Resolution # 3 Rethinking quizzes and exams

Thank you for having the courage to read my third resolution for 2023. The two previous resolutions and especially resolution # 2: “No more warm ups!” have generated various types of reactions. Although most of them are very positive and constructive, it is interesting to see how difficult it is for some of us to see new points of view, new proposals. I understand that change is difficult, but I invite you to read without predisposition, knowing that my interest is to share with my colleagues all those things that have allowed my classes to be full of motivation, joy, community and results of language acquisition that surprise many. I feel that it is my responsibility and duty to share what I have learned in my journey as a language teacher for more than 30 years.

Today’s resolution has to do with assessment. Specifically with summative assessments like tests and exams. It’s been more than 10 years since I decided not to give end-of-unit exams. Despite the fact that I continue to read about the supposed importance of taking exams to prepare our students for college, so far I have not had any complaint from any former student for having failed their Spanish classes in college because I didn’t “train” them on test taking.

I decided 10 years ago that part of my class summative assessments would be short quizzes that take no more than 20 minutes to complete. I do these quizzes every two weeks. The stress level from constant evaluation through long and difficult exams has disappeared. Since I switched to the quiz format, students are more willing to do their best, and the percentage of students getting good grades has increased greatly.

Although I can say that this system of short quizzes has worked and has allowed me to know more exactly at what point in their language proficiency process the student is, it is my purpose for 2023 to make these quizzes a teaching tool more than an assessment tool.

I have always wondered about the real objective that tests and exams have, beyond giving a numerical grade. Why should we suddenly stop teaching? Can’t we almost accurately guess which students will get excellent grades, which students will get fair grades, and which students will get unsatisfactory grades? How many times have we decided to use the best student’s test as a key to correct the others? Doesn’t this somewhat distort the supposed objective of the evaluation, which is to know where our students are in relation to what we have taught?

I invite you to remember how you felt when in that class in which you were not one of the best, you got back a test or an exam where you got a very low grade. What did you learn from it? Didn’t you feel like that was it?. What did you really learn from that besides seeing yourself in relation to the others in the class?  Did you actually think about your second language acquisition process? Why can’t tests and exams be just another tool in the learning process?

In 2023 I will continue to give a short quiz every two weeks, but I will turn them into starting points, not finish lines. Life is a constant reflection. Not because we are wrong or because we do not remember or know something, we are labeled through a grade that will mark our future. On the contrary, we know that mistakes can be a guarantee of success. Without mistakes there is no learning. Let’s allow our students to understand education as a process that will help them better understand life. 

In 2023 I will review each quiz but I will not give a grade. I will point out where I found mistakes or where the student could have been clearer in the L2 and then talk to each one of them to explain how their quiz could have been better. I’ll give them the option to review and change what they think will make it better and after that I’ll please the system with a grade in the gradebook.

Read the first two resoliutions here:

Resolution # 1: Planning

Resolution # 2: No more warm ups!

Who is Diego Ojeda? Learn more about me HERE

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