In several of my classes I have students complete projects of some kind. My WIC class requires a research paper and other faculty in my program have students write large research papers as well, so I try to spice up my “project” options whenever I can. I have found that students are more invested in their final product when they are allowed some choice and creative license around what that final product looks like.

In my aging class, I assigned a final project where groups of students were asked to demonstrate their knowledge about how to work with older adults with various physical limitations. I gave them several prompts indicating what their final project must contain (exercise instruction with and without modification, progression, special considerations for the particular limitation, etc.) but allowed them to demonstrate that knowledge in a paper, Powerpoint presentation, video, podcast, or in any other format that I approved ahead of time. Continue reading

Research on group testing is interesting. Before you stop reading because you think you would never do something this inhumane to your students, consider this — in virtually every study conducted on group testing, exam scores improve the most for low- and middle-achieving cohorts. Students report lower test anxiety and generally enjoy this form of collaborative problem solving over standard testing methods. In addition, they report that it promotes deep learning of difficult content.

The assumption is that students are debating, negotiating, sharing, and working through what they collectively know about a complex problem to come to a solution. Isn’t that what we do at work every single day? How many times in a week do we listen to each other’s ideas, debate an issue, and yes, sometimes compromise, to reach a final answer? I wonder if by NOT having students engage in activities like collaborative testing, we are doing them a disservice as we send them out into the world where employers expect them to have these skills. Continue reading

About  20 years ago, I participated in my very first item-writing workshop with the American Council on Exercise as part of a three-day exam validation exercise. This was one of those paradigm-shifting experiences for me as an educator because I had never been that immersed in exam accreditation before, but also because I never knew that there was an actual art and process to writing valid multiple choice questions. The key here is the word “valid.” Who knew that carefully constructed multiple choice questions could actually utilize all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy? I thought multiple choice questions were only for the two lower levels of the pyramid: remembering and comprehending. The experience of exam question item writing for accreditation completely changed the way I assessed my students.

Here are some of the basics, but if you search the internet for “writing better test questions” or “writing better multiple choice questions,” you will find some very good resources to help you write really good stems for all types of questions. As with everything we write, nothing can substitute for good planning before you start. Continue reading

It’s about that time in the term where group projects are hitting the collective radar. For some students, nothing stimulates fear and anxiety like the prospect of having to work with people they do not know or facing the chance of losing complete control over a piece of their grade. For faculty, the fear of group dysfunction may be preventing us from using group projects at all. A recent Teaching Professor article provides some excellent strategies to consider.

In a study by Pauli et al. (2008), the authors describe the experiences of students in groups using the Negative Group Work Experiences (NGWE) questionnaire. They report commonalities among a large sample of psychology students in the following four areas: lack of group commitment, task disorganization, storming, and group fractionation. Below are some ideas for dealing with these common issues our students face when working in groups: Continue reading

Last week I wrote about some of the online resources that students sometimes use to cheat or otherwise “assist” themselves in university classes, without your permission. I heard from a few of you who lamented, along with me, that these resources even exist. Our best course of action as educators is to use “cheat proof” best practices in the design of our courses and assignments to keep our students accountable.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. It starts with your syllabus. Including the Student Conduct Expectations link is required, but consider taking it a step further. Spell out what is allowed and not allowed in your class, and discuss this on DAY 1. Some of our faculty include statements such as: “Use of online resources or prior students’ work that provide answers to homework or exam questions is cheating and will result in an F in the course.” Can’t get much clearer than that. Continue reading