David's article about open-ended problems is timely for us in Queensland, as we are in the process of introducing three new syllabuses in Mathematics in the senior school (year 11 and 12). All of the syllabuses state that we _must_ include some alternative assessment - at least one assessment item per semester. Generally this has taken the form of assignments done outside of class, over a time period from a weekend to a few weeks.
There is concern expressed by many teachers about the validity of this alternative assessment. School results are the major factor used to select students for limited university places, so the issue is quite critical - a few marks can make the difference between selection for a course or not.
There are two issues - if the project is a group project, how do you stop someone from riding the coattails of a more ambitious student? And if work is done outside of class, how do you ensure that the work submitted by the student is their own work?
We have tended to solve the first problem by not having group projects.
Open-ended questions can help with the second issue, although it doesn't stop the student who has a friend at the uni who gives them major assistance. It doesn't seem fair that this student should get good results because of this assistance while someone else without such connections doesn't.
These questions are great learning experiences, and I would hate to _not_ use them. But I hate _to_ use such questions for assessment because I am not confident I am getting good data.
Our best solution so far is use such assessment, but give it a fairly low weighting. This is sort of a 'damage control' approach, which really isn't very satisfactory.
What have other teachers done? Have you got any good ideas for us?
This doesn't answer David's question - yes, I encourage an exchange of good open-ended questions on this forum. I'll dig around my directories and see what I can find.
Rex Boggs | High above the hushed crowd, email@example.com | Rex tried to remain focused. | Still, he couldn't shake one Glenmore High School | nagging thought: He was an Rockhampton, Quensland | old dog and this was a new Australia | trick - Gary Larson