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If I Credit Them, Students Will Collaborate After Class

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Having one-shot exam grading can be in conflict with interruptions from externally imposed changes in work schedules, sick children (especially in single parent households), or other nonacademic factors.


The posting below looks at some very interesting uses of frequent in-class quizzes as a substitute for infrequent major examinations. It is by Thomas M. Notermann at DeVry University and is number 17 in a series of selected excerpts from the National Teaching and Learning Forum newsletter reproduced here as part of our "Shared Mission Partnership." NT&LF has a wealth of information on all aspects of teaching and learning. If you are not already a subscriber, you can check it out at [] The on-line edition of the Forum--like the printed version - offers subscribers insight from colleagues eager to share new ways of helping students reach the highest levels of learning. National Teaching and Learning Forum Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 3, ? Copyright 1996-2003. Published by James Rhem & Associates, Inc. (ISSN 1057-2880) All rights reserved worldwide. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: The Extraordinary Higher Education Leader

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning


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Tom Notermann, DeVry University


In an effort to increase classroom attendance, I began using daily quizzes in my courses in the fall of 1997. My experiences from teaching math and science courses, undergraduate and graduate, indicated a positive correlation between attendance and grades. While lecturing students on the importance of attendance proved futile, the frequent quiz approach has been even more successful than I could have imagined.

Shifting from the major examination approach to more frequent quizzes has several advantages.

Frequent quizzes give students a timelier understanding of expectations. Nelson (1996) observed that students are often bright enough and hard-working enough to do well in class, but lack a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Quizzes provide greater time flexibility because missing one quiz is less consequential than missing a major exam. Nelson (1996) reported the importance of providing greater time flexibility for the nontraditional students who now form a new majority in higher education. Having one-shot exam grading can be in conflict with interruptions from externally imposed changes in work schedules, sick children (especially in single parent households), or other nonacademic factors. Enhanced time flexibility occurs by dropping the lowest quiz and by providing Internet delivered quizzes, using Blackboard.

Such quizzes serve as a more efficient assessment tool and allow for timelier instructor responses to learning deficiencies. Krantz (1999) suggested weekly quizzes to monitor the pulse of the class.

Regular quizzes not only encourage attendance but also facilitate more regular studying and time management.

More recently, I have enhanced this approach by allowing students with a score of less than 14/20 or 70 percent on a quiz to hand in worked out corrections for one-fourth the original credit. A higher scoring classmate who assists in these corrections receives the same credit. For example, a student receives a score of twelve out of twenty and then corrects the errors with the help of a classmate. Both students then receive 8/4 or 2 points added to the next quiz score. In this manner all students are eligible to earn extra credit and peer teams form between the stronger students and the weaker students without specific member assignment.

I have witnessed dramatic improvements in the subsequent quiz scores of the weaker students and an overall improved class performance. This approach has made the difference between passing and failing for many students and has enhanced the learning of all the participating students.

Both research and experience converge on the importance of shifting from a passive lecture approach to an active approach facilitating student-student interactions.

* Millis and Cottell (1998) reported that cooperative learning promotes positive academic achievement. Students become actively involved, not only in their own learning, but also in the learning of their peers.

* Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1991) reported, " As relationships within the class become more positive, absenteeism decreases and students' commitment to learning . . . can be expected to increase."

* Light (1992) concluded, "All the specific findings point to, and illustrate, one main idea. It is that students who get the most out of college . . . organize their time to include interpersonal activities with faculty, or fellow students, built around academic work."

* Treisman (1992) demonstrated that required collaboration has dramatic learning improvements in calculus courses.

* Nelson (2000) cited a number of studies indicating that structured student-student learning may be the single most powerful tool we have for increasing achievement as well as equity and enthusiasm.

* Chickering and Gamson (1991) reported, "Good practice encourages cooperation among students. Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated."

Grading daily quizzes and then re-grading the corrections is time consuming, but I believe the benefits are worth it for both the strong and weak students. I recently received the following comments from one of the stronger students in a College Algebra course.

"On the very first day of class you gave a presentation about how to be successful in learning, and you told us the best way to do that is to teach and help others. The way you structured the class had us all involved in that method. We all seemed to work together. I did reach out and help other students, but it was through your guidance and your helping me."

"The first week of algebra seemed overwhelming. I was intimidated in the beginning because I had not had a math class in a long time. I was afraid I would not do well. The technique which you taught gave me confidence and I began to understand and succeed in learning the material. The most important thing I ended up learning from you was the value of trying to give others the same confidence that I felt."

This student affirms the Millis and Cottell (1998) report that, "The teacher is not the only source of instruction or inspiration. Peers working in groups enjoin dimensions of learning that lectures and readings by themselves cannot touch."

Another dimension of collaborative groups relates to learning styles.

Grasha (1996) reported, "Faculty teaching styles and student ?learning styles are often incompatible. Faculties teach to a projected image of themselves and thus accommodate their own learning styles as teachers."

The Fleming (2001) learning style survey results confirm that many faculty members are ?distinguished by their preference for the read/write learning mode while students have a preference for the kinesthetic learning mode. Notermann (2003) further reported greater kinesthetic learning style dominance for students with weaker math backgrounds.

Student-student cooperation affords the potential opportunity for a student to experience learning with individuals of a similar learning style. I have witnessed bright students with learning difficulties that were solved by a better learning style match up in a study group of peers.

As Kenneth Elbe once wrote: "Learning and teaching are constantly interchanging activities. One learns by teaching; one cannot teach except by constantly learning."


* Chickering, A. and Gamson, A. 1987. Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Racine, Wisconsin: The Johnson Foundation.

* Fleming, N. 2001. Teaching and learning styles: VARK strategies. Available at

* Grasha, A. 1996. Teaching with style. Pittsburgh, PA: Alliance Publishers.

* Johnson, D., Johnson, R. and Smith, K. 1991. Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity. Washington, DC: The George Washington School of Education and Human Development.

* Krantz, S. 1999. How to teach mathematics. Providence, Rhode Island: American Mathematical Society.

* Light, R. 1992. The Harvard assessment seminars. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

* Millis, B. and Cottrell, P. 1998. Cooperative learning for higher education faculty. Phoenix, Arizona: The Oryx Press.

* Nelson, C. 1996. "Student diversity requires different approaches to college teaching, even in math and science" American Behavioral Scientist 40/2: 165-175.

* Nelson, C. 2000. "What is the first step we should take to become great teachers?" The National Teaching and Learning Forum 10/1: 7-8.

* Notermann, T. 2003. "Interactive teaching strategies for math and science students." 5th Annual Chicago Symposium on "Excellence in teaching mathematics and science: research and practice." February 7, 2003.

* Treisman, U. 1992. "Studying students studying calculus: A look at the lives of minority mathematics students in college." The College Mathematics Journal 23/5: 362-372.

Thomas M. Notermann, Ph.D.

DeVry University

Tinley Park Campus

18624 West Creek Drive

Tinley Park, IL 60477-6243

Telephone: (708) 342-3295