Monday, March 15, 2010

WeBWorK as an answer key

The principal author (Kathy Yoshiwara) of the project materials being used at Pierce believes that our  students misuse the answer keys found at the back of math textbooks.  She believes students need to struggle at times for an answer, rather than always be able simply to find the answers in the book (and to work backwards from there).

On the other hand, we recognize that students can benefit from the  reassurance of knowing that they've successfully solved a math exercise, or from the knowledge that their first efforts were in error.  As part of our student success projects for developmental math, we have been hiring student tutors to check off that students have correct answers before the students are allowed to submit their portfolios.

But we'd prefer that the tutors' time be spent in actually working with the students.  So we have begun to code answers to drill-type exercises into the open source online grading system WeBWorK.  Students will type in their answers online at home or in a computer lab, and will get immediate feedback as to whether or not their answers are correct.

We will still grade by hand the questions that require complete sentences as answers, and we will still  check the student work on the drill problems when we collect portfolios.  But students will now have a means of checking the accuracy of their answers before coming to the classroom and without needing to consult our tutors.