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Pop Quizzes – Teachers Policing

June 29, 2013

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I was at a training today on how to use our new learning management system.  Our school has changed from ANGEL to Canvas.  Truly, they have enough differences that we can not go right in and get to work.  

During the session, one teacher spoke up saying she didn’t see that she had any need for a learning management system because she gave lots of pop quizzes to her classes to make sure they did their work.  I mentally took exception to this because I don’t like pop quizzes.  I also interpreted the tone of her voice as one of self righteousness.  So my reactions were colored by my attitudes toward this and my perceptions of the teacher’s tone which may be completely wrong.

However, it caused me to think about pop quizzes used as a policing tool, i.e., did the students study what I wanted them to study?  I have a policy of no, or seldom, using pop quizzes to avoid the punitive quality.  If I do give them, they are not usually for a grade.  When I do use them, I want to know where a problem exists.  Thus for me, a pop quiz should be another method of formative assessment in order to find out what needs to be worked on.   If I do use something like a pop quiz, I often have students complete the quiz, then compare and discuss their answers before reviewing it in class.

A pop quiz should not be used to determine whether or not the students did the reading or the homework.  After all what kind of message do we send when we give pop quizzes to determine whether or not the students did the homework?  

Some evidence exists that frequent quizzes support learning because they encourage retrieval, and completion items seem to work better then multiple choice.  Therefore, the use of quizzes can be productive when used appropriately, as a learning tool.

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