Jeff from Trust Me – I’m a Math Teacher writes about his kids bombing a quiz:
Sometimes, despite trying to do my best job possible as a teacher, I screw up. I’m pretty sure it’s healthy to accept that it happens from time to time.
This happened on a Friday afternoon. I thought about what to do all weekend. I came back to my students on Monday and, in each class, just laid it out for them:
“Guys, nobody did well on this quiz. I’m sorry. I blame myself for that. When nobody does well, that tells me that I probably did something wrong with my teaching. So, I’m not going to include these quizzes in your grade for now. We’ll come back to it next week, I’ll try to teach differently, and we’ll re-take this quiz. Does that sound fair?”
This scenario reminded me of one I wrote about a couple years ago. I felt like I’d screwed up, I must not have taught the lesson well, I took the blame and we set about correcting the problems they’d struggled with on the test.
All this was fine, until I started reading their test corrections. The first question on the page asks “How did you study for the test?” Page after page had answers such as “I didn’t” or “I read my notes” or “I flipped through notes right before the test.”
Turned out I needed to take some of the blame, but the students needed to take some responsibility too, with 2-4 days between classes they had to do more than flip through their notes to be ready for an assessment. I wondered where Jeff’s students fell on the spectrum of blame. Three days later he added a comment to the original post:
Good news, though! The students re-took the quiz this week and did SO MUCH BETTER!
I’m thrilled for him and his students, but I am left wondering – when is it the students’ job to ask more questions, practice more on their own and take more responsibility for their learning, and when is it the teacher’s job to go back and spend more time on past lessons? Do you expect students to study on their own time or should they have mastered the material during class? What’s the difference between needing to review and having misconceptions? Can you tell whether the students would have done better with more independent practice or if they’re totally lost just by looking at an assessment?