One QueBank Pro at a glance

April 21, 2015 Leave a comment

I believe in what QueBank will be able to offer. As an academic, I used multiple choice question tests as a way to find a quick measure of how much of the content domain that the students had come to grips with. I never thought of a multiple choice test as telling me how much they understood, there are other assessments that do a better job of that. However, as a quick snapshot of how much they knew about the subject, I believe MCQs work just fine.

So, what can a tool like QueBank offer?

This open educational resource will give teachers a place to put MCQs. They can draw from them and they can add to them. Students will also have access, so there should be no surprises when it comes to measuring how well the content domain is understood.

When I was an undergrad, one of the departments that ran huge introductory classes, published all of their MCQs, and promised the students that their mid-term and final exams would be drawn from those questions. There were over 2500 of them, and the system worked out just fine. Some students learned the content domain, and some did not.

I taught psychological measurement for a few years, and one of the sections of the class was about measuring content domains, This is traditionally what is thought of as academic assessment. Although academic should be broad and use a number of tools, a simple measure of content domain is not out of place – although, in too many instances, that is all that is measured.

As a part of the assessment in that class, I had the students write their own MCQs, and then used them for the final exam. The students each had to submit 10 questions on one of the chapters from the textbook (250 students in total). They then had to get with the other students who were assigned their chapter, and edit the questions down to about 50 good questions on the chapter. As a final component (before the final exam), the students were assigned different groupings, and they pulled questions from each chapter to make a 50 question final exam that they submitted. I told the class that the final would be made up of 50 questions that would be pulled from the final exams that they submitted.

The main thing that the students commented on with this assessment was that a number of them decided that they would not go into teaching as a profession, because it was too hard. The assessment worked for all of us. It would have been much easier to run the class if QueBank had been around.

Using this kind of assessment, you can really explore what they know about the subject area, and the students do all the work. I remember a talk I heard on day where the speaker remarked that if the teacher goes home more tired than the students at the end of the day, the wrong person has been doing all the work.

Please help me spread the word about QueBank, and help get it funded.

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Announcing QueBank

April 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Last July, I posted an article about an idea I had for an open educational resource to host multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Today I have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds necessary to get the project up and running.

I am well aware that MCQs are not the best form of learning, however, they are an effective way to measure how well someone knows a content domain. I didn’t say understand, but simply has the content knowledge at hand. Once the content knowledge is known, a learner can begin to work with that knowledge to understand and think about the area.

I’ll post regularly during the fundraising window (open until May 15) about how the project will work, but for today, the project is launched.

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How good are these techniques?

November 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on Scholarship of Learning:

Dunlosky et al (2013) published a brilliant paper that looked at a number of techniques that are used to learn material in an academic setting. They tested the various techniques, and produced a pretty good assessment on just how good the techniques were. The techniques ranged from the testing effect (very good technique) to highlighting what you want to remember (poor technique for learning). I have reproduced their table below for you to have a look at.

I think they might be mistaken in their rankings. This feeling is based on anecdotal experience and how often each of these techniques are used in the learning process. I think re-reading and highlighting are by far the most useful for learning – based on how often they are used as the principle method of learning :-)

The entire concept of the Scholarship of learning is based on just how wrong we are about…

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Learning for Understanding

October 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on Scholarship of Learning:

The goal of learning to simply pass exams is a fairly recent phenomenon – historically, the goal of learning was so that the learners were prepared to use their knowledge in a post-learning environment to help solve problems and contribute to society. Since the need to contribute anything to society has greatly diminished, and the most pressing need to is enhance career and financial prospects, learning for performance activities (exams and assessments) has become the end goal for most learners. Earlier this week, I wrote about the performance enhancing strategy of capitalizing on state dependent learning.

However, there was a time when learning was primarily to understand the world.

When a person is learning for understanding, different strategies are needed. I often hear students bemoaning the idea that they are engaged in education for the institution to teach them to simply do something. They talk about their hate for the…

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State Dependent Learning

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on Scholarship of Learning:

I remember how fascinating I thought the whole idea of state dependent learning was when I first heard of it as a second year undergraduate in a Cognitive Psychology class. For those of you who haven’t taken Cognitive Psychology, state dependent learning is the principle that you will remember much better if your state of recall is closely matched to your state of encoding. The example given was the memory tests given in scuba gear. When the divers learned something at the bottom of the university swimming pool, they could recall it much easier if they were tested on the information at the bottom of the pool than if they were tested on the information in a classroom sitting at desks. The take home message (at least for me as a student at the time) is that you need to study for your exams in a state as close to…

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Striving for Mediocracy

October 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Originally posted on Scholarship of Learning:

I was reflecting this morning on an exchange I had at a recent event I was at (teaching mini-conference at a prominent business school). I was the keynote speaker. During my talk, I asked the group if their graduates were being prepared to change the world, and the response (amidst some laughs) was along the lines of “they can barely get through their exams “.
As is usual when I speak, I talked about the quality of lectures as learning events (poorest type of learning event available). During the questions after my talk, one of the participants noted that all the other business schools she was aware of lecture exactly the same way they did at their school.
As I thought about this today, I thought, “I’ll bet that is one thought that has never entered the head of anyone who has awakened in the morning with the intention of…

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Thought and Power

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

In July, I wrote about learning thresholds, and how we could use technology to define and attain learning thresholds. I was reading Diane  Halpern’s “Thought and Knowledge” yesterday, and came across a passage that explains my thinking about learning thresholds, memorization, and critical thinking. It reads:

…thought is powerful only when it can utilize a large and accurate base of knowledge (page 5).

The preceding part of that line is also important in the context of learning in today’s world “…knowledge is powerful only when it is applied appropriately”.

Never before has the world had a greater need of people who can use critical thinking skills, and never before have we had a greater paucity of critical thinking skills – when compared to the total number of ‘educated’ individuals.

The large and accurate base of knowledge has taken precedence over everything else. And, as the sheer amount of information continues to increase to amounts truly unimaginable at a human scale, the obsession with the large and accurate knowledge base threatens to overwhelm, us with multitudes of memorizers who have no concept of thinking.

My problem is not with ‘a’ large and accurate knowledge base, but with ‘the’ large and accurate knowledge base. Those charged with the preparation of the next generation of thinkers have often spent years, if not decades, accumulating and conceptualizing their sliver of the world, and are rightly called experts in their fields. However, that expertise, in no way, prepares them to teach novices how to think. And the current state of affairs in higher education doesn’t allow for subject experts to become learning experts. These experts who focus on more and more information,with more and more classes, programmes, degree schemes, areas of study focus so intently on their field of study (as they are rewarded to do) that they have no conception of what the problem is. Except that they know that their students are not becoming the experts they think they are training them to be.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the recent findings that over 95% of university leaders thought their graduates were well prepared for the world of work, while about than 10% of business leaders agreed (see below). We are so out of touch with reality, we are rapidly losing the credibility that we are banking on to carry us through the disruptive innovation digitization has landed us in.

We can, and need to do better.

I found the evidence – and here it is:

“…(in) Inside Higher Ed‘s 2014 survey of chief academic officers, ninety-six percent said they were doing a good job – but… in a new survey by Gallup measuring how business leaders and the American public view the state and value of higher education, just 14 percent of Americans – and only 11 percent of business leaders – strongly agreed that graduates have the necessary skills and competencies to succeed in the workplace.”


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