Daily quiz for practice in SBG

Yesterday I wrote about a hare-brained scheme designed to get students to do more practice/homework in my Standards-Based Grading (SBG) implementation. Today here’s another one.

Back when I graded homework/practice I felt that I was bad at holding the line in my office hours. What I mean is that students seemed to be pretty good at tricking me into doing their homework for them. I was also getting pretty crabby about trying to figure out if the students were doing their own work. So my solution was to have daily 10 minute quizzes. I would assign four problems per class with the promise that in the next class I would roll a 4-sided die to pick one of the four to use as the quiz. This had a lot of benefits/features/odd-side-effects:

  1. I was perfectly happy to help students in my office hours
  2. I would “turn the problem inside out” in the quiz by asking for a different unknown, so the students understood that to study they should solve the problem and make sure they understood all the connections among the various variables.
  3. I would randomly change the numbers involved by asking the class to shout some out. Before letting them take the quiz I would let them discuss whether they expected a weird answer based on the random numbers they’d thrown out. For example, if they said that a capacitor had 100 Farads, they guessed that the rest of the problem would have answers very different than other problems they’d worked.
  4. Nearly every class day someone would groan after the die was rolled. Sometimes it was me if I felt it had rolled to one of the easy ones. But I liked that it was truly random so they didn’t spend time the night before trying to guess which problem I was going to pick.
  5. I liked how they had to work on a problem long enough to have the confidence to pull it off in class in 10 minutes. Often their first pass at the problem the night/day before took much longer than that. Combined with point 2 above, this led to some decent problem solving skills

I felt it worked quite well. Plus it dramatically reduced my grading from 4 problems every day from each student to one.

So I was wondering if this would work in my new SBG implementation where I’m trying to hold the line against giving points for homework. I think it might. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Assign 4 problems per day just as above. Design them to measure students understanding/mastery of recent standards, not necessarily just the one covered on that day.
  2. Do the 10 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday even though Friday will still be a review day (there will still only be two standards per week).
  3. Grade the quiz with standard scores (my 1-4 rubric)
  4. Continue to allow students to do video reassessments

Content days (Mondays and Wednesdays) would now have 10-15 minutes less per day. I handled that in the past pretty well, but I’ll definitely have to tighten up the activities that we’ll do. I had several sloppy days last year where directions weren’t clear and students spun their wheels quite a bit. I think much better preparation on my part for things like clicker (ok colored cards) questions and white board/group work will pay off huge for this.

Review day will now only have a 10 minute quiz so the rest of the day I can use the awesome nb site from MIT. That’s like google moderator on steroids, as students can ask questions about daily notes and vote each others questions up and down.

I really like point 5 above about students needing to practice enough to get fast at the inside-out problems. That seems to be a good indicator of mastery.

I’m worried that, due to my reassessment policy, students won’t take these quizzes seriously. I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have about that.

Thoughts? Here are some potential comments I’d appreciate:

  • I’m going to be in this class and this sounds intriguing. How will ______ work?
  • I’m going to be in this class and this sounds terrible. Instead why don’t you . . .
  • Why 4? Is it just because you have a 4-sided die?
  • Do you like this better than the ticket idea from the last post? What would you miss from that if you didn’t do it?
  • Can you give some examples of turning a problem inside out?
  • Why do you let them suggest numbers that clearly wouldn’t be physically reasonable?
  • Can you say more about how your office hours changed when you switched to this in the past?
  • How exactly do you plan to use the nb MIT site?

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
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10 Responses to Daily quiz for practice in SBG

  1. Kelly O'Shea says:

    I’m going to be in this class and this sounds intriguing. How will ______ work?

    Just kidding.

    I like this idea. I would guess that most students would take most quizzes seriously enough since it’s a pain to do a bunch of extra work that you wouldn’t have had to do. And because people generally want to do well. And some people don’t take quizzes all that seriously no matter what you do. My experience has been that if you have that kind of meta talk with them about the situation once or twice, it helps a lot because they immediately agree (even if they wouldn’t have thought it all the way through on their own).

    The “turning a problem inside out” trick is one of the suggestions I always give to students for how to practice and create new problems for themselves from work we had done in class.

