Day 9: Asking Smart Questions

11 09 2009

directon sign 847499_lowDay 9 was a totally new experience for me. Since most of the students in this class are literally 3 months out of high school, we took a full class period to talk about how to study for college exams. I also let the students write and evaluate exam questions, several of which I used on the test. As far as connected learning goes, we checked roll and that was it. But I will mention (since we’re talking about writing questions) that once your students are tied into a session with their personal response system, you can include questions that help you learn a great deal about the people you are teaching.

For example during this particular class we started by asking a response question about how much time each of them spent studying nightly in high school. This was a safe question to ask, since I knew from lots of national research that the average high school student studies less than an hour per night, and sure enough, ours look a lot like the average. Asking this question accomplished at least three things. First, it confirmed what I thought. Second, it let the students know whether their individual experiences are typical or not. And third, it opened the door for a discussion about what is required in college (and the fact that studying is usually part of the mix for successful students).

Other questions include asking my business majors which of our four majors they expect to choose (this is helpful because accounting majors and management majors tend to be quite different in terms of interest and aptitude). Also, at any point in the semester, I can throw in a question about their general state of mind, attitude, etc. (and have the responses be confidential if I choose to).

In seeking a better software solution for quizzing, I was faced with a dilemma: my students wanted two incompatible things. First, they really liked the one quiz I gave them in which they were told the correct answer to each question as soon as they answered it; there is good research that says students learn more when they get this kind of feedback. Second, they liked the ability to answer questions but come back and change their answers later. If you think about it, these two are sort of mutually exclusive. What’s needed is a way to mark an item but require a second step to actually submit the answer. For our next trial we’re going to keep things simple and just let them go backward and forward all they want before finally hitting a ‘submit’ button at the end. Maybe down the road we can fancy it up a bit.

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