- Ingrid Bucher
Creating quizzes and tests is not exactly the most exciting aspect of our roles as faculty members. Be that as it may, assessing our students’ understanding is critical both to inform our teaching and to make sure that they are developing the knowledge, skills, and understanding that our courses are designed to address. The good news is there are a number of ways to approach quizzes and tests that go beyond the typical multiple choice, short answer, and essay exams.
Key features of the strategy
The two most important characteristics of an effective assessment are that it should measure what you intend to measure and that it is aligned with course and instruction. From here, quizzes and tests can take a variety of forms. Assessments can be both formative (designed to provide students with feedback on their work to assist them during the course) and summative (designed to comprehensively measure their learning at the conclusion of a course). Many of the Higher Education Learning Activities can actually be used as formative assessment opportunities. For example, both discuss/debate and write/respond can serve as formative assessments of students’ learning.
Quizzes and tests are also helpful measures of student learning as well. Each type of test item (e.g., fill-in, true/false, matching, etc. has its own advantages and disadvantages (see Nilson for a thorough review in the chapter on summative assessments). To the degree that they are aligned with the course content, are clear to the students, and challenge them to think at higher levels, assessments are both measurement and learning opportunities. The examples noted below may provide you with inspiration that goes beyond the typical approaches.
Examples and Variations
Application Card Quizzes
In a review of some of her favorite classroom assessment techniques (CATs), Gross discusses the use of application cards. This efficient and effective assessment measures the degree to which students can appropriately apply theories and principles. The premise is simple – the instructor passes out a number of cards that each include a theory or principle from the course. Students then write a real-world example of the theory or principle in action on the reverse side. This could also be “leveled up” by then having students exchange cards to identify additional examples of the concept.
Group Quizzes and Tests
We typically think of quizzes and tests as solitary activities. There are a growing number of strategies to engage students in group exams. Weimer overviews a number of these approaches in a blog post. In most variations, students work either with a single partner or in a small group. In some cases, they discuss the exam together before beginning and then debrief after they individually complete the exam before they turn it in. In other examples, they complete the entire exam individually. After they turn it in, they get together with a small group to retake the same exam. An individual student’s grade is the average of their individual and group score. In a performance-based assessment, one student can serve as a coach to help the group complete the task – without physically helping the rest of the team.
Exams can serve as development learning opportunities when students reflect on their learning, the exam, and the results through the use of what Jose Bowen, the author of Teaching Naked, calls cognitive wrappers. In a blog post he overviews the strategy in which the instructor provides students with a very short survey or series of questions following an exam. Questions can encourage students to consider how long and in what ways they prepared for the exam, which aspects of the exam were most difficult for them and why, and how they would prepare differently for the next exam. In this way, they are learning how to self-regulate their thinking and exam preparation for further success. For examples of cognitive wrappers, visit learningwrappers.org.
Connections to 21st Century Skills and Technologies
Perhaps the most concrete connection between completing quizzes and tests and 21st century skills is self-regulation. In order to prepare effectively for quizzes and tests, students need to organize their materials, understanding their own strengths and weaknesses – both in regards to the material and on their assessment performance, and plan effectively for their review of the material. These are quite challenging skills for many students to master. And although they have had considerable experience in taking quizzes and tests, the material in post-secondary courses is more challenging, and one’s learning techniques continually evolve. Using strategies like exam wrappers can be very helpful in assisting students to develop their own self-regulation strategies.
In terms of technologies, many textbooks provide banks of quiz and test items, along with online exam opportunities. You can also create your own online exams using free tools like Google Forms and Excel Survey. Student response systems can also be used to capture, collect, and display quiz results in real-time.
What strategies do you use for quizzes and tests in your courses?
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