D.I.Y. Exam Questions as a Tool for Deep Learning

Picture borrowed from the OND presentation

I couldn’t think of anything other than the OND conference presentations for my blog posting today. It was extremely hard for me to choose which presentation to talk about, but because of my Engineering background I decided to talk about an Engineering presentation that captured my attention.
The presentation was by Andrea Prier, Bill Owen, David Wang, Paula Smith, and Mary Robinson. The presenters focused on a process that they used in their courses (three first year courses and one graduate course) to encourage their students to think more deeply about the material they are learning.
They started their process by demonstrating to the students how their level of learning influences their motivation to learn the material, their retention of the information, and ultimately, their mastery of the course material. They designed a set of assignments in which the students were asked to create their own DIY test questions. This allowed the students find a deeper level of understanding of the content.
The DIY assignments were composed of the following steps:

  1. Identify 5 different concepts from one of your courses.
  2. Choose an example problem from each of the different areas.
  3. Manipulate your problems so that you are solving for a different variable.
  4. Solve your problems.
  5. Trade with a peer and critique / solve the peers problems.
  6. Create 20 questions for a ‘practice final’.
  7. Submit the problems for review by course instructors.
  8. Write your DIY practice final; Mark your own work!
  9. Write your Final Exam; it May include specific questions you created.

By the end of the term, the instructors found that the students were more comfortable working with the course concepts, more engaged with the course material and created some interesting questions. Furthermore, the students’ comments indicated that the majority enjoyed the ability to create these questions; however, the instructors needed to edit some of the created questions.
The most valuable outcomes from the presenters’ perspective were increased success rate of the students and the increase in student motivation to work with the course material. They felt that, since the students valued what they were doing and believed in their ability to do well in the course.
Finally, I would like to thank the presenters for a very useful presentation and would advise myself and other instructors of experimenting with this process.

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Samar Mohamed

Samar Mohamed is the CTE Liaison for Faculty of Engineering. Prior to joining the Centre for Teaching Excellence Samar worked as a Post Doctoral Fellow in Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. She received both her MSc and PhD from the University of Waterloo