Mar 07

Proposal: Quizzes as Games

There is a bunch of stuff I want my students to know in my literature courses, but that I am not qualified or don’t want to teach- identifying countries on a map, translating key terms from other languages, grasping basic historical information, grammar.  Is there a low-stakes, self-directed, automated, and (maybe even) fun way of doing this?  I am proposing a Talk Session on developing and using online quizzes as games.

I’ve never used quizzes in my classes because I think there are far better ways to make sure students are engaged with the course content.  However, I have come to accept that sometimes we do learn simply by rote memorization. Too often though, quizzes just seem punitive and pointless.  You get one chance to get it right and then we move on.  After attending Katie Salen’s 2012 SXSW session, “Don’t Shoot the Player While they are Learning,” I began to think about how I could gather and create quizzes that taught students material that I wanted them to know, but that I didn’t want to spend class time on.  Also, I wanted to figure out how to make the quizzes feel like a low stakes game.  My approach:

  • Students would not be graded on how well they did on any particular quiz.  They got a small number of points by taking any quiz 10 times over a period of at least 3 weeks.
  • Students didn’t have to take the quizzes. They had many choices for assignments and could decide for themselves how to get points for the course.
  • All of the quizzes were self directed, outside of class, and automated.

I was teaching courses on Contemporary American Ethnic Literature and Comics.  The initial quizzes I linked to or created were:

Students could create quizzes as one of their assignments.  Some of the best ones I combined and let the other students take for points:

  • An image-based quiz on Scott McCloud’s theories in Understanding Comics
  • A culture, language, and history quiz for Maus

Some possible questions for the session:

  • For what types of material is this quiz approach to learning effective?
  • Could we create a massive bank of quizzes that students could access on their computers or mobile devices?
  • What are possible problems with this approach?
  • How would you assess the effectiveness of this approach?
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