Daily Quizzes: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—Part 1

This past semester, I decided to do something crazy—I gave my students a quiz (nearly) every day of class. You can imagine that my students weren’t nearly as excited as I was about this plan. In case you’re looking for a way to shake things up in your classroom, I want to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about my daily quiz system over my next two posts.To set the scene, I taught a Calculus I course in the spring that met with me four days a week and with a TA once a week. Here is a quick breakdown of the division of responsibilities: the TA handles all of the written homework and project grading, the students have online homework that is graded instantly, there are several midterm exams and a final that we grade together, and there is a weekly quiz written and graded by me as the instructor. This is all to say that within this system, I had a hard time figuring out exactly where my students were excelling and struggling because I didn’t look carefully at enough of their work. There are many small things that one can do to fix such an issue but here’s one big thing that I tried.

My solution: give a one or two question quiz at the start of each class period written to take around five minutes or maybe a little longer depending on the day.

The Good:

  • I had an idea about their mastery of the concept by the time they turned in the quiz and once I graded it, I knew where they stood and which issues to address. Some days the students finished way faster than I thought they would and other times the anxiety was palpable and eraser dust was flying. Once I knew where the problems were, I could fix them a day or two after the initial exposure to the content instead of a week or more later (as was the case with weekly quizzes). The daily quizzes fixed the problem I started with.
  • The frequency of quizzes gave students a tangible reason to stay on top of material but the number of them made any individual quiz fairly low pressure. You might say that serious students will keep up to date on the material anyway, but I think this strategy motivated more students to study regularly rather than cramming.
  • Almost all of my students came to class almost every day. This might not seem like a big deal but I think it’s awesome! In fact, a fellow grad student implemented this idea a few semesters ago with increased attendance as a primary objective. In general, students who go to class do better (though there are exceptions) so I was really pleased with student attendance. I didn’t have a huge jump in attendance from when I was doing weekly quizzes, but there was an increase nonetheless.
  • Here’s the selfish one: grading was a breeze. Somehow grading a couple of one-question quizzes throughout the week seems way better than grading a four-question quiz over the weekend.

These outcomes paint a pretty picture about giving daily quizzes but there were plenty of drawbacks that came along for the ride. In my next post, I’ll go through some of the bad and the ugly parts of my daily quiz implementation. Stay tuned!

About Sarah K. Salmon

I am a graduate student in mathematics studying algebraic combinatorics flavored by Coxeter groups at University of Colorado, Boulder. I earned my B.S. in mathematics at Northern Arizona University in May 2014.
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One Response to Daily Quizzes: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly—Part 1

  1. Deborah Book says:

    I am interested in reading The Bad (Part 2) and The Ugly (Part 3). I hope they are published soon.

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