I’m afraid of open ended questions. I like answers that are right or wrong.
Open ended discussions make my heart beat faster, my brain freeze up and cause the fidgeting to start. Although I’m a sucker for a good argument and exploration of new topics, I get frustrated when I know there may not be a concrete answer to the question I’m exploring.
As a student, I loved a good test or assignment. Specifically, any task where I could demonstrate knowledge or procedures that I had mastered. I liked assignments that ended with a mark, clearly calculated by a series of expectations I could see and understand.
As I continued along my educational path, I frequently became frustrated when I couldn’t understand exactly why and how I received the mark that I did. I wondered what the difference between an A-, A and A+ was especially when there really was no clear way the mark was calculated.
As a teacher, these problem solving, inquiry based assignments and questions caused me more grief than when I was a student. I always questioned my evaluation skills. What other factors snuck into the assessments I assigned? How could I ensure that each student received a fair opportunity to receive a mark they earned. How do you ensure you have given students ample opportunity and a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning? How do these opportunities transfer into a numerical value?
Assessment was the one thing I didn’t miss when I transferred from the classroom into a full time guidance/student success position. I’ve made a point to continue learning about assessment, to explore techniques and to engage in discussions to better understand the struggles teachers have. I question my practices as I continue teaching during summer semester but due to the nature of the course don’t get the opportunity for students to complete as many of these types of activities as they should.
On Friday, a week long discussion of assessment concluded with me facing my fear of open ended questions. The minute I realized the question had no answer, my brain froze, I tried hard to reword the question so it had an answer and I struggled to calm my thinking. The feelings I had as a student in that moment were strong and made me wonder how many students in a typical classroom are just like me. In the same thought, how many thrive on these types of open ended questions and feel stressed when they are faced with a test that simply explores their knowledge acquisition.
Regardless of our own strengths, weaknesses, and classroom practice, we need to face our fears and fill our students educational experience with a balance of tasks that allow them both opportunities to demonstrate knowledge but also opportunities to demonstrate their ability to extend their thinking.
This is my vow to provide my future students with opportunities to explore more open ended opportunities, despite my insecurities. Then to face my next fear…how to assess these types of questions…especially when all students go above and beyond the expectations I set for them!
What fear do you face in the classroom?