Work Smarter, Not Harder, Ex. 1

The Activity

I have a review activity that I love. I just started doing it a few weeks ago and I'm pretty sure I'll be doing it a lot more. Simple concept, great effect. After having students complete a multiple choice exam, (as a review, not for a grade) I put them in groups and have them take it again. When they are finished for the second time, I use answer sheets that I can scan with my phone (ZipGrade specifically) to give them instant feedback, telling them only the problems they got wrong but not the answers. They continue to work on the questions until a perfect score is achieved. Lastly, I return their original answer sheets (which I have already scanned) and they use their "answer key" to grade their own papers.

How is it implemented?

I have done this twice. The first time, I gave the students an AP practice exam to do the individual portion in class and the group portion was the day after. The second time, I gave the individual portion as a homework and I collected the data through a Google Form. The group portion was done in class. In both cases, I used the available time after collecting the data to assign homogenous groups of no more than four. (I split the class into three performance levels and grouped from that. This make more diverse groups than the group assessment activity.) I also had an activity prepared for when groups were completely finished, as I knew some groups would be faster than others. While students worked, I monitored the progress of each group and, when necessary, sent "ambassadors" from one group to another, tasking them with turn keying the discussion that had just taken place concerning a particularly difficult question.

Why do I like this activity?

This class period was exceptionally productive for a multiple choice review. In the past, I have used the statistics from the multiple choice data to plan a review that was more-or-less teacher centered. Those reviews focused on questions where less than 70% of students got a question incorrect. Though my prepared explanations tend to be quite informative, they also don't engage the entire class and I am not able to cover the entire exam. In the group approach, students set their own pace and are able to discuss every question. Furthermore, because it is an exam that students recently finished, everyone in the group has something to contribute, even if that contribution is less about content and more about exam taking skills such as how they used process of elimination. This is actually a remedy to one of the weaknesses of the group assessment activity, where students sometimes divvy up the work. In a survey after the class, more than half of the students agreed that this was more effective while no more than a third expressed a preference for a more traditional review. Some students did not express a preference, but it was clear that there is still a need for a teacher to step in and explain.

As we get ready for end-of-year exams, I am brainstorming review activities and writing about them in this series, "Work Smarter, Not Harder" (Read Ex. 2). If you've got one you'd like to share, please let me know in a comment.