Improved Learning through In-Class Assessment
Often, students arrive to their engineering classes day after day unprepared. When taking a course without reading quizzes, they are almost guaranteed to come to class without cracking open their textbook for even a cursory reading of upcoming material. When taking a course with reading quizzes, they might take the time to skim through the reading in hopes of catching a glimpse of a basic concept or key definition, since reading quizzes are typically not worth a significant percentage of their final grade. The authors surveyed students at the end of three semesters of engineering courses and discovered that well over half of the students in the course completed assigned readings prior to a given lesson less than one quarter of the time. The authors were determined to motivate students to read prior to class in order to provide students with an orientation of the material, encourage students to think critically about the subject matter, and contribute to student learning. Thus, the authors implemented an “In-Class Assessment” policy in their steel and wood design course. For the duration of the course, students sat in their self-selected project teams, each of which consisted of three students. Based on a roll of a dice, one person from each project team would stand up in class and answer a question from their instructor. If the student answered the question correctly, the entire project team earned their point for the day. If the student answered the question incorrectly, the entire team did not earn the point for that day. Key to implementation was removing anxiety for receiving low end-of-course grades for incorrect answers and ensuring the assessment was not perceived as a “haze” by the instructor, as the natural peer pressure for students to appear “qualified” in front of their peers provided incentive for students to prepare for class. Effectiveness of this verbal assessment procedure was assessed using both student course-end feedback and course assessment from the instructors (grades and time surveys). This paper will make the case that this pedagogy benefits the structural engineering profession by: getting young engineers in the practice of what engineers already do (prepare for work), increasing student understanding of a topic, and improving the ability of future structural engineers to communicate explanations clearly and effectively.
Hill and Campbell, “Improved Learning through In-Class Assessment.” 2019.