Monday, August 29, 2016

Utilizing Quizzes for Deeper Understanding

Quizzes, although often a helpful tool in determining where students stand as far as comprehension in your course, can become monotonous over time.  Rethinking the ways in which you utilize quizzing could be the answer to breaking up the monotony of question after question, and instead provide students as yourself new and interesting ways to look at and work with information.

According to an article by Maryellen Weimer in Faculty Focus, there are five types of quizzes you may not have normally considered that could spice up the ways in which students approach your class, and improve their engagement with the content overall.  And the best news?  Some of them are really quite simple to implement.

Option #1:  Mixing Up Your Quiz Structure
Although it seems too simply, switching up the formats of your quizzes between multiple choice, short answer, opinion-based, open-book, take home, group quizzes, short essay, you name it, can really help provide a way for students to deal with the content in more diverse and intriguing ways.  Providing them with quizzes that supply multiple outlets for them to express what they know and are able to do with their newly learned information make them more apt to continue working with that knowledge as the semester progresses.

Option #2: Collaborative Quizzing
Collaborative quizzing is actually a neat little tool to use when you’d like your students to have some time to talk through their ideas and theories about a particularly dense or challenging piece of reading.  You might have students first complete their quiz individually, flip it upside down on their desk, and then take some time to discuss their thoughts and struggles with those around them.  Then, after the allotted discussion time, provide them a few extra minutes to go back through their quiz to review and change answers as needed.  This promotes the idea of utilizing resources and gaining perspective with the elements you are working with in class. 

If that’s not quite your style, try quizzing students twice, once individually, and once in a group using the same quiz.  The two quiz scores can be combined and averaged in some way according to a pre-determined policy you discuss with your students to create one grade to enter into your grade book.  Regardless of how you chose to do it, collaborative quizzing is a great way to get students enthusiastically discussing course content and also reduces test anxiety.

Option #3: Quizzing with Resources
As a preparation for class, have students take detailed notes on the content for the day.  Let them know ahead of time that they’ll be able to use their notes on their quiz to ensure that they work hard to comprehend the material and write notes that are helpful and effective.  According to research, open-note quizzing leads to higher final exam scores when coupled with collaborative work and discussions in the classroom.

Option #4: Quizzing After Questioning
Before you send out a quiz to be completed, set aside some time to discuss any questions about potential quiz content.  Providing students with possible responses and working through the issues and struggles they’ve been having together will help them to better understand content previous to quizzing rather than receiving a poor score for not understanding complicated material.  If someone asks a question that stimulates a lot of good discussion, that question becomes the quiz question and students have the designated amount of time to write an answer.  Or if a variety of good questions is discussed and answered by the students, the instructor can make the decision to then designate that everyone has completed the quiz as a large group discussion, earning them all full credit for their participation and debate.  This approach encourages students to ask deeper questions and provides ample information for better classroom discussions.

Option #5: Online Quizzes Completed Before Class
This is a relatively common option that is easy to implement in your courses.  Provide students with an online quiz that they are to complete before attending class for the day.  The quizzes can be graded electronically and the results sent to the professor, outlining which questions students struggled most with.  Then, class time can be used to address the areas that students are struggling with the most.  

Adapted from: Faculty Focus
Written By: Jessica Moser

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