Sunday, November 22, 2015

Autograded Exit Slips - #LazyTeacher?

Since turning the learning over to the students, I have used "exit slips" to both help students focus their efforts as well as help me keep track of their progress through the learning goals in a particular unit.

(I hesitate in calling them exit slips since those are traditionally done just before "exiting" class. The checks we do in our classes can be done whenever the student is ready for them, at any time during the period. Because of this, we're starting to get into the habit of calling them "mastery checks" instead of exit slips. The concept is the same - assessment as learning for the students - letting them know if they are ready to go on to the next topic.)

I have struggled, in the past, with managing all the exit slips that come in - immediate feedback is key on these assessments, and I wasn't always able to provide it. So this year I tried something new.
There was a LOT of paper piling up on my desk...


In my Math (MCF3M) and Physics (SPH3U) classes, we have moved exclusively to online mastery checks, autograded by the Flubaroo add-on for Google Sheets. The fact that this makes the assessment paperless is amazing, however it's how the students are using the mastery checks which has made the biggest impact in my class.

The mastery check is created using Google Forms. Here is a recent one from our Physics unit on two-dimensional motion. Try it out - see how you do!

On the back end of the form, I have installed Flubaroo in the responses Sheet, and set it to autograde. Once a form is submitted, Flubaroo will grade the responses, and send that student an email (at the address they provide), usually within 60 seconds. That email will contain a message from me (written in advance), the student's score (in the above case, out of 3), and a breakdown of which questions the student got right or wrong.

Seriously - try out the above form to see what the students see! I promise I won't judge :)

One of the tabs Flubaroo provides in Sheets - you can see who took the mastery check, their highest score (points), and the number of times the mastery check was attempted.

(If you're interested in trying Flubaroo, there are detailed instructions here on how to set it up.)

Visible Changes

This has completely changed how my students complete (and master the material on) these checks:
  • Students receive feedback almost instantly (no waiting for me to have a spare moment in class to look at the slip, or worse, waiting until the next class to find out how they did).
  • Students immediately (and naturally) go back and try again, seeking help (most often) from classmates or from me.
  • Within a span of a few minutes (or longer if there are bigger gaps in the knowledge of the content), the students have fixed their mistakes and re-submitted their slips. They can re-submit as many times as they like - when they get perfect, they can move on to the next learning goal. Often, this happens without me even knowing.
I'm seeing students become both more independent with their learning, as well as more collaborative (I hear lots of on-topic conversation among students as they find their mistakes and correct them). Those who can master the material quickly are doing so and moving on, not held back by others who may need more time. 

And those who do need more help are realizing it more quickly (without having to wait on me to assess something), and are seeking help. Some students will approach me en masse because they collectively can't figure something out, while others will seek help from me independently because they're just not sure where they're going wrong. And this leads to great teaching moments, because the students are genuinely curious and ready to learn.

Students are taking more ownership of their learning, relying less on me as they master the basics, and honing their own problem-solving skills. 


Earlier this month, I was trying to explain to someone why a teacher might want to become connected on Twitter. One example I gave was that it provides an instant connection to a huge, international network of teachers from which you could seek advice. I mentioned how in August, before I knew about Flubaroo, I had asked my Twitter PLN what apps/extensions were available to autograde quizzes. To this statement, my colleague replied: "hashtag-lazy," implying that this was how I should have punctuated the tweet.

It stung that it was assumed that I was just looking for an easy way out, rather than a way of more effectively managing my time: freeing up more time in class to sit down and work one-on-one with a student who needs extra help, or freeing up more time in the evening to provide detailed feedback where students need it most - on rich tasks and in-depth assignments.

In the grand SAMR scale (or whatever acronym is used for the place of technology in classrooms these days), if technology can be used to engage students in their studies, help them continue the conversations that drive learning in the classroom, and allow them to foster their learning skills, I'm all for it. In the classroom, I'm just as active than ever (if not more active), as are my students. Might I suggest #Empowered?


  1. Lazy isn't always bad. Efficient would be the better word. Assessing students once a month would be lazy.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. It was the negative connotation of the word that got me really thinking about my practices.

  2. Heather, this is the best argument for Flubaroo I have seen; I always struggled to sit down and look at 'mastery slips' with students- successful about 50% of the time in s big class- so this makes so much sense to me. I'd still want to see students' process for the discussion afterwards, but not having to grade it is certainly helpful; important the the wrong answers couldn't be stumbled upon through an error. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Amy! Mastery checks/exit slips are designed to be quickly assessed... so when they *weren't* being quickly assessed in my classes I knew something had to change :) Flubaroo is limited in that the autograde works only with multiple choice or true/false questions, but most traditional math-based questions can be converted reasonably well. You're right about errors accidentally leading to the correct answer - I'll have to watch for that.

  3. Have to get more eyes on this post. Excellent stuff!

    1. Thanks, Cheryl! Please feel free to pass it along :) It's been fun playing with some new technology this semester (that's another post to come soon...!)