I’ve always been very much aware of the fact that mathematics often frightens students to death, so that many of them simply stop fighting.
In order to reduce this problem, I tried to teach with as little testing as possible so that students would experiment new ideas without fear. But it didn’t work as I hoped and I had to admit that although evaluation is the cause of fear it also is the propellent for work (why schould one bother to make the effort, otherwise?)
So I shifted to testing like crazy, in order to statistically reduce the impact of each test and have students experiment lower anxhiety together with some effort. But I rapidly resembled a zombie as I walked through the corridors because of all those stacks of tests to correct, one after the other in 6 classes. And what’s more, the quality of my teaching decreased both because I was tired and because I had less time to prepare my lessons that were not tests.
I have known for a long while that I had to make some dramatic changes if I wanted to survive but I didn’t know how to exit the circle.
Finally now I think I have a solution. I don’t know if it works, yet, because I’ve only planned it during Christmas break, but here it is:
Once a week I have my classes take an individual test but I will not ask them to give it to me (unless they have been talking to each other or have shown to be wasting time): we will correct it together on the board and each student will self evaluate their performance along with the criteria I will indicate. I’m not going to ask the students to tell me their self grading because grades are not what I’m interested in. Rather, I will try to make my students concious of the fact that they are gradually measuring if the growth of their competence is up to the standard, above or below.
So that they can do something about it.
And that I can stop crawling along.