Write and solve your own quizzes

I have been struggling to implement a low-stakes quiz process for my class with MSU cancelling face-to-face instruction. Historically, I have given half-class quizzes every two weeks (partially) in lieu of exams for this class. I have never liked giving traditional exams to students because they are high-stakes, flawed assessments of learning. This class uses longer projects for most of its assessment, but I still give short quizzes to check how students have developed some of the canonical ideas that are part of the class. Here’s an example quiz. I try to have students engage with the core concepts, explain or argue some aspects around it, and make use of different representations of the problem as they do.

Until now, students completed their quizzes in class, and I would scan them to upload to Gradescope, which we have started using for grading homework and quizzes online. It’s a great service and works really well for the grading we do in this class. Going to virtual classes means that I cannot deliver quizzes in class. Supervising them taking the quizzes via Zoom seems silly and a little too “big brother-y” for my taste. So, having them complete some kind of quiz on their own time seems reasonable. Students will also need some flexibility in turning them in as they might complete them at different times (and some are moving back home); Gradescope can certainly handle this.

I know what people might think about this process though: how do you keep them from cheating?!?! Well, side-stepping the issue that most faculty think all their students are dirty little cheaters and will take every potential advantage to do so, I’m not particularly concerned about that. I trust my students to make decisions about how to take their quizzes when they do so in class and I strongly encourage collaboration on homework and projects.

But, the lack of face-to-face instruction has given me a new idea for quizzes that I think will do more for student learning than my giving them a quiz and grading it. I will be asking my students to construct their own quiz and provide a solution to it. That is, each student will write a quiz based on a concept we cover in class and will then solve that quiz – turning in the quiz, their rationale for the quiz, and their solution to it.

This will allow them to be creative in their learning, to decide what they understand and what they need more practice with, and to challenge themselves. I also think it deals with the issue of unauthorized collaboration in a novel way. It allows the students the time to complete the “quiz” that they might need and shifts their studying to do well on my quizzes to digesting the material to create their own quiz.

I am currently working on a rubric to score these quizzes, but the criteria that I am currently planning are:

  1. (required) Student’s quiz uses the relevant concepts to solve a physics problem.
  2. (required) Student’s quiz requires using at least two representations (mathematics, diagram, graph) to complete.
  3. (required) Student’s quiz requires either checking limits and interpreting the result, explaining a representation in the context of the concept or problem, or arguing a position about the concept or phenomenon.
  4. (required) Student’s solution to the quiz is physically and mathematical correct.
  5. (bonus) Student’s quiz requires more than two representations to complete it.
  6. (bonus) Student’s quiz requires older concepts and material to complete it.

My plan is to implement this next week. I will post about how it goes and the detailed rubric later.