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IMPACTful Discussion/Blog - Curiosity in Assessment

By Luke Walsh posted 10-06-2023 15:01:27


When educators reflect on the assessment implemented in their courses, there are many curiosity perspectives that can take shape.  For example, the assessment results could lead to a curiosity about why some students were successful and why some students struggled. Or, in other words, was there an inequity in the assessment that privileged a group of students?  I have been curious about the format of tests and how each format can provide a barrier for a certain type of student. While some students are more successful with a very structured test format, like timed, seated, and paper, other students experience a high level of anxiety with a structured format and poorly perform, as a result.  Of course, a perfect test format does not exist, but curiosity can motivate that leap of “Let’s just give it our best try and see what happens.” 

Last semester, I finally decided to try a test format that I have always been curious about: oral tests.  I quickly noticed how the oral tests provided many opportunities where a student and I could chat and share mathematical thinking, in a low stake environment.  I often witnessed students taking different approaches and techniques, and, in real-time, I was able to share my joy in that moment.  I was able to support and encourage a student, in real-time, during a productive struggle with the mathematics.  These oral tests created a student-teacher engagement with a high humanistic level that I had not experienced with other test formats.  Overall, the oral tests were a very positive experience for both me and my students, and I am even trying them again this semester. 

Now I have new curiosities about oral exams.  How many minutes should these oral tests last?  Could an oral test be given through a video chat?  What type of rubric should be used for an oral test? Given a number of students, how many oral tests are feasible?  Curiosity has a way of working like this: as we reach one curiosity, another set of curiosities is revealed. Sometimes curiosity answers questions, sometimes curiosity brings up more questions. So, what curiosities about assessment would you want to share?