I taught two sections of the freshman engineering course in Spring 2015, where students learn in a project based environment about the engineering design process. I had 6 project teams in each of the sections. It was before their mid-term exam, when I was brainstorming with my colleagues to find out an effective way of reviewing the concepts covered in class so far. One of them suggested: “students can make their own mid-term questions”. I really liked the idea and implemented it in my class.
In my first section, I discussed some sample mid-term questions, which I had to discuss. Then I divided the concepts taught in the class into six groups and assigned each group of concepts to each group of students. They were asked to review the concepts (assigned to them) as a group and come up with probable 5-6 mid-term questions. After each group was prepared with their questions, they had the responsibility to ask the class their questions. The class tried the answers and if they failed, the group asking the question had to explain the answer to the class. I facilitated the activity, helped each group to clear their misconception, if they had one, related to the concept assigned to them. While each group was asking questions, I observed the way the students almost taught the other students. Students generally prepared good questions and I emphasized the links between the concepts and intervened when necessary. I and my students loved this class, which we called “the study session”. Experiencing its effectiveness, I did this with my other section as well as again before the final exams. However, from the next time, I emphasized to come up with ”conceptual” questions, which did not allow students to come up with just simple, straight forward questions but questions around the interpretation/application of the concept.
This idea shows that autonomy given to students helped them to take responsibility of their own learning. It also helped me to assess how well they understood the concept and how I taught the class. Reviewing the concepts covered in class also helped students to understand the inter-connection between them. This class also helped me to portray to the students that grades will depend on how they were comfortable with their concepts. Few students also realized the topics in which they lacked understanding and needed to focus more before exams. The test can be thought as not just a time to earn grades but a checkpoint to look back and analyze concepts being learned in class.
What do you think about this idea? Should I continue implementing it in my classes in this semester?