Research on Quizzing as a Learning Instrument

While I had worked extremely diligently to develop a comprehensive Active Processing/Constructivist delivery system, I initially forgot to include one important component- the quizzing process. This page contains three research projects which contribute to my framework. I encourage you to strongly develop a framework for using quizzing as a source of active processing. 

While I had worked extremely diligently to develop a comprehensive Active Processing/Constructivist delivery system, I initially forgot to include one important component- the quizzing process. This page contains three research projects which contribute to my framework. I encourage you to strongly develop a framework for using quizzing as a source of active processing. Let’s look at the background of this concept.
An often-recurring question during my years as a college professor was, “Can I  be more ‘green’ than I have been in the past?” I was concerned with the amount of paper I used. I utilized many handouts and paper/pencil quizzes, so this was a very important question. Reflecting on this question, I decided to consider using different types of formats for quizzes, and to determine their logistical and cognitive consequences.  Examining the impact of quiz formats on learning grew into two other research projects. Following are brief descriptions of the three research projects.
  1. The project  “Examining the Impact of Quiz Formats on Student Learning”examined how different quiz formats influenced the thinking and learning of students. While it originally was designed to examine the effects of different formats on the use of paper, the design focus quickly  included  the cognitive effects.
  2. The research project, “Comparing the Effectiveness of Closed-Notes Quizzes with Open-Notes Quizzes: Blending Constructivist Principles with Action Research to Improve Student Learning” was designed to examine if open-notes quizzes could influence active processing.
  3. Embedding active processing into quiz preparation is the subject of the third project, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Reading Strategies for College Students: An Action Research Approach.

Examining the Impact of Quiz Formats on Student Learning  

In Fall 2011 I conducted research to determine student perceptions on different types of quiz platforms, especially ones which decreased paper use. I was mainly interested in student perceptions of these platforms.

Research Questions

The Research questions structuring the project were:

  1. What are student perceptions concerning the logistical advantages and disadvantages of different quiz platforms?
  2. What are student perceptions concerning the cognitive processes enabled by different quiz platforms?
  3. What are student perceptions concerning the learning outcomes enabled by different quiz platforms?

The three platforms were:

  1. Traditional Paper/Pencil tests consisting of “Fill-in-the Blank/Short answer” and/or “Multiple-Choice” items.
  2. Power/Point Quizzes in which the questions were shown on a screen via PowerPoint slides, and students put the answers on a pre-printed piece of paper or their own (Still less paper than a traditional paper and pencil quiz)
  3. White Board with Collaboration Quizzes in which students would collaborate on a question, then put the answer on the white board; the teacher would then view all the white boards, and discuss if necessary (in this case it was not really necessary to discuss answers because students were responding with the correct answers).

I included the traditional format because I wanted a “baseline” to compare the other formats with. PowerPoint quizzes were chosen because I felt that students were familiar with PowerPoint and I also believed that the visual format would be conducive to their learning. White Board with Collaboration Quizzes were chosen because this format would totally eliminate paper; from my experience, this would be a less formal and hopefully, more fun approach.

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Procedures and Data

There were three cycles. In the first cycle there were two traditional paper-and-pencil quizzes using Fill-in- the blank/short answer and/or Multiple-choice questions. The second cycle implemented PowerPoint quizzes and there were two quizzes of this type. Also, there was an additional third PowerPoint quiz in which the answers were electronically posted. This was done to use technology in order to provide more “real time” feedback. The third cycle used White Board with Collaboration Quizzes and consisted of only one quiz, and this was due to time limitations and logistical challenges.

At the end of each cycle, students filled out a survey which contained a Likert scale and space for an explanation of the rating. The survey consisted of the following two questions:

  1. I am comfortable with this platform.
  2. The platform has advantages over other platforms.

Students were to respond to these questions by rating them from :1” Strongly Disagree” to “6” Strongly Agree”. Please note for the Likert Scale that there were an even number of choices; this was intentionally done so there would be no “neutral choice”. As a Teacher Educator, I firmly believed that teaching is a profession which demands practitioners to constantly make decisions, and I wanted to instill that attitude in my students.

