Quiz-Video Combination Instead of Lecture

Please help me understand if how much I am rationalizing here.

Here is a reminder of how I have been organizing my classes: I create learning goals for the course, and spend roughly two-thirds of the semester teaching them the content. The grading system is set up so that students have to demonstrate proficiency of each learning goal n times, where n \approx 4. The last third of the semester is spend 50/50 on quizzes and review.

I have felt a tiny bit guilty about this format for two reasons. First, I was concerned that I was depriving the students of 1/3 of the traditional instruction time. Second, I felt like a slacker because I don’t usually have to prep much for classes in the last third of the semester (also during the quizzes: I am writing this post during one of their quizzes, and I am slightly uncomfortable that they are working so hard on the class and I am not).

But I don’t feel all that bad about things now, because I realized a couple of things.

First, taking quizzes is about as active as learning gets (and maybe there are Testing Effect-type effects, especially since I purposefully spread out the learning goals on the quizzes). So students are very actively thinking about the material during the quizzes. So I am definitely giving them learning experiences, which goes a long way to alleviate my first source of guilt.

Also, I spent a lot of time creating solutions for every quiz problem. These are posted right after the quizzes so that students can get immediate feedback. This makes me feel better about my current lack of prep time—especially since I am still spending a decent amount of time writing the quizzes.

This also feels a bit better about my students’ learning experience in the last third of the semester. One of the ways I compress the material down to two-thirds of the semester is that I go lighter on the number of examples I give in the first part of the semester. However, my students probably have at least as many examples from the videos by this point in the semester than they would have gotten under a more usual course structure, and they have the added benefit of having had to attempt the problem first before viewing the solution (I am thinking about trying to make this the norm as much as possible. Ideally, things would go: try a problem on your own, try the problem with your team, see me do the problem, then try a similar problem on your own. This is a different blog post, though).

Finally, my overall impression is that the course is going well. I think that students are learning, and they are probably learning more than previous times I have taught the course.

So how much am I simply rationalizing here, and how much of my reasoning is sound?


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10 Responses to “Quiz-Video Combination Instead of Lecture”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist Says:

    I appreciate your admission of guilt (that sounds funny, sorry, didn’t mean it that way). I think about this a lot as well. However, as long as my students meet the learning goals, I tend to be happy in the end. I think the notion of video example is great. Providing those in ways that they can learn from them is a very flexible use of your time and their time. I think the 2/3, 1/3 structure you use is innovative and challenging, both to pull off and for the students. But if they rise to that challenge, I would think they’re getting a lot out of it.

    I’m contemplating bringing back a quiz format I used to do: state the problem, then ask that the solution be put on the board in, say, 15 minutes. Then randomly ask students follow up questions. It worked great before standards-based grading, but I could see it still being a useful learning opportunity in SBG as well.

    My question: What is the source of the guilt? If your students were exceeding your goals but a colleague still noted (with some derision, let’s say) that you don’t prep that much, would the guilt still be there?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Thanks for the support. I am ultimately happy as long as they are meeting the learning goals.

      The source of my guilt? I will start by saying that there is actually only a tiny, tiny bit of guilt. I am not the sort of person who usually feels guilt, as I have no conscience. I suppose that the tiny bit of guilt comes from the fact that I feel like I could be doing more for the students, although I don’t think that that is a reasonable statement (my prep time has been replaced with individual meetings). But you are also right—some part of the guilt comes from the fact that some of my colleagues are wary of it.

      I want to know more about that quiz format! Does each student put her solution up at the board? What is the largest class you did this with? How do you become good at asking follow-up questions, particularly to solutions that are correct?

  2. Pinky Says:

    Coming from a student’s perspective, it seems as though you are putting in a good amount of time, and instructing in a way that students can get the most out of what instruction time you do give (and know where to find more if they choose).

  3. Emilie Says:

    The only possible sources of guilt I can see:
    -Are the learning goals appropriate? Are you somehow making them too easy (whatever that means), not setting the bar high enough, not challenging them to learn as much as they could, or some other similar idea and this is what is resulting your “extra time” at the end of the semester? Otherwise, I don’t see any issue with how you have allotted time over the course of the semester.
    -Would more prep time benefit students? If not, spending more time on prep is just silly (and I am always trying to remind myself of this!)

    • bretbenesh Says:

      I am reasonably happy with the learning goals. They will evolve, to be sure, but they are fine for now.

      Your second point might be the issue. I _do_ think that more prep time would benefit the students, but the marginal returns are diminishing. I think that I am probably putting in the right amount of work—it is probably more valuable for me to do more service or research at the expense of a marginal improvement in student learning—but I can’t be certain of this. The uncertainty is probably the main problem.

      That is a good reminder, though: I will consciously try to figure out how much an extra hour of work would help the students. Thanks, Emilie!

  4. Joss Ives Says:

    I fully agree that quizzes are about as active as learning gets and always advocate for them to be as frequent as possible given the various constraints that courses face. From the instructor time perspective, quizzes are usually just as much work overall (creating, grading, making solutions, etc) as the equivalent prep time for class so there needs to be absolutely no guilt that way.

  5. Eric Says:

    Quizzing and other lower stake assessments (both formative and summative) are fantastic learning opportunities. If you haven’t already, see the excellent book “Making It Stick” about how doing problems in a testing like environment is one of the best ways to learn and learn about your learning.

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