Preston, Katherine .
Students writing practice exams as a study tool.
BY nature, survey courses must convey a large amount of information and specialized vocabulary. With so much detail to present, it can be difficult to maintain connection to the conceptual underpinnings of the field and the overall narrative of the course. Short writing assignments can help students pick up the thread running through a series of lectures. One version of the short essay proved very successful and popular in a general botany course. Each week, students wrote their own hypothetical exam questions to be answered in one or two paragraphs. Exam questions were to draw on the most recent lectures, although wider themes were encouraged. Students were graded primarily on their questions, but most of my written comments addressed their answers. Before each exam, I compiled a set of the best, most creative questions (without answers) and gave them to the entire class as a study aid. One or two of the compiled questions appeared on each exam. The assignment enhanced student understanding and improved my teaching. The questions indicated which concepts were most salient to the students and which generated the most confusion, allowing me to adjust my class discussion. Writing good questions required students to internalize ideas and deal explicitly with their ramifications, rather than simply rephrasing notes. An emphasis on creativity encouraged students to seek out sometimes surprising connections among lectures. The compiled questions eased some pretest uncertainty, encouraged group study, and contributed to a cooperative atmosphere. They also let students test themselves relative to their peers and get appropriate help. Nearly all students consistently overperformed on these questions relative to others on the exam, even though I had not provided them with answers before the exam.[c.e.:srb]
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1 - Stanford University, Biological Sciences, 371 Serra Mall, Stanford, California, 94305, USA
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Location: 207-209/Kandall Hall
Date: Monday, July 31st, 2006
Time: 11:15 AM