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The (Mostly) Unmarked Quiz

Assignments of Note

The (Mostly) Unmarked Quiz

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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 quizzes count for participation, with most of the credit determined by the quality of students’ notes.

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Editor’s note: The following article is part of an ongoing resource collection called Assignments of Note, in which we showcase innovative assignments featured in scholarly articles.

The assignment

Locklin, R. (2019). The (mostly) unmarked quiz. Teaching Theology & Religion, 22(1), 55. https://doi.org/10.1111/teth.12471 [open access]

Brief description

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 quizzes count for participation, with most of the credit determined by the quality of students’ notes.

Problems the assignment addresses

Learning skills the assignment promotes

Details and logistics

The quiz includes three true-false, three multiple choice, and four short answer questions, the last of which asks for reflection. Students answer the questions from memory but may consult their notes during the last three minutes of the eight devoted to the quiz. The quiz itself is uniquely structured (see the sample). The questions are on the left side and a blank column on the right. During review of the open-ended questions, which are always discussed, students take notes in that blank column. Then the instructor collects the quizzes.

Grading

Quizzes earn participation credit. That credit is mostly determined by the quality of the notes students have taken rather than their answers to the questions. The instructor promptly returns the quizzes, and students can use them for exam preparation.

Evidence of the assignment’s effectiveness

The instructor notes that “unexpectedly,” the strategy has helped him “de-center” the discussion (Locklin, 2019, p. 55). Once the routine gets established, students start taking responsibility for the analysis of answer options. He reports that they enjoy brainstorming and evaluating answer possibilities, which effectively engages them with the course material.

Resources included in the article

The author submitted a sample quiz, which you can download below.

Reid Locklin sample unmarked quiz

An update from the author (10/29/2019)

I wasn’t looking for a different way to use quizzes; I was looking for a different way to lead tutorial discussions. I ran into an article about the effectiveness of testing as a formative learning strategy and decided to start experimenting with it.

When I look at students’ quizzes, the best notes [they’ve taking during discussion of the questions] provide a record of the conversation that unfolded as we discussed the questions, rather than a recording of the right answers. I am particularly impressed if a student has taken time to note alternate ways of understanding a question, or—for the final, reflective question—to record views with which they disagree.

In the first-year course I used to teach every year, I would set up a panel of former students early in the term. I would leave the session so that those former students could speak freely. I would hear that they emphasized the usefulness of the unmarked quiz. I no longer teach this course, but I have adapted the unmarked quiz for use in another course.

To those considering this or other quizzing strategies, my advice is to always think of the quiz as a discussion tool rather than as a quiz. For me that’s been key. Once you make this leap, the quiz becomes an easy tool to adapt. As I’ve discovered, it can effectively promote good student discussion with students responding to each other.