has taken me a long time to finish writing, both sections are now doing this work), the students have gotten to the point where they always grade their own quiz after marking it up (all of my students mark up their own quizzes in colored pen when they finish for the instant feedback loop closure, but the regular classes leave the grading to me). I have 1 out of 20 who never takes it very seriously (blue writing is mine, the red belongs to the student): The other 19 are thoughtful (though some are better than others at understanding when they have or have not demonstrated mastery—hopefully they will improve as they practice!). I don’t use their score at all (nor do I even look at it before reading through and doing my own marking of their quiz), but it is interesting to note how they perceived their own work. The blue writing here is mine; the green belongs to the student.I do the same thing for extra tests. Last year’s extra tests were very free-form and did not get scanned, printed, or even thought about much before they happened. This year’s process (which involves applying for a test a couple of days ahead of time) has been much saner for all involved. The premeditation of the tests also lets me print the objective list right on them.

Quick note about the scores above: The dashes mean that I didn’t take data on that objective (many possibilities—they didn’t have time to finish the quiz, they misinterpreted the question and the question they answered didn’t give me good insight about their abilities, they made a mistake that I deemed to be related to a harder skill (like, say, a mistake in drawing a diagram that was due to their misunderstanding about circular motion, not about the directions of forces), I mistakenly put that objective on the back without any questions relating to it, etc.). For more about 0’s, 1’s, and 2’s, read the more detailed information about my whole grading schema.

Creating Extra Tests

The folder containing out-of-class assessments has grown into a jungle as the number of tests stored there has entered the hundreds.

To find my way through the jungle as I try to make up the extra tests each weekend, I need to be able to

  • keep from giving the same (or incredibly similar) problems to the same students
  • quickly find problems I’ve used for other students that would work for the current test I’m crafting
  • keep track of how many extra tests a student has taken (and when they took them) to inform comment writing

Until the problem database that we started imagining last summer becomes a reality, I need to keep myself organized in another way. Being able to search my computer (including the text inside the files) has been the lifesaver so far.

I can search my entire Out of class assessments folder for a particular objective (be careful to make sure to select that folder since it seems to default to “This Mac” each time and you initially get noisy results—as long as you stay in the search mode, though, it will keep searching just that folder, so you only have to change that once each session). Since each test has that checklist/grading sheet right inside of it, and since the computer searches the contents of my files, I can quickly see every test that contains, for example, objective 9.4 (which, for me, happens to be 9.4  B  CFPM  I can use the conservation of energy to calculate the escape velocity for an object.).

With the “quick look” feature on the mac (press the space bar on a file instead of double-clicking it), I can quickly look through each test and see what question I used on it (arrow keys while in the “quick look” view will move between the files—no waiting for files to open, no mousing around). If I find a question I want, I can open just that old test and copy and paste it into my new one.

If a student has taken a test on that objective before, I can use quick look to check which questions I gave them on the previous tries.

I can search for the name of one student to quickly see all the tests that he has taken outside of class this year, and I can search by date (since I always name the files that way) to see all the quizzes I’ve made so far for the next day (or for some previous day, if I wanted that).

Storing Scanned Tests

Earlier in the year, I was scanning each test and putting it into my Evernote note that I keep for the student (these notes are for my records and especially for writing comments (which we do at least 3 times per year for each student); I never share the note with the student or anyone else). I liked being able to scroll through all of their quizzes, but I didn’t like that the large images buried any text (the comments) that I put into their note.

My new method is to scan each individual quiz to its own note. I have my scanner (see below) set to automatically save each new item as its own Evernote note, making it faster than my previous process (which involved having to name each file and drag it into the end of the student’s note). I make the title of the note the name of the student and the quiz number (e.g. Jamie Quiz #24). I can easily search for all of Jamie’s quizzes or for all of Quiz #24. The individual student notes can go back to containing mostly text, and I can more easily share a quiz with a student when they lose (or didn’t bring) their own copy and want to reference it while meeting with me. The notes have a button to press that will put the shared URL on my clipboard.

The scanner I’m using is a Fujitsu Scansnap. It scans both sides of the paper in color on one pass through the little guy. When students come in to test, I almost always have them look at their test with me right when they turn it in. We mark it up quickly, put some numbers on the back, enter it into ActiveGrade (though sometimes I do that part later if a line is forming), scan it, and let them take the quiz with them when they leave without my having to carry it around for any length of time at all.

Your Process?

Okay, enough rambling on from me. Any ideas? Suggestions? Share your own process in the comments?

15 thoughts on “Update: Managing Extra Tests

  1. Kelly, this is really helpful. It’s given me some ideas on how to modify my workflow. Although I like the idea of scanning the documents as they turn them in, it is a little intimidating to me because I imagine my Evernote account would explode. I also think this will be helpful to people starting out. I know when I first started using SBG I was very unsure what the workflow would look like. Thanks for this peek inside your implementation of SBG.

