‘So year 8, we’re going to do the Zipgrade test today. What I’d like you to do is work in pencil. I’ve given you a pencil, I’ve given you a rubber as well just in case you make a mistake. You need to fill in the circle for the answer that you’ve chosen. If you then choose a different answer, don’t put a cross through it. You need to rub it out and then do the correct answer. You’ve got 30 minutes to answer the 20 questions. Good luck!’ I teach religious studies and I teach everybody in Key Stage Four so that’s about 400 students and I needed to find a quick way of doing feedback.
I had a look on Twitter and I saw quite a few people who were tweeting about the Zipgrade app. So I had a look at the price, found it was very cheap and thought, I’ll give it a go then and that was just with my classes to start with, although we have now rolled out to other subjects because they’ve seen the advantages of well, basically saving time for teachers to be honest. By moving to Zipgrade, what we’ve been able to do is to put lots of multiple-choice question retrieval practice type activities into the majority of lessons in each scheme of learning. So it’s much more frequent feedback, much more rapid as well.
‘We’re now a quarter of the way through in terms of the time that we’ve got available.’ I’m usually an early adopter of technology in school and I’m usually trusted to just get on with it and give it a go. So I did. ‘I’m now going to scan those answers. It’s not going to take me very long at all.’ It was extremely easy. I didn’t buy the subscription to start with because you can have a hundred free scans a month, so actually there was no outlay. I wrote some questions, some multiple-choice questions, and just tried them with a class.
I got my phone out after they’d done it, scanned the whole class, about 30 students, within two minutes and thought, ‘hey, this is good.’ This can save me a huge amount of time and it kind of went from there. So you need the app both on your computer and on your phone. You set up the questions. I do that as a Word document; it just means it’s more editable later on. You upload the name of your class and the names of the students within it and it’s very, very easy to do that using the Zipgrade on the computer. You then assign a quiz to that class. You do that using the phone.
So you would name the quiz, you’d decide how many questions it’s going to have, and you would fill in the answers on your phone. You then are good to go. You go back to the computer app, it will then allow you to download a PDF with a personalised sheet for each of the students within your class. So it will put their Zipgrade ID in there for them so they don’t have to do it. Print it out, hand them out to your students, give them the time to then complete that test. As soon as they’ve done that, collect them in, back into the phone app, and you scan each piece of paper. It’s extremely quick.
The app then gives you some analysis; does it all for you. It’ll tell you which questions were answered well, which were answered badly. It gives you the percentages answering each of the ABCDE for each question. You can then immediately download a PDF where you’ve got the scan for the individual child, so the image of the scan. It marks in green the answers that were correct and red the answers that were wrong and then you can choose to put the correct answers in a table alongside that, along with the percentage of students in the class who got it correct.
So the students can see where they were close to the class and where they really need to work on as individual points. So I’ll look at those questions where a high percentage of the class have got it wrong, and we’ll go through those particular answers as a class. ‘I just want to talk about some of the things that you did really well as a class and some of the things that didn’t go so well. So firstly, this is the distribution of scores from our class. This is the hundred-percent end and this is down to the zero to 5% end. So we’ve got a clustering of people up at this top end; really, really good.
The maximum score that anybody got was 98%. Well done. Our average, that’s our mean average, was 73 with a median of 81 so we’ve got some really, really good scores in there. Let’s have a look at which questions you did really well and which questions didn’t go quite so well.’ There are some questions that have clearly just been written badly and that’s my fault and I’m quite happy to say to the students, you know, totally my problem. 95% of you have got it wrong. I either didn’t teach it to you properly in the first place or I’ve written a dud question. So I’ll take responsibility for that and I think the students quite like that.
‘So, it looks like I might have made some mistakes, either in the teaching you, or in the writing of the questions. Could you read that question out for me please? Yes. [student reads question out] Ok, so the fundamentalist Christian view of the bible? The right answer there is D.’ It is hard to write decent multiple choice questions. There’s no doubt about it and I don’t think it’s something that a teacher should try and do in isolation. I think they really do need to be working with their department team.
The key thing you really need to be doing is working out what the likely misconceptions will be and ensuring that you’ve got them as distractor answers within your paper and that is tricky to do on your own. I’ve done lots of definitions type questions, what does omnipotent mean? What does omniscient mean? and so on within the RE but then also, I’ve looked at longer questions, which piece of scripture would support this idea best? So a bit of variety within the questions and really ensuring that the likely misconceptions are in there as the distractor answers. ‘Really, really good answers up here. So questions four and six and seven and eight and nine.. and eleven and twelve.
Nearly 93 percent of you got those right.’ The immediacy of response is just really, really important. In terms of motivating the students to improve, they really want to know what they got immediately, but also in terms of building that progress in to the lessons. Not leaving it so long that they’ve forgotten what they did in the first place. So the frequent returning to the subject knowledge through the Zipgrade is just keeping that fresh in their minds. It’s giving retrieval opportunities every lesson rather than just waiting until the end of the unit, and I think that’s helping to reinforce that knowledge, to build it up, for them to be proud that they are retaining the information.