No blank answers on tests, please!

Why did it take me 9 years of teaching to figure this out???  . . . It seems so simple now that I am doing it.

Maybe I only just noticed how big of a problem this is because I taught ALL applied level courses this year:


It’s like my students just gave up. On test problems I KNEW they could answer.

“But I’ve seen you do this in class!” I’d cry, “Why did you leave it blank?”.

And yet only now, during exam week, did I find a solution for this. And now that I’ve tried it, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it years earlier . . . it seems so simple:

“Do you have blank answers still? Then I’m not taking your exam. I’ll give you a hint if you like . . .”

And that’s how it went. As each student handed me their exam, I leafed through each page and if I saw any problem unanswered I would hand it back.

“But I have no clue how to do it!” they protested.

So I gave them hints. Showed them similar problems. Drew diagrams for them. I wrote each hint right on their test paper in pen to remind myself when I’m marking of just how much help they needed.

But every student answered every problem.

And that’s so important – because I can’t find evidence of learning when you’ve written nothing.

And the only thing I can’t figure out now, is why it took me 9 years to start doing this?! Thanks to Mary Bourassa for the inspiration!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

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