Once each week since February I have been giving my Calculus students one section of an AP test for practice, because that seemed like a good idea. We’re at the point in the year when they’ve seen most of the material. Yesterday they got some open response problems (2003 part 1), and today they looked at the scoring guide, because that seemed like a good idea too.

What they are taking away from the experience is that they got everything wrong. They are all diligent students, but after a while they have grown unfocused in their activity of comparing what they did to the scoring rubric. They are discouraged and I feel their intention and energy draining away from test prep and into the pool of “Oh, well. Whatever.”

What I am taking away from the experience is that even with fairly mature students, debriefing their practice test needs some structure to it, something that will channel their energy through the activity, help them focus on what they did well, and point out in a way that feels useful and encouraging what they need to do differently next time. A pep talk along those lines helped, but next time I want to do it differently.

“Focus on what you did well and on what you could do differently, not on whether or not you “got it” or “didn’t get it,” I say. “Keep doing that ’till you die, and you’ll have a happy life.”

“Do you do that?” a student asks.

Yep. Doin’ it now.

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