    My first thought was also that this probably wouldn’t work for my current classes, but I could have seen it working really well in my old Honors Physics classes. But then my second thought was that this actually might work really well in my current classes, and why am I underestimating these awesome kids I’m teaching next year? I’ll let it process for a few weeks, but I might steal some aspect of this to adapt to my class. Cool idea! 🙂

    PS You still have a Google Reader widget in your sidebar on this blog. Maybe that’s intentional, though. In which case, more power to you. 🙂

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      thanks for the push on google reader. It’s about time I killed that. Back when I was doing this I tried it for calc-based majors and for non-science majors. It seemed to work well. My best memories are when I did it for in-service chem teachers trying to get their physics license. They attacked those problems in ways that were much richer than when they just had to turn them in the next day.

      On Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 10:03 AM, SuperFly Physics wrote:


  2. bretbenesh says:

    My answer: “I am seriously considering stealing this idea, even though it is going to cause me to re-do work that I just did this week.”

    I was planning about writing up daily quizzes based on the most recent standard (If you learn about X on Day n, then there is a short quiz on X on Day n+1). I think that you just wrote all of these quizzes for me (with the help of a die). This will give students incentives to practice and do homework, and it creates less work for me.

    This is awesome. Thanks!

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      I’m not sure about the “less work” as now I have to find 4 problems to assign each night even though I’m only going to grade one. I want to make sure I pick 4 that “span the space” of the standard so that I can take some solace from them having worked them all even if the assessed one doesn’t cover every aspect of the issue.

  3. KellenOvervig says:

    I took this class last year and this seems to improve a lot of the things I didn’t like best about SBG.

    I agree with your notion that people wouldn’t take the quizzes seriously. Perhaps you could consider making some of them non-retake-able? Or maybe you could offer retakes via screencast as a reward for proving they have done additional problem practice? You could wait to announce that these homework quizzes are allowed to be revisited until later in the semester unlike the standards quizzes. Maybe you could give each student a limited number of attempts to rework a quiz unless they do additional practice.

    A completely different Idea would be to allow these homework quizzes impact the standard itself. For example, Say that a problem is given as a quiz on Monday which relates enough to the standard that students who nail it have earned 1-2 of the points available on the standard. The same would then happen on Wednesday. Students who then put in the practice to nail both of those problems could do a short explanation of how those two problems address the assigned standard and if their were any holes (say the two problems covered only part of the standard) they could either solve a problem or explain an idea depending on what is missing.

    I think this would have the benefit by allowing students, like myself, who weren’t the biggest fan of SBG to work on mastering the standards which works on your goal as the instructor as well as working on the individuals goal of getting rewarded for doing practice on the problem solving skills. It would make it more encouraged to work on understanding material throughout the week as well as having the benefit for narrowing down what kind of problem should be screencasted for a re-assessment. This also seems like it would tailor good practice for oral exams as students would get to work on the reasoning behind problem solving as well.

    Just an idea I had that would also address my occasional frustration with the standard question that was asked on Friday only dealing with one of the aspects of the concept.

    In general I really like your idea of daily quizzes!

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      My first reaction to your suggestion was excitement followed quite quickly by dread at managing the logistics of all that. In another comment above I talked about how hopefully students would work on all 4 problems to get ready for a quiz on a standard even if the quiz itself doesn’t cover everything. Certainly last year there were people in the oral exams who had only mastered the particulars of whatever I had quizzed on. When I asked them to go beyond that, some were frustrated because they’d spent all their time studying only what the quiz had covered. I’ll have to think about this some more. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Melissa says:

    I wasn’t familiar with the nb site, but it looks really nifty! Do you give daily notes that would form the basis of the nb annotation? Also, do you think with smaller class sizes, crowdsourcing of the annotations still works as effectively?

  5. Joss Ives says:

    I worry about the types of shortcuts that I see with students and online homework that uses randomized variables. Even though you might plan to turn the problems inside out, typical homework problems can be boiled down to a single governing equation (after combining perhaps many initial equations) such that finding a numerical solution, for any combination of initial values, is just light algebra and some calculator work. A group of friends could easily each take responsibility for developing the governing equation for one problem and sharing it among themselves.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      Hmmm. I think the “governing equation” and its use are what I’m after with this, though. I need to think about how students doing what you suggest would hurt my learning outcomes.

      On Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 1:01 PM, SuperFly Physics wrote:


  6. Pingback: 4-sided die quizzes | SuperFly Physics

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