As the name implies, the purpose of an accountability quiz is to hold all students accountable. Unlike the participation quiz which helps train students to use their group roles, stick together, and generally work collaboratively, the accountability quiz is meant to train students to truly discuss their mathematical thinking with their peers and understand their thinking.
Prior to implementing this technique what lacked in our group work was students discussing their problem solving approaches. At best, students would just compare their answers and move on or get off topic if they were stuck. Students would be reluctant to share their different approaches, struggling students wouldn’t voice their questions, and students wouldn’t question each other’s ideas or answers.
When we would ask different team members probing questions it was clear that some team members had a strong understanding while others didn’t. Prior to this technique students thought that “understanding” their ideas meant to simply ask their peers if “they got it?” Usually the quieter students would just nod and the team would move on, missing the opportunity to discuss questions their peers may have.
How the Accountability Quiz Works
At the beginning of a problem we announce to the class that today their group will have an Accountability Quiz. This means that the Accountability Managers will need to prepare each group member to answer teacher questions after the team believes that they have finished the problem. At the beginning of the year we usually assign the role of the Accountability Manager to a student with strong leadership skills or to a student who is more outspoken.
When the group is ready for the Accountability Quiz, the teacher picks a student in a group and poses a question to them. No one else in the group is allowed to say anything at this point except for the selected student. If they respond to the question with sufficient mathematical evidence, then the teacher could pick a different group member and ask a different question(s). We usually think of at least 3-4 different differentiated questions to ask each student.
If a student can not respond to your question with sufficient evidence, then the TEAM has not passed your Accountability Quiz yet. It is important to emphasis that it’s the TEAM that has not passed, not the individual student. If the student is lacking in their explanation, then the teacher can say, “It looks like this team needs more time to discuss _______. Accountability Manager please raise your hand when your team is ready to re-try answering this question.” We then walk away until the Accountability Manager calls us over again. This process might repeat several times untill you, as the teacher, feel that the student has convinced you. When it does repeat several times it teaches students several important lessons:
At this point I might go back to the same student or I might surprise the team and pick a new student to continue with the quiz. I do this especially at the beginning of the year so that the rest of the team doesn’t check out! What is great about this strategy is that when I walk away I see students work hard at supporting each other.
Prior to having a quiz we usually sit down and think about differentiated questions that we may ask students based on the problem. We want questions that would push students at their own level. What we love about this strategy is that it helps to eliminate status issues. Students don’t realize that our questions are differentiated and so when the higher achieving students needs more time to answer or think about a question, it helps lower their status.
Overall, this strategy has pushed our students to truly work together as a team and help each other make sense of the problem.
Below is a video of another teacher modeling this strategy. Skip to 53:30-58:54 to see the strategy.