Timed, in-class quizzes: workshopping improvements and alternatives
Contributed by: Leah Renwick
Students may dislike or dread timed, in-class quizzes. Anecdotally, frequent quizzes at the beginning of every lecture are often stressful for students and thus not conducive to student engagement during the rest of class.
What are alternative tools to assess recall and understanding?
The UC Davis “TA’s Guide to Effective Teaching at UC Davis” and accompanying “Dig Deeper: Additional Resources for UC Davis Instructors” outline several tools that could be used, summarized here:
Recall/Understanding Assessment Tool
Background knowledge probe
Questionnaire at beginning of course/unit
Before class: students answer a question or complete a sentence related to a new topic
Choose an important concept and ask students to list related concepts and ideas.
Before class: What do you KNOW? What do you WANT TO KNOW? After class: What did you LEARN?
One-minute quick write: What is the most significant thing you learned today?
The muddiest point
What was the most unclear concept for you in the last lecture?
In-class or online polling
Feedback on background knowledge, preparation for class, or how well students understood material covered in class
Some of these tools lend themselves to assessing student understanding but also assigning grades (e.g. online polling/quiz), while others lend themselves more to improving teaching (e.g. the muddiest point). Overall, GTC members favored using most of these tools only sporadically throughout a quarter or semester, since some of them could be time consuming to review systematically. GTC members also suggested that doing the “muddiest concept” in groups rather than individually could make it more time-efficient and that the “minute paper” technique could be used to outline a larger assignment.
Should quizzes be scrapped, or just improved?
GTC members advocated improving quizzes but supporting students’ study process and perhaps modifying the quiz structure or setting. Suggestions for improvement:
- Provide study questions to guide students’ reading of journal articles and reviews of the previous lecture (most popular idea!)
- Consider including a reading comprehension workshop to build students’ capacity to read academic articles or providing relevant resources, for example:
- Frederique Laubepin’s “How to Read (and Understand) a Social Science Journal Article”
- Kevin Barnhurst’s “Reading in the Social Sciences”
- Intersperse quiz questions throughout lecture e.g. 3 questions, 1-2 minutes, T/F, grading includes points for participation and correctness.
- Move quiz from in class to online campus learning management system (e.g. Canvas at UC Davis) to reduce stress of in-class, timed quizzes, and make quiz multiple choice in order for grades to input directly into gradebook.
References and links
UC Davis, The TA’s Guide to Effective Teaching at UC Davis (2015): http://cee.ucdavis.edu/docs/TA_Guide_2015-Accessible.pdf
UC Davis, Dig Deeper: Additional Resources for UC Davis Instructors (2016): http://cee.ucdavis.edu/docs/2016/2016_TAGuide_Compiled-Dig-Deepers.pdf
Frederique Laubepin (2013) “How to Read (and Understand) a Social Science Journal Article”: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/files/instructors/How_to_Read_a_Journal_Article.pdf
Kevin Barnhurst’s “Reading in the Social Sciences”: http://kgbcomm.people.uic.edu/didact/pdf/readsocsci.pdf