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One of the best things about teaching is that we, like our students, gain new insights every year. This past summer, an assistant principal whom I greatly admire started a book club for teachers. I told her I would join — but only if the book for the club’s next meeting were on audio.

As a teacher with a husband and two children, I rarely read novels or self-help/teaching books. However, I do love to listen, and I enjoy listening to about one audiobook per week. Much to my disappointment, there was no audiobook for the title the book club was currently reading — but nonetheless, I joined anyway.

That was how Robyn R. Jackson’s Never Work Harder than Your Students ended up sitting in my schoolbag most of the summer. Then, the last weekend prior to returning to work, I began reading it (grudgingly). Upon finishing the book and discussing it with colleagues, I realized that I could tweak some of the author’s ideas and implement them in my classroom to help my students be highly successful in chemistry.

Second chances

A key concept discussed in the book was that of providing students with second chances (or, as I tell them, opportunities). After teaching for two decades, I recognized some time ago that students often have missteps on quizzes because they confused a concept, needed more practice, or were simply unprepared.

Until this year, I would drop each student’s lowest quiz grade in both my Honors and AP Chemistry classes, as doing so seemed the simplest solution. However, some students took for granted that I would drop a quiz grade, resulting in poor performance on the quiz and subsequent exam, and negatively impacting their grade for the quarter. I began to wonder whether I should allow one minor error in judgment to carry such weight.

If I could establish a second-chance system that put more responsibility on my students, perhaps they would take ownership. Similar to a biochemical pathway, the remedial quiz concept took form. If a student earned less than a “B” on a quiz, they were required to watch concept-specific videos and then take a remedial quiz. If the student earned an “A” or “B” on the remedial quiz, they could retake their earlier quiz — but only once per quarter. Thus, toward the end of the quarter, they decided which quiz they wanted to retake for grade replacement.

Looking for solutions

I investigated several online quiz programs that seemed sound, but many were expensive. After discussing the idea with our technology-savvy media specialist, I chose Google Forms (see Figure 1 for a screenshot) for the remedial quizzes and Google Classroom to assign videos and quizzes, and monitor who watched them. I also included links in my Google Classroom to certain YouTube videos (only ones created by chemistry teachers I knew always deliver) that corresponded to chemical concepts assessed in the original quiz. Although the videos were available to all students, I only required those students who scored lower than a “B” to watch them.

Figure1 webMeanwhile, I used Google Forms to create my own remedial quizzes that mirrored each regular quiz. Although I was new to both the Google Classroom and Google Forms programs, I found them easy to use. It was also a chance for me to learn something new and challenge myself.

Living in Florida for the past 20 years, I never test the temperature of pool water before diving in — and I used the same approach in creating and using online chemistry quizzes. Initially, it felt more like a frigid vortex than a pool … but after a semester of trial and error, I have developed a system that has met my expectations and has generated positive results!


Figure 1. Using Google classroom to assign videos and quizzes.

In case you're interested in trying this approach in your classroom, I've gathered some of my thoughts and lessons learned in a format familiar to chemistry and science teachers: a lab report. I hope you'll find this report on my experience creating and administering online chemistry quizzes useful — and that it will make your dive into the proverbial pool warmer and more streamlined!

Hypothesis

If I offer remedial quizzes to my students, they will have opportunities to get additional practice, take responsibility for their learning, and be better prepared for subsequent assessments.

Materials

  • Computer
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Forms
  • Camera
  • Technology Personnel (optional)
  • Patience

