The value of quizzes: weekly or by-weekly

In some conversations that I have had there has been a resistance to multiple choice quizzes.

  • They do not test deep understanding
  • It is difficult to test for application
  • It is easy to cheat in an online environment

Feel free to add your own issues to the list. I must admit that I am a skeptic, and have taken shortcuts on my fare share of online multiple choice quizzes. However, looking back I can see how the well set tests achieved the results set out in the arguements for quizzes set out below.

Use quizzes to:

  1. Set the pace at which students are working
  2. Direct students to what they should be focusing on in the readings.
  3. Reinforce the learning that has been done.
  4. Provide immediate feedback.
  5. Save time for the instructor.
  6. Give students a chance to re-learn their work and improve their grade.

Quizzes can be a valuable learning tool, if teachers put the required prep work into them. There are a few things that we can do to set effective quizzes that save us time, evaluate effectively and are good learning tools.

  1. We can place a time limit on quizzes
    This will force students to do their readings before coming to the quiz.
  2. We can randomize both the order of questions and the order of answers. We can also set more questions that the test needs, and then allow Sakai to randomly choose from the pool.
  3. We are able to allow multiple attempts
    This encourages students to go back to their work to learn the answers that they didn’t get the first time, or re-read their work because they realized that they just didn’t learn it well enough the first time.
  4. Therefore, we can set 30 questions on a reading, set Sakai to randomly choose 15 questions, allow students 20 minutes to complete the quiz, and give 3 attempts. We can be almost 100% sure that students who want to improve their marks will not still get original questions on the third attempt.
  5. We can include on or two paragraph questions, slotted in between multiple choice questions to test for deeper understanding.

The Best Resource: student generated content

If student generated content is the best learning resource then how can I support students in generating really good content.

My experience has been that the best learning moments in class have been when students have been in control of the learning environment. It has been when students have played with what they have learnt in class (or even better, outside of class) and have discovered learning, and shared that learning.

I consider the possibility children can teach themselves, when adults get out of the way, and that students are the only ones who can really integrate the content of the course into their real lives. I then think back to  things I have read (although for academic integrity’s sake I can’t find the resources now) that remind me of how the people who taught me best were not the experts, but were the people who had just learnt what I am struggling with. It is fellow students who have just grasped the concept who are best equipped to teach it to others.

For me as an educator the challenge is then to set up a learning environment in which students can 1) begin to grasp the ideas and concepts that they need to work with, 2) share that understanding with others, and 3) discover ways in which what they are learning actually makes sense in their day to day lives.

If the best learning materials are student generated, then how do we as educators support students in generating awesome learning materials?

We need to make space for students to engage with the subject matter. We need to make space for the subject matter to engage with real life. We need to get out of the way and let students who are beginning to understand the subject teach the students who are not.

Perhaps it is all about providing the right resources, providing the right space, and being present and willing to play with students as they struggle, engage and teach.

cool semi related paperWiki for student generated content; 3 reasons for student generated content