Post written by guest author Alexandra Webb, ANU Medical School.
We identified on Day 1 of this Coffee Course that practice tests (quizzes) and spacing learning over time are the most effective strategies for student learning. But what do students actually do when it comes to study?
In addition to a reliance on relatively ineffective study strategies and minimal use of effective study strategies such as practice testing and using flashcards, Blaisman et al., 2016 found that students mass their study to the day or two before a (summative) examination rather than spacing learning over time. So, by providing students with quizzes throughout your course(s), you can encourage students to apply effective study strategies for their learning.
This sounds simple! But how can we achieve this in practice? Here are a few tips to consider in designing and delivering quizzes throughout your course(s).
Test your quiz
Ask a colleague(s) or tutor(s) to review your questions, answers and feedback to identify any typographical errors, content errors, or misinterpretation before the quiz is released to students. If using an online quiz tool it can also be helpful to do the test a few times to make sure everything works OK.
Educate your students and staff
Educate your students about the best strategies for learning and stress the importance of scheduling regular study time. Share these discussions with your tutors and colleagues as Morehead et al., 2015 found that 41% of instructors told their students to use rereading as a study strategy.
Example from an ANU anatomy course: The number of students using an online weekly quiz increased from 79% (2018) to 93% (2019) when the course commenced with an introduction to effective study strategies. However, the effect was not sustained throughout the semester. So, reinforcement and/or incentives may be required.
Timed quiz release
Online quizzes have the benefit of automated timed release i.e. the quiz can become available and then closed to students at a specific time on a specific date. This can be used by the teacher to compel students to use the quizzes AND space their learning. It is important to ensure students are given explicit instructions regarding the quiz availability.
Example from an ANU anatomy course: 50% of students accessed and used a weekly quiz, aligned to the topic of that week, that they had 1-week to complete. In comparison, 18% of students attempted a quiz that was provided for them to complete any time during the course.
Even with low-stakes quizzes, it is possible to provide incentives for your students to regularly participate in the quizzes you provide to them. This may include: minor contribution to the end of course grade, gamification/competition, explicit alignment to summative examinations.
Examples: For each student their top 3 marks for 10 quizzes during the course contribute 5% to their end of course grade. The student team with the highest collective number of marks at the end of the course receives a prize. A selection of quiz questions will be used in the end of course summative examination.
Review and respond to the learner analytics to address any misconceptions that your students have had. In order to obtain useful analytics, you may have to set your quiz so that students can only respond once which in some quiz systems may mean that they cannot explore other answer options or immediately see the feedback for each answer option (in a multiple choice question). So you need to carefully weigh up what your goal for the quiz is. To get the best of both worlds you can do both: set the quiz with one answer option only to be completed by a specified deadline – review and respond to the analytics – re-release the quiz with the option to answer multiple times and view all feedback options.
The quiz results can tell you how to adjust your teaching based on how students are dealing with the material. Use the reports to feed-forward into your next face-to-face session. What strategies would you use in-class to address the quiz result reports? If students consistently get some answers wrong, this could mean that the question is confusingly worded. If students get it right every time, it might be too easy.
One of the Coffee Courses coming up later in 2019 is focused on learning analytics – more information available soon.
Reflect on your quiz questions, feedback and delivery method; student participation, responses and results; and identify any issues that you can solve to improve the quiz for next time.
Activity and discussion
- Draft a quiz question and post it here for feedback from your peers.
- How do you plan to deliver a quiz in your course? e.g. Moodle (Wattle) quiz, Echo 360 ALP, hands in the air, paper-based activity?
- What ideas do you have for initiatives to maximise student participation?
Give us your feedback!
Our team is currently running an evaluation of the coffee courses, and we would really appreciate if you could take our survey and share your experiences. Read more.