Maximizing the quality and utility of computer-aided quizzing
Other conference contribution, 2017
Computer-aided quizzing has the potential to offer many positive effects on student learning in the classroom setting. With an increasing availability of computer softwares and smartphone apps to administer quizzes, the threshold to introducing them has never been lower. Valuable effects from the use of quizzes, as suggested in the literature, include increasing student learning, making students more responsive in general, offering means to reveal student misunderstanding and making lectures overall more fun (Wood, 2004; Caldwell, 2007; Freeman et al., 2014).
The present contribution is based on the author’s experiences from the introduction of computer-aided quizzing into an eligible course in Fluid Dynamics as a means to improve the student learning, the lecture quality (both as perceived by the students and as experienced by the lecturer) and the overall student participation during lectures. The presentation is primarily aimed at teachers who have some experience from using quizzes, and who are interested in developing them. An overview of lessons learned in relation to the use of quizzes in a traditional lecture setting will be provided. The pros and cons of different question types will be addressed, and specific recommendations on availability of the quiz material will be made.
The results from the course evaluations show that the students enjoy the quizzes and that they think that the quizzes help them improve their understanding of the course material. The quizzes are also a success from the point of view that they do engage all students present at the lectures, and they also make lecturing more fun. However, there is no evidence that the student learning (as measured by the student performance on the exam) is actually improved.
The observation that students’ self-reported learning is enhanced by the use of quizzes, in conjunction with the fact that the student learning as measured by their performance on the exam does not increase, is of significant interest. There seems to be a need to reflect critically on the design of the quizzes. The message sent from the teacher to the students via the choice of question material and phrasing is likely to be important here. Students are known to develop study strategies and patterns based on the perceived demands of their classes (Connor-Greene, 2000), and the way the students believe that their knowledge will be examined has a profound effect on their approach to higher-level thinking within a course. By administrating quizzes that merely cover basic knowledge, rather than, e.g., analysis, synthesis and evaluation, one risks sending mixed signals if a parallel goal is to stimulate critical thinking (King, 1995; Connor-Greene, 2000). The same problem arises when questions addressing higher-level thinking are asked but with words and phrases that are essentially identical to the ones used in class, and the quiz reverts to a question of mere memorization (Bol & Strage, 1996). This subject of question design will be used as the starting point in an attempt to initiate a collegial discussion on maximizing the quality and utility of computer-aided quizzing in our courses.