Inspired by Eric Mazur (h/t Robert Talbert [Edit 2/15/2014: I also meant to credit Joss Ives, who intially planted this idea in my head a couple of years ago]), I decided to try team quizzes in my linear algebra class. Here is basically how it went:

The topic was “Subspaces.” I gave students 10 minutes to answer four multiple choice questions. Each of the four questions is about a subset of . The students need to answer questions about the following four subsets:

- is twice the sum of

For each subset, students had to pick the best answer from the following list:

- is a subspace.
- is not a subspace, and the only one of the three axioms that
*fails*is “ contains the zero element.” - is not a subspace, and the only one of the three axioms that
*fails*is “ is closed under addition.” - is not a subspace, and the only one of the three axioms that
*fails*is “ is closed under scalar multiplication.” - is not a subspace, and the only one of the three axioms that
*holds*is “ contains the zero element.” - is not a subspace, and the only one of the three axioms that
*holds*is “ is closed under addition.” - is not a subspace, and the only one of the three axioms that
*holds*is “ is closed under scalar multiplication.” - is not a subspace, and none of the three axioms holds.

The students wrote their answers (just their choice, not an explanation) on two copies of the quiz. After the 10 minutes of individual work, students handed one of the copies of their answers to me and got in teams of four. The four students then repeated the same quiz collaboratively. I did this by putting the quiz on Moodle. Teams could keep answering until they got the right answer, although there is a penalty for each incorrect attempt.

For this quiz, a student received SBG credit for one “Linear Spaces and Subspaces” question if the student answered only one question incorrectly total between the individual and the team quiz. So a student who did perfectly on the individual quiz could have their team answer one questions incorrectly, a student who missed exactly one question on the individual quiz had to have a perfect team quiz score, and a student who missed two questions on the individual quiz did not receive credit.

Aside from the fact that I did not give the students enough time (alternatively, I gave the students too many questions), student reviews ranged from “this was good” to “this is freakin’ awesome.” No student said they did not like, and about a quarter of the class seemed desperate for more team quizzes.

It was a tiny bit tricky setting this up on Moodle. I probably forgot some details, but here are some things that I needed to do to get it to work:

- Make a regular Moodle quiz. This means that I had to create four separate questions, and then put all four questions on the quiz.
- Change “How quiz behaves” to “Adaptive mode.” This allows students to attempt the same question multiple times.
- Uncheck the box “Right Answer” under “Review Options” so that students are not shown the correct answer after each attempt (the second attempt becomes really easy if you were just told the answer).
- In each question, I think that I had to assign a penalty (0.1 works fine) to let me know how many attempts each team took. I think that I also changed from the default so that the answers were not shuffled.

I am going to try this again, but not until I finish the course content at the end of March (I race through the content so that I can have 1.5 months of review and assessment). This would be great to do for the entire class period, but I do not see how I can make it work reasonably well in less than 45 minutes (cutting back on the number of questions decreases the confidence that I have that a student understands, and also does not allow for students who do well on the individual portion to have a cushion on the team portion).

But this worked really well, and I am looking forward to building it into my courses next year.

February 15, 2014 at 6:42 am |

Welcome to a fantastic type of assessment. How did you enjoy that eruption of intensity in the room when the groups started working?

February 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm |

I seriously had been planning on giving you credit for this by introducing me to the IFAT cards (this has been remedied on the post).

It was pretty awesome when I started hearing groups celebrate getting answers correct.

February 15, 2014 at 6:00 pm |

Initial credit goes to somebody at UBC involved with CWSEI, probably an idea that somebody there tried after a relevant reading group paper. Group exams are becoming increasingly common the Faculty of Science at UBC. I asked my large-section intro course if they had taken a group exam before, and very few had not. I was delightfully surprised.

The one piece that is not used here is the immediate feedback as part of the group exam (IF-AT cards or LMS/online homework system). That’s when you get all the celebrating and that part adds even more energy to the room.

We are looking at starting to use Learning Catalytics in some of our Physics courses next year and are hoping to figure out how to use that system to help with administering the group part of the quizzes or exams and to provide the additional feedback. But we could always be doing that using our LMS or online homework system as long as we can figure out some appropriate ways to deal with the potential for abusing online access during the assessments.

February 17, 2014 at 5:17 am |

I also place a lot of value on the immediate feedback, but have not yet sorted out how to do so in my new large-section courses.

I’m curious to find out how the Learning Catalytics experience works for students on smartphones vs 7″ tablets vs 10″ tablets vs laptops. As soon as I know anything, I will pass it on.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm

LC’s website suggest it works for tablets, laptops, and smartphones, but does not state if one works better than another.

I will let you know if I learn anything, too.

February 15, 2014 at 6:31 pm |

The immediate feedback part is hugely important for me. I am thinking about using Learning Catalytics next semester. I was initially concerned about the price, but it is only $12 per student; if I use a free textbook, then students are still coming out ahead.

I might try to get someone else to buy my department a couple of extra Chromebooks/Kindles/Nexus 7s for the students who do not have a device, though.

February 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm |

Hm, I’m very curious about “I race through content so I can have 1.5 months of review and assessment.” How does that work for you? Do you have a post about it?

February 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm |

Hi Evelyn,

Thanks for the question. I really like doing this. Here is my rationale. Given any topic, I think (and this is only an opinion):

So that is my idea. The first point (80%) says that a little bit, but not a lot, of harm is done by compressing the class. After all, it is not the platonic idea that a topic be learned in 15 weeks, so why not do 80% as good of a job in 10 weeks?

The last point is what I am trying to reproduce. I am trying to make it so that students essentially take the same course from me twice in a semester (one 10 week, and one 5 week roughly).

The middle point is that, while I might be tempted to spent extra time on limits if students do not understand it right away, I find that it is often (although not always) better to push through it; the problems sometimes take care of themselves. The hard part is figuring out when to dwell and when to push.

None of this is scientific, although I have had good success with this in the past. This is my 6th semester doing it, and I plan on continuing.

One of the best things is that you can essentially ask the class what they would like to review in the last part of the semester. As I alluded to before, some problems have already taken care of themselves at this point. The ideas that students are still struggling with can be contextualized with anything in the course (“We can now see that limits are important for both derivatives and integrals.”).

Also, students tend to be a bit stressed in the first part of the semester (naturally), but then very relieved in the second part. In part, they take comfort in the fact that they know there will be no new material/surprises. In part, they know that they still have at least a month to digest every single idea from the course (Students do not like learning something on the last Friday of class, and then being tested on it during the final exam on the next Tuesday).

Finally, this structure allows my version of SBG to really work.

Here is really the only relevant link that I could find, surprisingly enough: Real analysis Fall 2011. However, I posted an old pre-print of a mediocre paper that I abandoned/modified here, and that explains a little more about how it works in a calculus class.

Thanks for your comment!

Bret