Earth, Wind, and Fire Quiz

Vanessa Svihla
,
University of Texas at Austin
This is an example of one of the formative assessments I used while teaching labs for a geology class for non-science majors. Such quizzes were given at the start of each lab session.

What learning is this evaluation activity designed to assess?

It is designed to force the students to practice the parts of math and science that they are afraid of or struggle with. The challenging areas tend to be calculations of any kind, and structural geology, so the quizzes focus on these areas. Types of questions became harder and offered fewer clues as they were repeated from week to week (e.g., the 1st time they are asked to calculate area, they are given clues about how to proceed. Area calculation question will pop up on quizzes as long as students struggle with them, but with fewer clues on how to solve them.)

What is the nature of the teaching/learning situation for which your evaluation has been designed?

Students take the quizzes and typically do poorly (average is generally 40%). They then correct them for FULL credit (e.g. a 40% can become 100%). Because this is a large format class and much of their grade is test based, formative assessment becomes very important in helping the students develop confidence. It also allows them to better know what is expected of them, and lets the teacher know what was learned.

What advice would you give others using this evaluation?

Allowing the studnets to correct the quiz for full credit was very motivating for the students and gave them a reason to work hard. Averageing the grades is not recommended.

Are there particular things about this evaluation that you would like to discuss with the workshop participants? Particular aspects on which you would like feedback?

Many of the questions were simplifications of real problems. Can you incorporate messier, more complicated data in formative assessments like these for non-science majors?

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