I use a daily quiz that has a two-fold purpose: first, it tests the students’ knowledge of the day’s reading material; and second, it provides a focus for the lecture and activities scheduled that day ...
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[dropcap]I[/dropcap] use a daily quiz that has a two-fold purpose: first, it tests the students’ knowledge of the day’s reading material; and second, it provides a focus for the lecture and activities scheduled that day in class. Whether attendance is required or just encouraged, a daily quiz like this provides a fun, interactive way for students to earn points. My students do the quiz as a group activity. As such, it effectively engages students in discussion of the correct answers, and just as importantly, the incorrect answers. Doing so reveals common misconceptions and underscores important points. I vary both the number and type of questions I use on the quizzes.
The grading scheme I use allows students to choose how much the quiz will count. If the class meets three days a week, I allow three points for attendance and students get those points simply by writing the numeral 3 beside their name on the quiz. If a student wants the quiz to count for more, he or she can earn 2 to 5 points, depending on the number of correct answers. Because the quiz is a collaborative activity, students must deliberate and decide on those answers as a group. This means students have to determine how confident they are the group has correctly answered the questions. It adds an element of fun. The group quiz sheet has their names on it and they write beside their name whether they want attendance credit or want to try to earn additional credit for their quiz answers, knowing they could also lose a point if they miss all of the questions. In short, the range can vary (for example, from 2–5, 1–3, or 4–7) allowing the faculty member to change the number of questions or the number of attendance points, but the keys are that the student is rewarded for knowing the material and does not lose significant points for mistakes.
The grading scheme gives instructors the flexibility to vary the points as they see fit. In my summer class that meets weekly, attendance is worth 18 points per day. I administer two daily quizzes in that course. If students opt for attendance credit, they get 10 points which includes a point of extra credit. If they want their quiz answers to count they can earn between 8–12 additional points on each quiz.
My use of these quizzes has evolved. When I first used the daily quiz assignment, it was an individual quiz. Students got no points if they missed all the questions. Students felt strongly they should get some credit for showing up for class, so I started awarding three points for attendance. For a while I combined individual quizzes and group quizzes. That took care of the free rider problem because students didn’t know before they arrived in class whether they’d take the quiz individually or in groups. However, students got so engaged discussing the content when they worked together on it, I stopped using the individual quiz. In addition to working enthusiastically on the content, students also learn something about working in groups.
Once I’ve collected students’ answer sheets, we review the questions. I incorporate the day’s lecture materials into the review of answers. This makes it easy to explain both correct answers and incorrect answers. Students’ misunderstandings and misconceptions often come out during these discussions. Sometimes this review is brief and sometimes it becomes a more extensive discussion of content relevant to the questions. Students have learned to pay attention during these discussions because quiz questions have been known to become exam questions.
On my course evaluations student regularly note that the daily quiz is one of their favorite activities. Quizzes are a great way to begin class, with students actively discussing and debating course content. This approach to quizzing could work in almost any kind of course. Most importantly, if the grading stakes are low, students can have fun with the activity. In my courses they vigorously debate the questions, discuss the ideas, and in the process, they learn the material.
Delia B. Conti is an associate professor of corporate communication at Penn State University, Fayette Campus.