Cycle 1 Results

Tables 1 and 2 contains the responses to Question 1, student perception of comfortableness. Table 1 contains responses to the Likert ratings, and Table 2 contains the explanations. There were 14 responses.

Table 1. Cycle 1 ratings to Question 1 (Comfortable)                                           

Rating Number of Responses
6 4
5 8
4 1
3 1
2 0
1 0

Table 2. Cycle 1 Explanations to Question 1(Comfortable)

1.     I am comfortable because I have taken so many paper/Pencil tests before.

(Note: This answer appeared more than once).

2.     I am used to it.

The results for Question 1 (comfortableness) indicated that students were at ease with this format, though there were no comments concerning thinking and being comfortable.  Tables 3 and 4 display the data for Question 2 ( advantages of platform).

Table 3.Cycle 1 Ratings to Question 2 (Advantages)

Rating Number of Responses
6 3
5 3
4 8
3 0
2 0
1 0

Table 4.Cycle 1 Explanations to Question 2 (Advantages) 

· Does not allow test taker to elaborate.

· I like M/C because if you study and know the answer, it is easy to spot correct choice.

·  Doesn’t take long to repeat.

·  We are all familiar

·  I not always like…If you want elaboration, can’t by paper and pencil.

·  Missing out on collaborating ideas and bouncing off one another.

·  Guess? Knowledge or Memorization?

·  I’d like verbal assessment every so often.

·  Favorite type would be to orally explain. I am a better speaker.

·  Take my time or skip and come back.

The data from the two tables indicated that student were comfortable with the traditional paper/pencil format but there is no substantial evidence for the thinking enabled by the traditional format. While there is a comment concerning elaboration, it could be argued that this could be done through short essays, and this is a part of the traditional format. This could certainly be (and has been) embedded into the traditional format.

Cycle 2 Results: PowerPoint Quizzes

Let’s first discuss the first two quizzes of this cycle. Please note that there were 13 responses, as one response sheet was not deemed as valid. Refer to Tables 5-8 for Likert scale responses and for explanations.

Table 5. Cycle 2 Ratings to Question 1 (Comfortableness)

Rating Number of Responses
6 4
5 7
4 2
3 0
2 0
1 0

Table 6. Cycle 2 Explanations  to Question 1 (Comfortableness) 

·  Saves paper and uses technology This was one of the first PowerPoint Quiz I ever took.

·   A nice change of pace.

·  Good visual. A little large, makes you focus on one question.

·  Easy to read, easy to see.

·   Basically like paper and pencil, but through a different medium.

·  I like the paper and pencil version.

·  Very similar to traditional quiz format, but questions on screen.

·  I have no dislike of this platform,.

·  Personally, could be made more individually for students to complete personally on individual computers.

·   Sometimes I don’t get the time I need to think and answer a question.

·  I like to go at my own pace.

·  When students get their quiz back, they only see the answer. I have the problem wrong, but I don’t know why/which one.

·  Teachers usually will go back at end and you can always see a question twice.

·  Answering as a class makes me feel a little pressure and harder to think.

The data indicated that students were comfortable with the PowerPoint quizzes, though there were some concerns with seeing a question more than once or not being able to do it at one’s own pace.

Table 7. Cycle 2 Ratings 2 to Question 2 (Advantages)

Rating Number of Responses
6 4
5 4
4 1
3 3
2 1
1 0

The data from Table 7 pointed to students perceiving some shortcomings of this format. Their explanations brought this out. Refer to Table 8.

Table 8. Cycle 2 Explanations to Question 2 (Advantages)

·  Use something other than traditional assessment.

·  I don’t think it has disadvantages, but I don’t think it has advantages either over a traditional quiz.

·  It is difficult for a student to read and respond at the same rate so changing slides back and forth is confusing.

·  I don’t like this because some students need more time on questions than others. They might feel rushed.

·  It uses technology which students might pay more attention to.

·  I like traditional better because slides aren’t changing, I can read at my own pace…come back to a question.

·  Will not really help me later on.

·  A little more fun. Saves paper.

·  Allows for teacher to integrate technology .

