Students made their own mid-term questions

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?

6 thoughts on “Students made their own mid-term questions”

  1. Debarati, I think it is a really cool idea. Once students start making their own questions, they not only think about their solutions but also how one can reach at the solutions. This helps them learn concepts in a better way. I think you should continue doing it this semester too. I might implement this in my class as well.

    BTW, I am curious if the questions made by them were included in the test.

  2. Wow! This is a great idea. It engages the students, and at the same time it removes the “bad guy” image from the professor. I definitely will give this a try. My guess is there was a little competition between groups. And I think a little competition between students is a good thing, as it is in the “real world” where people are competitive for jobs, students need to be competitive with each other.

    Thanks for the great idea!

  3. I really like that you divided the course concepts among different student groups, and had each group explain their concept to the other. I’ve been think of ideas to incorporate in a course I want to create, and the same technique had crossed my mind before. I think it helps to implement some of the principles of connected learning: interest-driven, production-centered, sharing, social connection, etc.

    By generate questions, they aren’t just making a test but the creation process itself is a learning exercise. Also, perhaps by having a hand in the test formation, they will have some sense of pride rather than anxiety.

  4. Debarati,

    I think is a great idea. I have done it myself and the results are incredible. I also think that is really important that students understand the value and relevance of having a mid-term, and what better way to do that than having to think about their own questions. I also loved the idea of dividing them by topics and then promote collaborative learning. Really cool stuff.

    In previous experiences that I have tried this, the development of the questions is considered as the mid-term or even the final. I however do try to have some kind of rigor in the process, like having different people grading the outcomes (looking for validity).

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  5. Great idea! Thanks for sharing your experience. I recently read about this in a comment that Homero posted in another blog. I will try to implement it in a review session in the class I am TA’ing this semester. I wonder what will be the rate of correct responses if one of the conceptual questions from the review session came in the exam.

  6. Hi, this is Yanliang. I really like your way of motivating students. I want to implement similar idea in the class next spring. But I am just curious on how you assign the concepts to different groups. I am assuming the concepts would be independent. So in the case when some concepts is build upon other concepts, how would you assign them so that students will have equal load in preparation? (I am not sure how to set notification after your reply. So I would really appreciate if you reply me in email:ylyang@vt.edu ^-^)

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