Test post-mortem: Let us agree not to call them regular anymore
One of my big pet peeves is when schools track students, go all fixed mindset, and decide to call one track “honors” and the other track “regular.” Of course, no one ever writes into the curriculum guide or official documents that the other track is the “regular” track, but the labels get stamped on their foreheads just the same, and it isn’t too hard to see the damage it does to their 9th grade psyches, now terrified of math and physics, because they are “regular.” Never mind that they haven’t really even started to explore the subject of math and physics to any real depth.
And of course this terminology affects the outlook of the teachers as well, heck, we invented it. I’ve heard plenty of cringe worthy statements about the lack of interest/motivation/ability/intelligence of “regular” students, and so much praise for how “honors” students ‘want’ to do homework, and practically teach themselves. Maybe that’s because they haven’t had their egos crushed by being called “regular” since their 8th grade science teacher told them their placement last spring (or even earlier, as the case may be for math).
So let this paper be a small candle of hope against all doubt of the ability of a “regular” physics student. And follow it up with all the rest of the results of my class. For 6 weeks now, I’ve been unintentionally teaching an intro class harder than an honors class. Here was the take home: here’s a huge data set consisting of 100+ measurements of pendulums of all sorts of masses, amplitudes and lengths, supposedly taken from the moon. You figure out what to do with this. Ok, so I gave a bit more guidance than this (see below), but not much. Could I have done this in the 9th grade? NOT A CHANCE.
If you had told me a 9th grader could take this, and produce 4 beautiful graphs, as well as a detailed analysis concluding that gravity of the moon was somehow responsible for altering the relationship between length and period of a pendulum on the moon, I would have never believed it. I honestly thought no one would get this, and we’d end up doing corrections and more to get everyone to some halfway understanding. Here, you see, I’d bought the lie. Give a kid a challenge, a worthy challenge, and watch them shake off your dumb labels and rise to the challenge.
I’ve attached all of my tests here, names redacted for you to check out. As you can see, most of the results are pretty incredible. These students have learned the meaning of a nonlinear relationship, and they, for the most part, can answer some pretty challenging questions about how you linearize the relationship between period and length.
Also, here’s a copy of the in-class test. Most students did incredibly well. Again, the lesson I’m choosing to take away from this is that intro kids are up for a challenge.