You have probably noticed that great motivational speakers have neat answers for world’s questions. Great writers, however, take these answers and turn them into complex questions. This is one of the things that make great writers great, as straight answers are sometimes hard to come by if we look closer and longer. Things are often messier than they appear, if we step a little further. Yet when we realize that situations are more complex than they appear, some discovery and learning have taken place.
In most formal education settings, professors teach, and then give tests or other types of assessments to students. Both professors and students are comfortable with this mode of teaching and learning. However, this does not always mean that learning outcomes reach their optimal level.
A recent faculty focus article suggests that it sometimes helps to have learners design questions themselves. The article suggests a number of benefits for involving students in the design of questions, for instance:
- It helps students answer “what-do-I-need-to-know-for-the-exam?” question;
- It deeps their understanding of the subject matter;
- It helps them to think more precisely during the question design process.
This may sound like a lazy solution, but actually writing good questions is hard work and it would really get students to process your instruction more thoroughly. Here are some suggestions:
- Use a class wiki/discussion post/Google Docs etc, to have students come up with a questions or test items;
- Edit these questions with them and explain why you make the changes;
- Use a portion or all of these questions in a pool;
- Add your own questions into the pool;
- Build tests based on the pool;
- Re-use these questions semester after semester. Have future classes add more questions into your pool.
- Review and repeat the process above.
Students may also feel motivated if they get to write some questions that are eventually used in this or future classes.
I hope someone can give this a try. If you are doing so already, please share your story with the North Institute. Thanks a lot!