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Summer Institute

7 Examples of Quizzes That Deepen Engagement

1. Mix up the Structure

Mix up the structure – Elizabeth Tropman makes a strong case for reading quizzes. She changes the quiz structure on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s the usual objective questions, other times it’s short-answer questions, or it might be a question that asks for an opinion response to the reading. Some quizzes are open-book; a few are take home. What an interesting way to give students experience responding to different kinds of test questions and to keep quiz experiences from becoming stale.

Tropman, E., (2014). In defense of reading quizzes. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 26 (1), 140-146.

4. Quizzing after questioning

Quizzing after questioning – Before the quiz occurs, students are given the opportunity to ask questions about potential quiz content. The instructor and the class work on finding the right answer or discussing the merits of possible responses. 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 have been asked, answered, and discussed by a variety of students, the professor who shared this option may tell students they’ve just had their quiz and everyone present gets full credit. This approach encourages students to ask better questions and facilitates substantive classroom discussions.

7. A way to make up a missed question

A way to make up a missed question – It’s the standard daily quiz format; three conceptual questions answered during the first five minutes of class.  No make-ups are allowed but the three lowest scores are dropped and one missed quiz question per day can be made up by voluntarily participating during class discussions.  This is one of several motivational features of this quiz design.

2. Collaborative quizzing

Collaborative quizzing – Lots of different options are being used here. Students do the quiz, turn it over, stand up and talk with a partner, to others in a small group, or with whomever they choose. After the discussion, they return to their quiz and may change any of their answers. Alternatively, students do the quiz individually, turn it in, and then do the same quiz in a small group. The two quiz scores are combined with the individual score counting for 75% of the grade and the group quiz 25% (or some other weighted variation). Collaborative quizzing is an effective way to generate enthusiastic discussion of course content and reduce test anxiety.

Pandey, C., and Kapitanoff, S. “The Influence of Anxiety and Quality of Interaction on Collaborative Test Performance.” Active Learning in Higher Education, 2011, 12 (3), 163-174.

5. “Community Space” quiz support

“Community Space” quiz support – Audrey Deterding came up with this alternative “to inspire the often dull quiz routine.”  At the beginning of the class, two randomly selected students have three minutes to write anything from assigned materials on the chalk/white board which become a “community space.”  Students may use anything that’s been written there during the quiz.  The two students may collaborate with each other during the three minutes; the rest of the class remains silent.  A student selected to write may decline, but a replacement will not be chosen..  “The expectation that they [students] may have to share information in the community space motivates most students to closely read the assigned materials.  They want to help their classmates perform well on the quizzes and they don’t want to appear lazy or irresponsible to their peers.”  She also reports that the approach encourages collaborative learning and creates a sense of community in the class.

Deterding, A. L., (2010).  A new kind of space for quizzes.  The Teaching Professor, November, p. 3.

3. Quizzing with resources

Quizzing with resources – Students take detailed notes on the reading because they’re allowed to use those notes during the quiz. The same approach works with quizzes that cover content presented during class. Students may use their class notes while taking the quizzes. The pay-off is a good (or better) set of notes for use during exam preparation. Ali Resaei reports that open-note quizzing coupled with collaboration resulted in significantly higher final exam scores in his quantitative research methods course.

Rezaei, A. R., (2015). Frequent collaborative quiz taking and conceptual learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 16 (3), 187-196.

6. Online quizzes completed before class

Online quizzes completed before class – Students complete an online quiz before class. The quizzes are graded electronically with a compiled summary going to the professor so there’s enough time to look at the most frequently missed problems and/or to identify areas of misunderstanding. Then class time can be used to address those concepts that are giving students the most trouble

The Advantages of Regular Quizzes

The advantage of regular quizzes is that they provide ongoing opportunities for retrieval practice and much cognitive psychology research (like that summarized in the reference below documents the benefits of frequent testing. Regular quizzing does improve class attendance and it gets more students coming to class prepared. Those are not trivial benefits, but with a few different design features, quizzes can also promote deeper engagement with the content, further the development of important learning skills, and provide teachers and students with feedback that promotes learning.

Reference: Brame, C. J. and Biel, R., (2015). Test-enhanced learning: The potential for testing to promote greater learning in undergraduate science courses. Cell Biology Education—Life Sciences Education, 14 (Summer), 1-12.