Today's post relates to what I did in one of my classes today. Effective teachers maximize class time. Administrators sometimes refer to this notion as "bell-to-bell teaching." Many teachers misinterpret this term to mean delivering instruction all the way to the bell. Direct instruction all the way up to the bell misses out on a great instructional opportunity: closure.

Since human beings tend to remember beginnings and endings - sometimes referred to as primacy for the former and recency for the latter - providing strong closure activities increases the probability students retain content long term. Michelle Haiken has a great blog post on potential closure activities here. My post will focus on one way I try to conserve class time.

I struggled in my first few years of teaching with how to hand back papers in an efficient manner. I avoid seating my students alphabetically. I dreaded the first day of school each year since my last name starts with two A's. I really don't like sitting at the front of a class. I prefer to sit not necessarily in the back of a classroom but on the boundary of a classroom. I tend to seat my students randomly early in the semester since I know many teachers choose to let the alphabet rule the day. A randomized seating arrangement does have an unintended consequence: handing back papers can torch two to three minutes of class time unnecessarily. Here is an example of how I approach the class period after an exam and distribute papers to conserve class time.

*Exhibit A: AP Stats exams laid out on tables. On top of each exam is a printed grade summary for the student.*

I use a desktop scanner to scan my answer key into a searchable PDF. Next, I enter the data into Geogebra to construct a boxplot and dotplot of exam scores, along with statistics on the exam. This allows students to compare their own performance with the entire class anonymously.

*Exhibit B: An example display of exam results from one of my classes. Protecting the identities of the students that performed poorly is really important to keeping those students receptive to feedback.*

After analyzing the summary with students, I will go through the most frequently missed problems with students on the scanned answer key PDF. I identify the problems we spend time on through item analysis. If I am teaching multiple sections of a particular class, I will compare the boxplots and summary statistics across the sections and reflect on my teaching practice if I note any marked differences in median or standard deviation. I will post more information later on what I like to do with analyzing exam data and modifying my practice according to results.