Collaborative Quizzing

by: Michael Curry
English Instructor
Delaware Technical Community College

To most people, collaborative assessment sounds counter-intuitive.  Last week, however, in one of my Pre-Tech Reading classes I wanted to try something new when quizzing my students, so we tried a collaborative quiz.  The idea behind this was offer a context where critical analysis could happen in a quiz setting that typically requires simple recall.

In this course we have semi-regular quizzes on a variety of topics, but the quizzes are all in a static format – identify a key concept and discuss why it is important in the skill of critical reading.  Most of the answers to these quizzes are able to be memorized without much effort.  So here is what I did to shake things up a bit in an effort to elicit some higher order thinking skills:

Procedure:

  1. Split the student up into randomized groups and have them put away all of their study material
  2. Explain the process of collaborative quizzing
    1. Each group gets one quiz
    2. Each group gets one grade
  3. Set a timer for the quiz.  If you don’t do this, some groups will discuss the answers for far too long.  A timer will allow them time to discuss their answers, but it will have to be an efficient conversation
    1. Give them a little less time than you think they will need to create a sense of urgency.  You can always give them a few extra minutes if needed.
    2. Here is a great online timer that projects well.
    3. http://timer.onlineclock.net/
  4. Walk around and monitor student conversation
  5. When they are finished, encourage them to review their answers to be sure that

Observations:

  1. Students were very apprehensive to start.  Group work can create tension because students don’t want their grade to be dependent on someone who didn’t study
  2. Leaders emerge very quickly.  Pay attention to the way people are leading! A too dominant personality can take away from the point of the collaboration to facilitate critical thinking.
  3. My class needed much less time than they typically do for these quizzes.  Usually they take about 20 minutes.  All three groups were finished in approximately 10 minutes.
  4. The group conversations were great.  Students were having legitimate conversations about the use and applications of these concepts and how they should be communicated to earn full credit.  These were the higher order thinking skills that I was trying to elicit.

Reflections:

  1. I’m glad that my students didn’t know about this in advance.  If they did, then some students could take advantage of the situation to get grades that they didn’t work for.  If I do this again, it will be a surprise again.
  2. The conversations that my students had were really impressive.
  3. I was really impressed with the amount of academic discussion that emerged from this activity.  Even students who were typically reserved were engaging in the discussion
  4. I put my students in groups of 3 or 4.  I think this was a good number because it allowed for all students to have a voice.  Similarly, no student could get lost in a group this small

I’ll be trying this again with another class soon, but I think next time I am going to go with groups of two and see how the dynamics change when there are only two.  So if you see me around campus, ask me how the small group quizzing went!

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