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5 Reasons to Give Daily Quizzes in College (article)

by Mike Kowis, Esq.

It may sound juvenile, but I find that giving a daily quiz to my college students at the end of each three-hour night class pays big dividends. Surprisingly, my students like daily quizzes as much as I do. In fact, students have consistently responded with positive feedback regarding my quizzes on their course evaluations since I began teaching night classes at the local community college in 2001. Rather than a punishment, these quizzes are intended as a reward for students who take the time to come to class and pay attention. Unlike my tests, I keep these daily quizzes short (10 – 12 questions) and easy so that most students make an “A” regardless if they read the assigned chapters.

Below are the top 5 reasons I strongly recommend giving college students an easy daily quiz:

1) Encourage Attendance,
2) Encourage Paying Attention,
3) Discourage Students from Leaving at the Mid-class Break,
4) Assess Whether Students Understand the Materials, and
5) Serve as a Study Guide for Tests.

Now let’s walk through each benefit in more detail.

First, a daily quiz encourages students to attend all classes because their quiz average will carry the same weight as a major exam according to my grading formula. Because I don’t give make-ups for missed quizzes, it would be impossible to earn a stellar quiz average if the student skips many classes. Note: To be fair, I do allow my students to replace their lowest quiz grade of the semester (including a zero) with an optional internet assignment.

Second, a daily quiz motivates students to listen carefully during the lectures and take detailed notes. This is especially true because I clearly point out during my lectures whenever a key point will be covered on the upcoming quiz. I usually say something like, “hint hint, wink wink” to make sure my students know it’s time to pick up their pencils or start typing. Some instructors may balk at such spoon feeding in a college classroom, but I find this technique is consistent with the overall purpose of treating the daily quizzes as a reward rather than a penalty.

Third, a daily quiz given at the end of class requires my students to stick around if they want to earn a quiz grade. In a three-hour night class like mine, some college students may be tempted to leave at the mid-class break. I have found that giving an end-of-class quiz keeps them in their seats until the final bell rings. In my opinion, this benefit alone is probably worth the trouble of giving daily quizzes.

Fourth, a daily quiz provides at least some reassurance to less-confident students who may question their ability as a new student (e.g., an older student returning to college to prepare for a new career). As a first year student in law school, I recall feeling nervous before my final exams because our semester grades were based solely on the final exam grade. Without the benefit of taking periodic quizzes or other tests throughout the semester, my classmates and I had no idea if we fully understood the materials we were studying. Talk about pressure to perform well on the final exam! Luckily, college classes are not set-up like law school and my students can rely upon daily quizzes to gauge whether they are learning the required information or not. Some students have approached me early in the semester about their poor quiz grades, and it only took a quick discussion to discover the cause was poor study techniques. After a little guidance and encouragement from me, they were able to improve their future grades. Without daily quizzes, they would have most likely discovered the problem much later in the semester (after they bombed their first test or two).

Last, a daily quiz serves as a recap of key points that students can use to study for their upcoming tests. I encourage my students to use their graded quizzes from the entire semester when they prepare for their cumulative final exam. However, one possible downside of giving easy daily quizzes is that students might assume the tests will also be easy. To avoid this inaccurate assumption, I warn my students from day one that they must read all of the assigned chapters and study more than just their quizzes if they expect to earn high marks on their tests.

PRO TIP: To save grading time, I recommend asking your students to grade their neighbor’s daily quiz immediately after the class finishes taking them. Peer grading was expressly recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as a valuable teaching tool that does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. For more information, see Owasso Ind. School District v. Falvo, 534 U.S. 426 (2002).

If you enjoyed the above tips, please check out my amusing and award-winning book about college teaching called Engaging College Students: A Fun and Edgy Guide for Professors. (please click this link to find out more!)

Copyright © 2017 Mike Kowis, Esq.

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