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

Once again, we have the pleasure of Jenna Goldsmith’s presence on our Teaching Moment blog!

This term, I am participating in a course run by the Office for Advancing Academic Equity for Student Success on the main campus called Black Minds Matter. According to their mission, the course “draws parallels between the Black Lives Matter movement and the ways that Black minds are engaged in the classroom. The course will balance a discussion of issues facing Black male students as well as offer research-based strategies for improving their success.” I am also in Erin Rook’s Monday evening book club in where we are reading Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race?, COCC’s Season of Nonviolence book selection this year. While the synergies between these meetings seem obvious now, I did not anticipate how much my participation in one group would inflect and inform my engagement in the other. Ijeoma’s book is informative, accessible, and indispensable (in my opinion) for educators at all levels: highly recommend.

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

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, in addition to its poignant message, also serves as an effective recipe for what constitutes a great speech. If he would have begun his speech with something like, “Today I would like to outline for you a five-point plan to end racism in the United States,” as if he was presenting a Powerpoint with learning outcomes, I doubt this speech would have gone down in history as a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Like all good orators, Dr. King began this speech with a statement that absolutely grabbed his listeners’ attention. He began,

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Continue reading