Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peerwise let my students write their own midterm problems!

(Of course they didn't know it at the time!)

The students in my introductory genetics pilot class have had weekly Peerwise assignments all term.  In alternate weeks they either had  to either create at least one multiple-choice genetics problem suitable for an open-book exam (i.e. not based on memorization) or to answer and critique at least two problems previously created by other students.

I had used Peerwise a couple of years ago in a first-year class.  Each student only had to create one question and critique four.  I had found their questions to be full of confusions, poorly written and lacking important information, but the critiques were quite good. 

This time, my students have told me that they don't mind answering the problems other students have posed but find creating their own to be quite difficult.  The first problems I had looked at hadn't been very good.  But last week I started going through their more recent problems, looking for ideas I might use in creating problems for the upcoming midterm, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality of many of the problems they had developed.

I was so impressed by the students' questions that I decided to use them for the midterm, rather than writing my own.  I downloaded a range of questions to consider - some of them were very good but much too difficult for a 45-minute midterm.  I had thought that the good questions might have all been written by one or a few students, but when I checked their usernames I found that 16 of the 17 questions had been written by different students; this means that most and maybe all students are creating good problems!

I used 14 questions for the exam - most of them I was able to leave unchanged, but some required minor editing for clarity.  The students must have recognized their own questions, but I haven't seen anything on the course discussion board to suggest that they've realized that they collectively created all the questions on the exam.  I'll tell them on Monday.


Beth Simon said...

Rosie, How cool! I love your requirement to critique questions, not just "answer" them or "comment" on them.

Did you provide any examples of what makes a good critique? Provide any advice? I'd love to see how students did on the questions especially compared to whether they "answered" them or "critiqued" them on PW.


Rosie Redfield said...

No, I didn't give any guidance for the critiques, and most students didn't really provide them. I run PeerWise as participation marks; students aren't graded at all on what they submit or write as comments, just on whether or not the system records them as having done it. They had to rank each question as good or badly done.

Most of the questions I used on the midterm had been answered by very few students (or none), so having done questions probably had little impact on their test results.