Tuesday is a heavy teaching day for me– I’m in lab from 9-4, basically– so here’s something to occupy the time. Oh, no! It’s a pop quiz:
(In case the phrase is an American idiom, a “pop quiz” refers to a short test given in class with no advance warning.)
This was inspired by Dermot O’Brien at Inside Higher Ed, who reports on taking his first quiz as a science student. The general topic of quizzes is one that generates a fair bit of heat, though, so I thought I’d see what my readers think of it.
My quiz policy as of a year or so ago was to give many short in-class quizzes, roughly one per week (I generally got in nine in a ten-week term), announced one class in advance. The quizzes were about ten minutes each, and consisted of either five conceptual multiple-choice questions or one problem taken verbatim from the homework. I kept the five highest grades for each student.
This struck a pretty good balance, I think. It let me see how the students did under more or less exam conditions. Taking the problems directly from the homework provided some incentive to do all the homework, without forcing me to grade all the homework. Announcing them one class in advance cut out the complaining that I always got regarding pop quizzes, and dropping the lowest four grades removed the need for make-up quizzes– anyone who missed enough classes to use up their dropped grades had bigger problems than taking a zero for a single quiz grade.
In the last year or so, we’ve moved to using WebAssign for homework, and I’ve stopped doing in-class quizzes as a result. The online system provides at least as much incentive for doing the homework, without adding to my grading burden, and doesn’t require me to give up class time. The one thing it loses is the closed-book test condition, which I think is a bit of a problem– everybody is acing the WebAssign homework, but those are open-book, and good WebAssign grades don’t necessarily translate to good test grades.
So, what do you think of quizzes?