assessment classroom structure

The Interview Quiz

I love creating curious tasks for my students. I love anticipating their thinking, observing their milestones of thought, and then posing new, interesting wrinkles to sustain their problem solving. It really is what fuels my practice. Honestly, interacting with students keeps me coming back for more–day in and day out. It’s what I enjoy most about the job.

I think that’s why I’ve always hated assessment events. They always seemed disconnected from the students.

A couple years ago, I wondered what it might look like if assessments became a tool to bring the students and I into shared experience instead of to opposite sides of some expertise continuum. I went through (and continue to go through) different iterations of the idea but had three main goals:

  • Sustainability: I’m busy. I had tried things like portfolios and I always lost steam. There was just too much information for me to handle.
  • Accessibility: I wanted students to feel safe and also feel some sort of ownership over the process.
  • Fidelity: I wanted the assessment structure to reflect what I valued in class. I wanted them to be conjecturing, justifying, figuring, etc.

From these considerations the Interview Quiz was born.

Here’s how they work:

An entire one-hour block is dedicated to an interview quiz. Students know this. They are handed a short, one-page quiz that consists of two types of questions. The first type is designed to encourage divergent thought and/or elicit justification. These questions often ask students to make and justify a mathematical decision, build an object to specifications, or describe a concept in multiple ways. The second type is more procedural in nature. It often asks students to attend to a precise calculation or execute a systematized argument.

(Here’s a few examples from my classes: Square roots, Linear relations, and Interest calculations).

They complete the quiz individually, and I write a set of practice problems on the board. When they are done they hand in the interview quiz paper and get to work on the problems. As their neighbours finish, they are allowed to collaborate on the seat work.

As soon as the papers start to roll in, I call them up one-by-one and we talk about their work. I ask them to expand on their thinking, think about other ways to approach the prompts, and clarify lurking misunderstandings. They leave with specific competencies I want them to attend to and a list of which practice problems might help them.

I work my way thorough the pile, each time keeping the paper for my records after the interview is over. (Often times kids will ask to snap a picture for their records).

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • Conversation surrounding the product is much more rich than assessing the product alone could ever be.
  • The feedback is immediate and, therefore, much more meaningful.
  • Every student gets a voice, which is hard to accomplish in vibrant classrooms when the problem solving gets humming along.
  • It’s easier for me to convince them that assessment is about improving; they feel more academic safety.
  • Students often start the interview by saying something like, “I know what I did wrong and here’s what I think now…”
  • The paper trail allows me to keep a permanent record of evidence to show the student their improvement, justify an eventual unit grade, or to show parents.
  • It’s efficient. It brings a new potency to a “work period” or “quiz day” as a stand alone classroom artefact.
  • I don’t take grading home.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I have lots of students (30+ to interview each time). Each quiz should focus on a couple competencies.
  • I don’t write a grade or even talk about a grade during the interview. We talk about the concepts they demonstrate and ones they need to polish.
  • The seat work needs to be lagged because you will be busy interviewing. Assign some problems that involve a concept from last week.
  • Know what competencies you are looking for. Sometimes I write these on my desk and point directly to them as we chat. (I use “I can…” statements. Things like: “I can recognize and create common denominators in order to add fractions”, etc.)
  • Keep the quizzes organized by student. This year, I organized them myself, but my goal for next year is to give each student a file folder and have them “file” their interview quizzes for me after our chat.
  • Make sure you get to chat with the students you know you need to chat with. Some intentionality goes a long way.

The interview quiz days can be frenetic as I race the clock to talk with every student, but the conversations have become a backbone of my classroom. Never before has an assessment structure better aligned with how instruction lives in my classroom.

I suppose that the bottom line here is: I’ve never talked so much to my students about their mathematics and that’s a win any day of the week.


2 replies on “The Interview Quiz”

I love this, as you know. I do have some questions.
1. How frequently do you do this?
2. Do you give a different kind of evaluation at the end of a unit/cycle/course?

1) I like to check in in this way every 4-5 days. I segment the learning outcomes into “I can” statements, and each interview quiz is targeted at 1-2 of those.
2) At the end of a unit, we do a similar thing (but longer). Day 1 is three parts. A) they random group and solve a problem in groups of three. B) They are given a sheet where they record their group’s activity. C) An individual, written portion. Day 2 is all interviews on the portions from the previous day.

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