Testing Research Skills

I missed about 5 days of school the last couple weeks to attend a conference and the birth of my second child.  (Both very wonderful).  Things are starting to get back to a level just under crazy and I’m slowly catching up with things at school.  We’ve only got a couple weeks left and I’m trying to fit in some new units and wrap up others.  Geography, in particular, is one subject with a lot left to cover.

During my absence, I tried to leave sub-friendly plans – watching Gandhi and reading selections from Three Cups of Tea for our unit on south-central Asia.  Since the students didn’t get to cover things in the manner we usually would, I decided to give a different type of assessment.   Instead of a traditional test or project, which we really didn’t have time for, I gave them a 25 question assessment on south-Asia that tested their research skills.  Using thatquiz.org, I created a set of questions about the culture, geography, and people/events in the countries we’d covered over the past couple weeks.  The caveat, however, was that students could look up any of the answers on the web – but there was a 20 minute time limit for the test.  Though the students knew a lot of the answers from in class lessons, many of the questions drew from things we only touched on.

thatquiztest While researching, the students used a few sites linked off my own website like the CIA Factbook,  WolframAlpha, and, of course, Google.  In the end, everyone finished on time, but not everyone got all the answers correct (due to  some rushed research).  It turned out to be a good evaluation of their research skills.  They had to know what sites worked best for the question, use relevant search terms, and skim through the results quickly.  When they finished I gave them an assignment to find the two main religions, by percentage, in each of about 12 countries in the Middle East.   Most students went directly to the CIA factbook and (painstakingly) went through each country and scrolled down to the religion entry.  I let them go at this for a while then told them to use Wolfram Alpha.

I gave the example of a population entry.  During the test, the question that gave people the most trouble was:  Which of the following countries has the lowest population?  Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei.  This probably takes longer than a minute to answer using google or the CIA Factbook, but is a snap with Wolfram Alpha.  Just enter –>     Population: Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and out pops a nice table comparing all three.  After showing this example, the students messed around until a few of them figured out how to get the religion percentages of the countries in question (spelling and commas matter): Religion Percentage: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Lebanon.



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