Myths of Teaching & Learning – 5

Quizzes Considered Harmful

Yes, another myth on teaching & learning came out of the closet on a Friday at a seminar I was offering on Blogs, RSS and the full Monty.

I said it was impossible to ascertain the identity of an online student while she takes an online quiz. I said I knew a few students who laughed at online quizzes. Their sister, mother, lover or psychiatrist was doing the quizzes for them.

Ah! The times they are a-changin’.

So, I have inference #1. Why use quizzes online? Why don’t people let them be sadly and alone in “traditional” education? Do teachers really value them as evaluation tools? Quizzes? Are you out of your mind?

I told my faculty attending the workshops: Please, stop using quizzes, on- and off-line.

In my whole education, I never had a quiz. Never, unless you count my driving license quiz. University? No quiz. High School? None. Exams? Plenty: Written, problem-based or essay exams. Oral, theorem-proving exams. Hard, deep inquiries into the state of my knowledge. Honest opportunities to express myself, to utter my word. But not one quiz.

So? I seriously consider quizzes harmful. They are, in the online world, because they don’t prove much: at most they can be used as practice drills. They are, offline, because  they:

  1. inhibit a student’s learning how to express her own ideas, with her words, counting on her thought alone;
  2. help a student believe the world is a closed system: Questions come ready-made. You don’t ask your own questions, no need! Here’s those you need to answer. (And here’s the *correct* answer, by the way). Oh my god.

Thus, I rest my case tonite. Quizzes are a parody of exams. They came out of the need to:

  1. have “objective”, written proof of students’ “learning”;
  2. evaluate and grade too many classes at a time, without being able or knowing how to do it best. It’s just the easiest, most economical solution to a burden problem. A quiz, a Scantron pass, and voilá. Twenty-something quizzes get graded.

Kill the quizzes!

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About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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