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Student-Proposed Question-and-Answer Sets

Leslie Gertsch
Missouri University of Science and Technology
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This page first made public: Mar 10, 2008


This in-class activity involves groups of 2-3 students who review assigned sections of course material to generate exam questions (including answers), in one of several assigned formats. They then trade results and check the other group's work. Scores are shared.

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Undergraduate required introductory course in physical geology for non-geology (usually engineering) majors. See the course profile page.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Constructive reading and note-taking, taking tests in a concept-driven rather than calculation-intensive course.

How the activity is situated in the course

This exercise is conducted as the in-class part of a review during the class period prior to a midterm exam. There are four midterms in addition to the final exam.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

To review the material covered since the last midterm exam and critically examine it. The precise topics depend on the exam being reviewed for.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Development and stabilization of conceptual models of the material, by "turning it around" to make a usable exam question out of it.

Other skills goals for this activity

Working in groups; giving, accepting, and incorporating constructive criticism.

Description of the activity/assignment

This in-class exercise is done during the last half of the class meeting prior to a midterm exam (which is held during a class period), to get the students to initiate their own review processes. To begin, a map of the lecture hall is shown, divided into a large number of seating areas (18, in the example used in the attached material). The exact number is not too important, it just needs to be enough to ensure not too much repetition yet sufficient variety among the teams. Each seating area is assigned a particular type of exam question (diagram, matching, ordering, multiple answer, short essay answer, or whatever other question types you use) and a topic that will be on the immediately upcoming midterm exam. The topics are currently taken from the textbook, divided relatively finely but not so finely that there is insufficient material for them to formulate an exam question from the material. Ten minutes is allotted for the students to form groups of 2-3 (more in a team is less productive for individual students), then for each team to review its assigned topic, and to create a reasonable question and answer set in the assigned format. Following this, another 10 minutes is allotted for the teams to evaluate one other team's set and to work out improvements with the originating team, if needed. (This last activity doesn't always happen.) At the end of this stage I collect a copy of the question, the answer, the names of the originators, and the names of the checkers for each Q&A set. I post all the question/answer sets on Blackboard as fast as I can enter them, so they can serve all the students as a review basis for the exam. Depending on my schedule, that can take from 2-6 hours. I try not to correct incorrect answers or other problems, preferring instead to post a warning (see attached examples) urging students to check the answers given. This is not generally successful, as many students merely memorize the list, right or wrong, without apparently checking it.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I personally review all the proposed question/answer sets, evaluating their correctness, pertinence for this exam, and clarity. Each team's score is determined half by their question/answer set and half by the score of the set they evaluated. The points available are equivalent to those for a quiz, or any other in-class exercise; one of these three activities is held every week.

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