Online Quizzing Changed How I Use Quizzes

Before March 2020, I believed firmly that frequent, in-class quizzes were a way to ensure students had prepared for class and had some understanding of the material. In fact, I was notorious for pop quizzes, although I did make it a practice of dropping the

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Knowledge Checks

1. I call my quizzes “knowledge checks.” The name emphasizes the primary purpose of the quiz—to discover what the student has not mastered in the assigned material. Students do not associate the word “quiz” with my formative intentions so I avoid using it.

2. Both my

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Quizzes on the Go

How can you infuse your classes with lively, productive experiences that nurture awake and alert minds in your students? What sort of instructional practices prime students to be cognitively active “learners on the go”?

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Examining the Quiz

We’re ready to share responses to our call for insights, experiences, and opinions on quizzes. You can expect to see them over the course of the next several weeks. I’ll start here with an overview of the issues to consider if you want to start

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Test Questions and Quizzing Improve Exam Performance

Sometimes courses with large enrollments spawn useful innovations, and this study looked at one empirically. Large courses almost always mandate the use of multiple-choice tests, and incorporating quizzes in these courses can present sizeable logistical challenges. To cope with that situation in a large microbiology

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The (Mostly) Unmarked Quiz

Students take a 10-question quiz at the beginning of class, and it’s graded immediately. The instructor provides some of the answers; the rest are discussed with consideration of the pros and cons of various answers. Students take notes on the quiz during this discussion. The

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Illustration of a touchscreen quiz

Prevent Student Errors with a Self-Paced Syllabus Quiz

Around an image of Yoda’s face, block letters urge, “Read the syllabus you must.” This meme represents a common complaint among college instructors, particularly those who teach online classes: that students do not follow syllabus instructions. In many on-campus classes, instructors devote at least several

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repetitive quizzes

Using Repetitive Quizzes to Build Knowledge

Every year I teach a compulsory first-year course on the basics of psychology, which includes an introduction to developmental psychology. Lately I have also been teaching a follow-up elective course on child development. When I discovered that many of the students in the elective had

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why reading quizzes work

Reading Quizzes: Why They Work

The body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of regular quizzes on assigned readings continues to grow. They’ve been shown to raise exam scores in courses from different disciplines, at two- and four-year institutions and with varying quiz logistics (online and in class, for example). It’s

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Before March 2020, I believed firmly that frequent, in-class quizzes were a way to ensure students had prepared for class and had some understanding of the material. In fact, I was notorious for pop quizzes, although I did make it a practice of dropping the lowest quiz scores. During my decades teaching, I never really questioned the efficacy of quizzes—not until that one day in March 2020, a day that helped me change my teaching practices for the better.

Like most other teachers, I switched to online quizzes during the pandemic. Having to do so was beneficial to me and my students for several reasons, but primarily because the transition to online learning made me question, deeply, my pedagogical practices. I had a great deal of trouble crafting the online quizzes particularly at first: I didn’t want students simply looking up answers to quizzes, so I used short-answer prompts, but I quickly discovered students were collaborating and not doing their own work. To solve that problem, I relied on question banks. Unfortunately, some students ended up with questions that were harder to answer than others, and thus I was confronted with conundrums regarding inclusivity and equity.

Not sure what to do, I sent students a survey asking them what they saw as the purpose of quizzes and how they would like me to use them. Most of the students understood the need for quizzes. They made these suggestions. “Make them more fun.” “Let us have more than one chance to take them so we won’t get so anxious.” “Write WHY we’re taking them in the directions field.”

That last comment was one I found surprisingly puzzling. Why did I use quizzes, anyway? How would I myself describe their purpose? “To prepare you for the exam” was circular reasoning as exams resemble large quizzes. “To make sure you keep up with the reading” seemed arbitrary and punitive. “To help you compare and contrast Gilgamesh and Beowulf as heroes in their respective epics so we can discuss the similarities and differences between pre-Christian and emergent Christian values” was much more specific and much more helpful, not only to the students but also to me.

I worked on their other suggestions. To make the quizzes fun, I included pictures, graphics, and silly stories. For example, rather than asking students to define the affective fallacy, I made up a story about ungendered “Ickle and Pickle,” who were discussing a book and found it high value because they liked it. The quiz question asked, “What common fallacy are Ickle and Pickle falling into?” If students got the answers wrong, I let them retake the quiz. I had them explain why the correct answer was correct.

The changes I implemented allowed me to use more research-based practices, such as interleaving and backward design. The students tell me they see the reason for the quizzes and that the way I’m using them now has reduced their anxiety. My initial belief that quizzes should test student knowledge has completely changed. I now believe quizzes can and should be used as learning tools. Giving students autonomy over their learning practices helps them practice higher-order thinking skills, thereby allowing them to broadly apply course curriculum in both their college and post-college lives.

Ana Schnellmann, PhD, is a professor of English at Lindenwood University.