Auto-graded quizzes have their pro’s and con’s. They cut back on teacher grading time and provide students with quick feedback. But they don’t show what students can do with what they’re learned and limit 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking).
Should we use auto-graded quizzes? That’s a question I wrestled with in this blog post. Feel free to check it out first.
Let’s say we’re going to use them. Auto-graded. Multiple-choice.
Can we make them better?
Can we keep the pro’s — fast grading and feedback — and improve on the con’s?
I think the answer is “yes.” If you’re intent on an auto-graded quiz, what if you added something to it? Maybe as part of the quiz/test grade or as an additional grade?
Here are some ideas to try …
1. Do a one-question deep dive.
It’s hard to see inside a student’s brain with a multiple-choice question. It’s also hard to know if a student understood the question and understood the possible answers. A lot can go wrong here.
Give students one deep dive question where they can describe their thinking. Show what they have learned. Give you a glimpse into their problem-solving process.
Students can pick one question from the test or you can choose it for them.
Incorporate digital tools to enhance it:
- Screencastify lets students record video as they demonstrate a skill on the screen using a tool in their web browser
- Flipgrid lets students speak directly into a camera — or create a “whiteboard video” — to demonstrate.
- The “Reflect in Seesaw” Chrome extension lets students screen capture a question. They can put it in Seesaw’s creative canvas and record video to draw, move and create to explain.
2. Offer an explanation box.
Sometimes, we don’t know that one of our questions is worded poorly until it’s too late.
Maybe, one of our questions is worded well but a student just misunderstood it.
It’s a shame when a student has learned but it isn’t reflected in an assessment.
Offer a text box at the end of an auto-graded quiz (like Google Forms). Or, if it doesn’t have that feature, let students use a piece of paper or a document to describe their thinking. They can do it for any question where they’re unsure what they question is asking — or when they want to make sure you know what they have learned.
This lets students volunteer all that they’ve learned to make sure they get credit for it. Everyone benefits.
3. Let students create with what they’ve learned
“What you’ve learned isn’t as important as what you can do with it.”
The world seems to be moving more and more in this direction. Encourage students to show what they know by creating something out of it.
When you add this to the end of an auto-graded quiz, it focuses on two things: the facts you remembered AND how you can apply those facts.
4. Add a graphic organizer
Graphic organizers guide your students’ thinking and make it visible. After an auto-graded quiz, they can fill out an appropriate graphic organizer to show what they’ve learned in a less black-and-white, right-or-wrong manner.
Example: The Frayer model. In a Frayer graphic organizer about a vocabulary word, a student can write his/her definition, characteristics, examples and non-examples. This empowers the student to show what he/she knows. It avoids the “gotcha” game when a quiz asks a question he/she can’t answer.
5. Ask questions instead of answering them
Sometimes, we can see how much our students have learned by letting them ask questions rather than answer them. This is the strength of Question Formulation Technique (QFT).
QFT, developed by the Right Question Institute, combines three thinking abilities in one process: divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and metacognitive thinking.
Its process is simple, including: design a focus, introduce rules, produce questions, improve questions, prioritize questions, discuss next steps, and reflect.
6. Metacognition: thinking about thinking
Taking time to reflect on learning helps us internalize it for the future. However, it’s a step that we all-too-often leave out. We’re off to the next lesson, unit, topic of study.
Improve on auto-graded multiple choice quizzes by including some non-graded metacognitive questions at the end. In the book Don’t Ditch That Tech: Differentiated Instruction for a Digital World, my co-author Angie Ridgway shared these example metacognitive questions you can use:
For younger students:
- This topic was easy (or hard) to learn because ________.
- What helped me learn ________ was ________.
- I can do better ________ if I ________.
- My teacher or classmates helped me learn ________ because ________.
For older students:
- This topic was easy or challenging for me because ________.
- What helped me to learn most easily was ________.
- If I think about my learning, what I can do to learn more easily is ________.
- Family and friends might support my learning by ________.
You don’t have to ditch those auto-graded quizzes! However, as you add one or more of these activities to those quizzes, you may find students get tons of value from them. It may shape the way you create assessments in the future!
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