POP Quizzes An Alternative

Professors use POP quizzes for a number of reasons. When students habitually arrive late for early morning classes, the POP quiz is a way of ensuring attendance. Some instructors become frustrated with the lack of assigned reading that is being done. Again a POP quiz is a way of increasing the participation in text book study. Whatever the reason, the POP quiz is universally unpopular.

POP quizzes are usually unannounced quizzes given every two or three weeks. They may have as few as five questions and count as some percentage of the final grade achieved by the student. Whether POP quizzes are used in the traditional manor or, as suggested here, there must be clear communication between instructor and students as to their purpose and frequency.

Can POP quizzes become positive opportunities for students yet still accomplish the outcomes discussed above.

By ensuring that POP quizzes can only help students achieve better grades and not penelize them, many of the objections will disappear. In fact POP quizzes can be a tremendous assistance to students if they mark their own work. Professors who ask five good questions and then carefully go over the answers help students learn, students have an opportunity to ask questions and place their knowledge in context.

Although students mark their own work the results are still collected and marks tabulated.

The difference is that the marks are not added into the totals for the semesters work. Those students who score in the top half of the class have an opportunity, should they wish, to adjust the weighting of assignments. For example the mid-term is frequently weighted at 40% whereas the final is 60%. Top half students may choose to change this by 10%. Thus the weighting could be 50/50 or 70/30; students individual choice.

Therefore we have a win/win situation. The instructor has students who turn up on time and who learn from the tests; students who apply themselves to the reading benefit by being able to choose their weighting.

Class attendance should improve substantially.
Students will do more reading.
They will be better prepared for each class.
When student write incorrect answers they are able to receive instant feedback.
The professor receives feedback also and this allows for adjustment of instruction.
POP quizzes are an opportunity to concentrate on important concepts.
The professor has a clearer idea of student performance.
Final grades are higher.
Students recognize that POP quizzes are designed to help and therefore resentment is diminished or eliminated.

In an Innovation Abstract (Vol. xxx Number 2) published by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development, (University of Texas) it is stated that the responsible use of POP quizzes contribute to better grades.

Students were asked:
Do you think that POP tests made you study more?
Yes = 100%   No = 0%

Would you have done so well on major tests if you had not had POP tests?
Yes = 7%       No = 93%

The same research pointed out the strong correlation between student absence and passing grades.

Students who recorded an A on the first major test had no recorded absences.  Students recording an F had an average of 12 absences.

Students need to know how vital good study habits are to achieving good grades and, especially for first year students, professors favour POP quizzes as a way of underscoring this important factor.

Instructors should reflect on their objectives for using pop quizzes and share that with the students. Assessment philosophy usually includes terms like transparency and preparation being key for high achievement on assessments – the students will do better if they are aware of how and what to prepare. If the assessment is a surprise to the students their successful achievement is at risk. Are we using pop quizzes to punish or to encourage?


One Response to POP Quizzes An Alternative

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