Friday, October 16, 2015

It's Quiz Time

I just gave the first quiz of the term in my Form 2 Physical Science class. The topic was acids and bases.

Continual assessment is something that both PC and the Malawian Ministry of Education encourage. I assign weekly homework which I collect and mark, and then try to give a quiz at the end of each unit. Then there will be an end of term exam on all the topics we covered throughout the term.

I have a rewards system where the top three students get maprizes (in Chichewa the plural of something often has "ma-" at the beginning of the word). Usually I give school supplies, like pens or pencils or notebooks. This time I gave a small notebook and a little certificate. Aren't they cute? My Mom sent those to me, along with the stickers. Thanks, Mom!

I try to structure my quizzes this way:
- at least one question on a basic concept that we repeatedly covered in class
- about 10-15% percent of the questions require critical thinking and cover the more complex material we covered
- about a quarter of the questions require the student to apply the knowlege they learned, such as a word problem or calculation
- the rest of the questions can be answered by memorizing concepts from the lectures (definitions, properties, etc)

That is based on the traditional bell curve and the Malawian grading scale, which is different than the U.S. grading scale:

A 80-100%
B 70-79%
C 55-69%
D 40-55%
F 0-39%

The mode of my quiz was 5, or about 37%, and more than half the students failed, even with the more lenient grading scale here. Also, about a third of the class was absent. This is all pretty typical for a CDSS, the rural, underfunded schools that all PCVs teach at. Still, I was encouraged that a few students got the critical thinking and applied knowlege questions correctly, and I had some new high performers this time around. Hopefully they liked the certificates and stickers and this will keep then motivated to do even better next time.

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