Day 5: Involving the students (part 1)

students writing questions for a test - which others are using.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yesterday, we looked at allowing students to see what others have created for their assignment – how about extending this to getting students to set quiz questions for each other –

Today, we have  a guest post by Dr. Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel. about that.

An evidence-based strategy that promotes retention of taught material and fosters understanding of material is retrieval practice. Retrieval practice means that students actively bring information to mind – without looking at their notes. The idea it to test oneself on a regular basis on previously-taught material. Frequent quizzing is the key for long-term retention of knowledge. Engaging in retrieval practice shows what you know and what you still have not mastered. However, it is much more than that: Successfully retrieving information strengthens the memory of that information! It is a real memory booster – so to say. One way for lecturers to make use of this strategy is to include in-class quizzes and have students generate answers. Another way is to provide students with practice questions that they can work on at home. But there is yet another option that I have explored last semester in one of my classes: Student-generated questions.

At the end of the semester and before the final exam, I tasked the students with a challenge: To create two questions per lecture and submit them the following week. The key here is that students should already have prior knowledge of the material. It is impossible to generate good questions, if you don’t have a basic understanding of the material. Thus, giving students the question-generating task after having provided input, is a good idea. Students submitted their questions through Assignments on MyDundee as a Word document. The challenge component was that if more than 50% of the class submitted their questions, I would release all questions to them (alongside my questions).

This requirement was imposed as an incentive and out of fairness. First, it would be unfair to make student questions available for everyone, if only a few students are doing the hard work. Second, I wanted as many students as possible to engage with the task. For sure this challenge component made a huge difference: Compared to the year before, where only 2 (!) out of 100 students submitted questions, this year 27 out of 106 students submitted their questions. Many of the student-generated questions were brilliant – clearly showing that they have obtained a good understanding of the material. Unfortunately, still not enough students contributed to take advantage of getting access to the large pool of questions, but more students engaged with the task.

Still, I wanted all students to benefit from having good practice questions. For that reason, I made representative questions (questions generated by many students) available to them during my revision lecture.

Possible improvements for the future:

  • Use a better way to collect the questions. Is there a good free software that can support this strategy?
  • Prepare students during the semester. Explain to them that generating questions should be a weekly revision activity. This way they are already using this strategy continuously during the semester.
  • Find a way for students to work collaboratively on the questions, swapping questions, and – most importantly – generating answers and give each other feedback. Again, is there a software that can support this in a smooth and nonintrusive way?

In part 2 of today’s post, we’ll look at getting students to peer mark each other, and how they might look at developing their own grading criteria.

Day 5: Involving the students (part 2)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In part 1 of today’s post, we thought about encouraging students to develop quiz questions. Yesterday, we looked at allowing students to see what others have created for their assignment – but what about extending this to allow (require!) peer marking, or perhaps getting students to start looking at how they’ll be graded.

A student, an essay - and other students marking it
Students reviewing/marking others have created.
(Created using images from the Noun Project)

We have a number of tools that will allow peer (and self) marking – both VLEs in use (My Dundee and Moodle) have this feature, as does Turnitin.

However, the next stage would be to get the students co-create the marking schema. As with all activities that are new for students, it can take time; I have done it a number of times, and each time we needed a lot of preparation time to get the students to understand what they had to do. What was particularly interesting to me was how little the students understood phrases in standard marking criteria that were used in other courses. The highest tech, though, that I ever got to for agreeing the criteria was the invaluable PostIt!




Have you had other ideas for involving students in the assessment process?

Further reading:

Meer, N., & Chapman, A. (2014). Co-creation of Marking Criteria: Students as Partners in the Assessment Process. Business and Management Education in HE, 1–15.

Day 4: Adding Interactivity 1 (Quizzes)

Head, full of cogwheels and a questionmark
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Head, full of cogwheels and a questionmark
Created by “Tumisu”; shared on Pixaby with CC0 licence.

Most academics know that students value having formative assessment within a module (even if they don’t always access it as often as you might like). Today, we’ll have a look at the Quiz tools that are in My Dundee, and some of the other options that you might want to us, to enable students to engage with formative assessment.

If you haven’t looked at the quiz tools in My Dundee for some time, you might be pleasantly surprised to find the range of question types that are now available.

Click larger version

Blackboard has descriptions of all the question types, and information about scoring options etc.

As formative assessment is primarily to find out what students don’t know, so that they can learn it, one useful trick can be, rather than thinking of multiple choice questions to cover key facts, to have short answer questions – that aren’t automatically graded. You can then skim the answers given by students, and give support in class for common misconceptions. (This method can also be useful to start to build up possible answers for multiple choice, as you’ll be including common errors, rather than errors you think the students might make).

Another option for involving students in this process is Peerwise. It allows you to get students to create multiple choice questions for each other – which gets them to engage with the content, and to identify what the key concepts are.

David Martin (Life Sciences) has used this, and has a playlist of videos to help you get going as a tutor. (Hint: To start, click on the “Get Started” link in the upper right of the screen, don’t try to find Dundee in the large search box!)

How would you see your use of formative assessment in your modules? Do they lend themselves well to multiple choice and other objective question types, or do you feel there are other ways that work better with your cohort?

What do you feel about peer / self assessment? Both My Dundee and Turnitin allow you to set up peer assessments for essays etc, to allow students to reflect on each other’s work – and both allow you to create a series of questions to help the students comment on others work.

If there are any students reading this – what are your feelings on self/peer assessment? Have you had to take part in peer assessment, either at University, or in school/College? What value did you get from having your work peer assessed? What  did you gain from assessing someone else’s?

Blackboard quiz creator

If you are using the basic question types in Blackboard, there are a number of sites that allow you to create a file of questions, and import them into Blackboard.

  • Newcastle – this allows you to include feedback; and it creates a zip file for import into a pool. Once you have input your text, click the “Blackboard” button to generate the zip file.
  • College of DuPage – an overview of other’s tools, (including Southern Idaho, who developed the original tool).

Supporting research

  • Kivunja, C. (2015). Why Students Don’t Like Assessment and How to Change Their Perceptions in 21st Century Pedagogies. Creative Education6(20), 2117–2126.
    Covers assessment generally, rather than just formative, but makes suggestions for approaches to assessment generally.
  • Raes, A., Vanderhoven, E., & Schellens, T. (2015). Increasing anonymity in peer assessment by using classroom response technology within face-to-face higher education. Studies in Higher Education40(1), 178-193.
    While this looks at Classroom response technology, it covers peer assessment generally. The options we have in Turnitin and Blackboard allow for the peer assessment to be anonymous.

The Distracted classroom

series of posts on The Chronicle of Higher Education, looking how technology can distract students, but also how staff can use it to engage students in the classroom.

Question the guru

Many of you will have read Phil Race’s books, and will have seen some of his presentations. In August, he’s offering to answer your questions! August Project: your questions please . So far, he’s not shared any questions on his site, could someone from Dundee be the first?!

As we all know designing MCQs isn’t as easy as it could be. You may have seen this before, as Phil Race uses it frequently – though it’s been used by quite a lot of others, and appears to have originated in Australia.