    1. Thanks! I don’t think Evernote will explode. 🙂 I’ve never come close to maxing out my monthly quota. And so long as you give them titles so you can search, they are really easy to find again.

    1. Cool! 🙂 I should probably be more careful about how I archive the problems themselves that I’m using so that I could make things easier for myself in the future. Your solution looks really interesting, though it seems like it would work best with things like multiple choice questions (which I basically never use, a luxury of having < 50 students, probably). It's definitely closer to my dream of the problem database, though!

  2. You are so amazing on so many levels. I love so many of your ideas that it makes me want to come to your school and just be your student teacher for a year. And I don’t even teach science! Anyway, your workflow is very similar to mine (when I saw your folder with their reassessments named, I was like: I DO THAT! I DO THAT!!!), the big difference is that I don’t do the scanning or have students put their own perceived score (I also grade out of 5, not 2). I love archiving, so the idea of having a digital archive of all my students’s work is super appealing to me, but I can’t quite see what the digital thing does for the students. Is it just so they can have an organized place with all their work and not lose any of it? Or does more happen with it? In other words, once the document has been scanned and goes to Evernote, what happens? Also, do you scan their original assessments too? (I suspect the answer is yes.)


    1. Sam, you flatter me too much! You know, you’re not so far from Delaware. You must come visit sometime. Please!

      Re: Evernote, I typically don’t share the scanned quizzes with the kids at all. They’re basically there for my own purposes (though in actuality, I rarely look up a quiz more than once). I’ve occasionally shared a particular note with a student when they were meeting with me in the lab and didn’t bring their entire binder or had lost their quiz but wanted to talk about a particular problem they’d done.

      And yes, I scan everything. They lose things a lot. They leave things everywhere (I guess because they live here, they sometimes start thinking of everywhere as being their home, so many just leave books, papers, binders, etc all over the place).

      At one point this year, I thought that next year I would make a notebook for each student and share the entire notebook with them so that they could always go to the same URL and find all of the quizzes (updated as soon as I scanned in a new one). I think it would be too much work for me (putting the notes in notebooks is more of a pain than anything else, and having 50 new notebooks would drive me crazy). I also think that only maybe 3 kids would actually care.

      1. Delaware! Not far! We should plan it, for sure, some time. Maybe next year? Anyway, thanks for letting me know your thoughts re: the scanned quizzes. It’s given me food for thought…

        1. Sure! Any time.

          Another thing handy about the scanned quizzes—if I make a mistake entering scores (as I did a few days ago), I can easily check the scores on ActiveGrade against the scores on the scanned copies in Evernote without having to get the quizzes back from the kids to figure out what happened (took me about 2 minutes total to investigate a mistake caught by a student who emailed me late at night). Having the back-up copy makes me less worried about making those mistakes since I can fix them so easily.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 By the way, your class website (linked from your name here—I’m not a stalker, really) looks awesome and intense (as well as useful and organized). Way impressive.

  3. I have the students keep all their quizzes and tests in portfolios, which are kept in the classroom. Both the students and I can check any test that anyone has done, at any time as long as we’re in the classroom. The obvious downside is that students can’t take their portfolios home to study what they did right or wrong on a test. However, they can spend some time after school if they are serious. This also allows me to re-use questions a lot more without my quizzes being copied.

    1. That’s another good idea. I could see a great benefit in knowing which students were coming in to work through their old tests (something I have no way of knowing well in my system).

      I let them keep everything, and even though they all live together (boarding school), I haven’t noticed any cheating. I think there are a few good reasons for this: (a) our school has a really strong Honor Code, so there is a huge disincentive to cheating in any class, (b) knowing that they will be tested on the same material again (and that only the final attempt will count) makes cheating a lot less worthwhile (you’d have to keep cheating every time, including on the exam), and (c) I don’t think they’re thinking a lot about how I am using the same questions for different people.

      Of course, I could just not be noticing it happening, but they make a lot of mistakes—so if they are cheating, they aren’t doing it very well!

      Certainly there’s no one perfect answer to this situation, and different solutions would work well in different places.

  4. What do you use to create diagrams and graphs in your assessments? I’m cut and pasting from other assessments and using Photobooth to import handwritten images, but it’s pretty tedious.

    1. I use OmniGraphSketcher on Mac to create graphs, usually. I often just copy and paste from other tests, yes. If I get something from a PDF, I just draw a box around the part that I want to select it, then copy and paste it into my document. When I need to edit an image a bit, I use SketchbookExpress (free version on the Mac App Store). It has layers and some useful tools (though you can’t open a document with layers in the free version, but that hasn’t proven a problem yet). I use a Bamboo tablet when I need to draw, and I do the drawing in SketchbookExpress.

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