Procedure

  1. Set up a Google Classroom. If you have Google Mail, this app is available to you. Some districts set up email accounts that students can use to access their Google Classroom, allowing students to enroll in your class on their own.
  2. Create a remediation quiz. Refer to my how to video (see below) for a quick tutorial. Note: if you need assistance, I highly recommend working with someone who is Google Educator Level 1 or 2 Certified.
  1. Assign videos and remedial quizzes to your classes. Using Google Classroom, you can assign the same videos and quizzes to multiple classes simultaneously (click here for information on using Google Classroom). Be sure to give your students the opportunity to review the original quiz on which they had problems. Students can watch the videos from a phone, tablet, or computer.
  2. Monitor student progress online. Teachers can see who has watched the videos and/or remedial quizzes by opening Google Classroom and clicking on the “Done” button for a given assignment (Figure 1).
  3. Get help if you need it. If your district has a Technology Program Specialist (TPS), contact them for any assistance you may need. Our district’s TPS provided me with a Google document that contained a variety of common superscripts and subscripts, monatomic and polyatomic ions, and chemical formulas. You can copy and paste from this Google document into Google Forms. I found it easy to annotate the document to suit my needs.
  4. Give students a second chance. Prior to having students take their remedial quiz, encourage them to redo problems from their notes, classwork problems, and any online problems that have been assigned. I also provide extra assistance every morning if these strategies have not led to a better understanding of the concepts.
  5. Share your Google Forms with colleagues. This is particularly helpful if you team teach. Click on “More” to add collaborators. Note that you can also prevent editors from changing access and adding new people if you wish.
  6. Check students’ work. When the submission deadline arrives, open your quiz and click on Responses. You can generate a Google Sheet that is sortable by submission time, name, or class period (Figure 2).
  7. Manage the remediation process. I set aside two mornings at least one week prior to the end of the grading quarter during which students can retake the quiz on which they earned their “ticket.” I was initially concerned that my classroom might be very crowded during these makeup quizzes, and that grading would be tedious. But in practice, the process ran smoothly and efficiently. See Figure 2 for sample data on students’ performance improvements.

Data

Figure2 web

Figure 2: Sample Google Sheet generated from Google Forms (in this case, data is sorted by Class Period).

Figure3

Figure 3. Spreadsheet to tally points earned for remedial quizzes.

Analysis and Conclusions

The data in Figure 2 shows that 25 students took a remedial quiz. Of these, 22 earned an 80 or above, thus an 88% success rate. Figure 3 shows three students’ scores on four remedial quizzes during the second nine weeks of the quarter. Further analysis indicates that for all 80 students in my three chemistry classes, 78% took at least one remedial quiz during the second quarter. Of the 22% who did not take any remedial quizzes, 8% earned “A’s” in the class and were likely to not need remedial quizzes. Conversely, of the 8% who earned a “D” the first semester, none took a remedial quiz during the first and/or second quarter(s). Had half of these students taken a single remedial quiz, they could have earned a “C” for the quarter and semester.

In conclusion, the hypothesis is supported by Google Forms quiz data: remedial quizzes provide my students with additional practice, make them responsible for their learning, and illustrate improvement on subsequent assessments. Furthermore, analysis of semester exam scores shows that 5% more students earned an “A” on the semester exam than last year, while only 8% earned an “F,” compared to 12% the previous year. Many students earned better grades on exams because they took the remedial quizzes, either for remediation or extra practice.

Jackson’s book, Never Work Harder than Your Students, provided me with new ideas to implement in my classroom. The way in which students learn has changed markedly over the last 20 years, and the challenge for veteran teachers is to implement new strategies in their classrooms that meet the needs of the Millennial generation.

You may work harder than your students to put remediation quizzes into effect—initially. But your investment will really pay off in the long run. Not only will taking this approach help underperforming students improve their understanding (and their grade) — but it will also prove that you are a life-long learner who can master educational technology!

Extensions

Upon seeing the success of Google Forms in my Honors Chemistry classes, I have decided to generate quizzes that correspond with my summer assignment for AP Chemistry. Students will take a few quizzes before returning to school to assess their mastery of Honors Chemistry concepts such as writing chemical formulas and simple stoichiometry problems.

The next step in my Google journey will be to attain Level 1 Google Educator Certification (learn about the certification and popular related course). In fact, my school district actually includes this course as part of its professional development offerings. For those of you considering adding Google Classroom and Google Forms to your teaching approach, you may want to take this course first, especially if you do not have technology assistance from your district.