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In one of my FASS Communication post-grad classes, there is a high number of international students, which in previous years has presented the challenge of gauging whether students are comprehending the learning materials or not. This was something discussed in the teaching team, led by the subject coordinator. It was important to ensure students were understanding the weekly content in order to successfully complete the assessments. The two main areas of concern were class preparation and knowledge-acquisition – were they completing the pre-class work required (typically one or two readings and an small activity of some sort), and were they understanding the subject content? It was one thing getting the students to complete the pre-class work, but it was another gauging whether they had comprehended the work.
Each week I would ask myself:
- Have they read and understood the readings?
- Have they completed the relevant activities correctly?
- Have they understood the class content?
After discussing the issue with the subject coordinator, I began to trial the use of a weekly interactive quiz (using a free online quiz program/service called Socrative) at the beginning of each class (3-hour seminars) that goes through the 3Rs:
- Review – what did we do last week?
- Raise – what are we doing this week?
- Reinforce – what should I be remembering?
I begin each quiz with questions relating to the previous week’s class content in order to review and discuss what was previously covered. At the end of each question, which usually covers one main point, I recap the key points and engage in discussion with the students. I then ask questions based on the week’s set readings and/or activities to raise the agenda/key points for this week’s topic. I use this as an opportunity to introduce key ideas or engage in a discussion about the set readings/activities. Lastly I ask questions relating to assessments, highlighting important information that I feel needs further reinforcement. This enables me to check that the students have understood the assessment requirements or other important subject information.
20 minutes a week can make all the difference!
The quizzes typically last about 20 minutes and offer students a chance to ask questions and seek clarification on points of confusion or uncertainty.
Here are some examples of questions used to capture student’s engagement with the readings and previous week’s content:
The questions are a combination of multiple choice, true or false and open-ended questions. I have found that by establishing a weekly routine where their understanding of the content is tested in an informal manner increases the successful participation and completion of the subject.
Some positive outcomes included:
- Students knew what was expected each week and had a sense of consistency and structure;
- The number of students completing the readings and pre-class work increased to about 90% on average throughout the semester;
- Students were more inclined to seek clarification on points of confusion or uncertainty in this structured, yet informal setting; and
- Students became more confident in contributing to class discussion (particularly among the international student cohort, which is typically less-engaged in large group discussions)
After some time in testing and refining, other teaching staff on the subject were included and trained so that they could implement their own versions of the quiz. The quiz was by no means a perfect solution to an ongoing issue, however it offered one way to assist in the preparation and evaluation of weekly teaching. It has not solved the problem entirely, but does help to support the Review, Raise and Reinforce approach very well.
The below programs/services are free and easily managed using a desktop or mobile app. They are appropriate for all levels of technical ability and require minimal prep time. Teachers create the online quiz before class and students are given access through a classroom code (Socrative) or game code (Kahoot!). Students answer questions on their own devices at a pace controlled by the teacher. The questions with live responses are displayed on a shared (teacher) screen. The following programs/services I have used before and highly recommend.
Participant numbers = 50 (free), 150 (pro US$60/year)
- Teacher login gives you a unique classroom number for easy access by students
- Various kinds of activities
- Can share quizzes with other staff
- Generates reports on quizzes
- Does not yet integrate video or audio into the questions
Participant numbers = Upwards of hundreds depending on Internet bandwidth
- Various learning games including interactive quizzes
- You can add videos, images and diagrams to questions
- Incorporates music and animation into live quizzes
- Has a leader board for live quizzes based on points awarded for accuracy and speed
- Quite juvenile, so would work well for undergrads, but not so well received by post-grads.
Other similar programs/services include:
So if you are after a new strategy to help with the completion of set readings and pre-class work, or to test knowledge in an informal setting, give interactive quizzes a go. I have found that both undergraduate and postgraduate student groups find them helpful and fun, and as a teacher, helps me assess each individual cohort’s progression through the subject. Let me know in the comments if you have used a different program/service and what kinds of outcomes you have had in the past. Here’s to a productive and successful 2018!
Feature image by: Freepik