2nd Chance Tests, Effort, and Assessment

Can changing our assessment practices and our approach to learning help them learn to embrace the struggle, to see that a “failure” is an opportunity to learn?  Does success breed success?  Does success change your confidence, efficacy, and disposition?

Listen to what my learners are telling me. 

 I chose this picture because this is me after a few hours of trying to figure out a math problem. I get frustrated when I don’t understand the concept or material. This picture shows you that I hate math because it is obviously not my best subject. Math obviously doesn’t come easy to me, but what this picture shows is only after a little while of focusing. What this picture doesn’t show is that sometimes certain material comes easy to me and I do well on that certain section. This picture is mostly for the harder concepts that I do not understand and wish I didn’t have to do. My goal : My goal is to do the best I can, meaning studying more than usual and not racing through homework, but really taking my time so I make sure to understand everything. I expect to accomplish this goal by pushing myself to study and take longer on homework and not turning on the computer, TV or phone.  

KW wrote

I get frustrated when I don’t understand the concept or material. This picture shows you that I hate math because it is obviously not my best subject.” 

I want to say that there is nothing in this writing that gives evidence that math is not her best subject, however, I infer that she hates math because she has not experienced success from struggle.  Could it be that she has never been given the opportunity?  Would a different testing philosophy change her attitude and efficacy?

About our version of 2nd chance tests:  Our learners take the test; we mark (not grade) each problem as correct or incorrect, and return the paper to the child without a number-no grade yet.  Their job is to find, correct, and identify errors.  We ask them to categorize an error as either a “simple mistake” or “needs more study”.  We also ask them to complete a table of specification and determine their proficiency on the assessed essential learnings.  After all problems are corrected, students write a reflection about their work.  Armed with the experiences of teamwork, feedback, and self-assessment, students are given a 2nd Chance test and are tested on only the problems missed during the first testing experience.  The final test grade combines the correct work from the first test with the work from the 2nd Chance test. 

To answer the most frequently asked question… Yes, it is completely possible to bomb the first test and end up with a 100 in my grade book.  

 CM wrote:

Math can be a challenge for me because sometimes I feel that I give the effort and it just doesn’t reach the results that I wanted. Like this picture it seems as though I climb towards a better way to understand it and achieve my goals but never reach there. Sometimes I feel that others make it to the top before I do. That can be discouraging, when I am ready and prepared to climb the mountain I feel better about the outcome, whatever it may be. I think that I am good at math just sometimes I need a little bit of encouraging to reach my full potential. I often need help from peers and my teacher to show me easier ways to reach my goals.My job in this class is to participate in class and offer my ideas to help me and my peers to better understand a math problem. My obligation in class is to learn math in new ways to that I can better understand math in a whole and be able to apply it to life. I believe that every day is a learning experience and every day even if I don’t succeed that I am trying towards my goals and get one step closer every time I make a mistake. I think that math is a real challenge for me but if I work hard I can do well this year. I feel that this class is going to beneficial to my learning this year. For my year to be even more successful I need in a class, projects, communication, opportunities to make up grades so that I can learn from my mistakes. What I want is a way to make math more fun and enjoyable.

Goals for Math
My goals in math are to really understand the problems and not only memorize them but to learn from my mistakes and apply them at the next chance. I hope to get a good grade in this class and learn new things I didn’t know about math.

 CM wrote

My goals in math are to really understand the problems and not only memorize them but to learn from my mistakes and apply them at the next chance.” 

How often do we provide the opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes and apply them?  When do they get a next chance?  We, the Algebra I team, take a lot of flak from our colleagues and parents about our 2nd Chance Test commitment.  This flak comes in many forms, some subtle, some not so subtle. And, most arguments fall apart when we point out that you can take the SAT multiple times and bank your scores.  Hmm….

The bottom line is that we have seen positive learning results on our semester exam that we contribute to allowing children to learn from their mulligans.

CM also said

Math can be a challenge for me because sometimes I feel that I give the effort and it just doesn’t reach the results that I wanted.”

Our grade books are sparse; we have very few grades.  We assess quite often; we grade little.  We are rewarding effort, but not because you are sweet, try really hard, and/or are compliant.  We expect proof that the effort yields results.

In January, we will ask our students for feedback our course and assessment strategies to get a feel for their perception of their learning.

4 thoughts on “2nd Chance Tests, Effort, and Assessment”

  1. I really like your idea of the second chance tests. I did something, well, not really similar several years ago and the kids hated it. I think it might be time to try it again 🙂 Are the students allowed to use other resources on the 2nd chance? Is it all on the same day?


  2. Hi Tracie,

    I’m not sure that I’m interpreting your question well; if not, I’ll try again. It is approximately a week-long process. Don’t panic; we do not “give up” a week to testing. Our learners take the first test; we mark each questions that would not receive full credit and hand it back without any numbers. Learners are to find, analyze, and correct their work. We ask them to determine if the errors were simple mistakes or areas where more study is needed. We give them some class time the day the papers are returned to analyze and correct, but they have a week to complete their corrections, ask questions, and relearn. Only after corrections and reflection are they allowed to take the 2nd Chance test. The 2nd Chance test is delivered as a test. No resources other than what was permitted during the first testing period may be used.

    My learners report that it lowers their stress about taking tests because they will be given the opportunity to improve. My colleagues, once skeptical of this process, report an increase in exam scores and student learning.

    I’ve been asked for more details about the process with examples. Would this help you? I’m thinking about another post telling the “story” of the 2nd Chance process for one student on one test. What do you think?

    My other thought is to say….Keep trying. One trial does not make an experiement. My students think it is weird the first time, but now ask – every time – if they are going to “get” a 2nd Chance. Isn’t it great that they are asking for another opportunity to show what they are learning?


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