·  It uses less paper.

·  Could be made more interactive.

·  Students do not all work at the same pace so it is hard to know when to move on.

·  Good for class, but in an elementary school students may not be able to see the projection clearly …may be too shy to speak up if having trouble reading the question.

·  I don’t see any disadvantages or advantages.

·  It’s hard to keep the slides up for long enough without “Can I see #___ again”.

·  I think about how fast or how long everyone else takes to answer which can make me doubt myself.

Indications from the data pointed to the fact that PowerPoint quizzes had the disadvantage of not allowing students to work at their own pace.  For the one PowerPoint quiz which included posting the scores immediately, the responses for comfortableness and advantages/disadvantages were basically the same. Some students indicated that they liked have the answers posted, but there was concern that some students would not check or that the system would be down.  While Cycle 1 did have some comments concerning active processing (elaborate, collaborate, bouncing ideas off each other), Cycle 2 was lacking in this area. Student comments from the surveys and from my informal discussions with students led me to discontinue the use of PowerPoint Quizzes.

Cycle 3: White Boards with Collaboration

The most salient data emanated from student explanations of their Likert ratings, shown in Tables 9 and 10. These tables contain some student responses.

Table 9. Positive Comments for White Board with Collaboration Quizzes

·  Allowed me to double check my original thoughts

·  I enjoy being able to get feedback immediately and get help from a partner.

·  It grabs students’ attention more than regular tests.

·  We got to combine our ideas.

·  Teamwork was a part of this.

·  It was a lot more fun. Does not take time to grade (teacher just looks around).

·  You can discuss your answer with your partner, receive immediate feedback from the teacher.

·  When discussing answers with a classmate, you become more confident if you have the same answer, or if your answers differ you get the chance to reason out.

·  Comfortable working with others.

·  Especially if someone does not know the answer, they could ask their partner.

·  It has the advantage of instant feedback for both the teacher and student.

·  Allows for partner reassurances

Table 10. Disadvantages  for White Board with Collaboration Quizzes

·  Other groups can hear us and copy;

·  Other pairs saw our answers.

·  What if one student actually did the work and the other didn’t.

·  This may not work with younger students.

·  Some students may not be able to come to a consensus.

·  Feel pressured to agree on an answer, even if they don’t think that it the right answer.

·  I didn’t like the fact that everyone would know when I got a wrong answer (Note: In my observation, this was not true as student groups showed their group answer).

In terms of Active Processing, Tables 9 and 10 contain several examples:

  • Allowed me to double check my original thoughts (implies discussion/explanation).
  • I enjoy being able to get feedback immediately and get help from a partner (implies discussion/discussion/teaching another).
  • We got to combine our ideas.
  • Teamwork (implies discussion)
  • When discussing answers with a classmate.
  • If your answers differ you get the chance to reason out (disequilibrium, discussion, creating a new concept).
  • Especially if someone does not know the answer, they could ask their partner.
  • You can discuss your answer with your partner,
  • Come to a consensus (implies discussion, explanation, creating a new concept). .
  • Feel pressured to agree on an answer (implies disequilibrium).

Comments such as these motivated me to look more intensely at the possibility of using the quiz platform for Constructivism/ Active Processing.

Conclusion and Research Focus

While I decided to I continued with traditional formats of paper and pencil quizzes, I started researching and studying the embedding of active processing activities within paper and pencil quizzes; this coincided with other initiatives I had already started. This research resulted  in the other two research projects in this section:

  • The I graphical organizer
  • The Use of Open-notes Quizzes

The above two research projects, which owe their existence to this project, have been a staple of my Active Processing delivery system.

Comparing the Effectiveness of Closed-Notes Quizzes With Open-notes Quizzes: Blending Constructivist Principles With Action Research to Improve Student Learning.

i.e.: inquiry in education

Volume 8 | Issue 1 | Article 5 | 2016

Listen to a voiceover of this research project

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Reading Strategies for College Students: An Action Research Approach

Journal of Research in Education

Volume 21 |  Number 1 |  Spring 2011

Page 99

Listen to a voiceover of this research project