The essence of it

Let’s face it, creating question banks in Moodle can be very time consuming. This is the number one reason why few teachers use this fantastic facility at my current school. Yes there are tools that allow teachers to import/convert existing worksheets, tests, etc. but they are not usually aimed at the casual user and rarely work without tinkering with the worksheets first.

This is where this assignment comes into play. Its premise is simple: students create a number of questions that you will review, and then export to add to your current question bank and create tests with. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Students working for you, brilliant! Well, let’s have a look, shall we?

 

Examples of questions created by students

Examples of questions created by students

The great

  • Activities are easy to setup

Once installed, it is very easy to create your first activity. You only need to select what type of questions you want your students to create and how many e.g. students to create at least 3 ‘multiple-choice’ questions, and 2 ‘Yes/No’ questions. I find that the first time you use this assignment type, you are better off using simple question types, such as those aforementioned.

 

Activity overview

Activity overview

  • It’s a great activity for Assessment for Learning

I hate to say it, but this assignment type is not the Holy Grail of teaching, it won’t save you that much time. What it will do though is provide you with an excellent picture of what the students understand of the topic at hand. It will give them an excellent opportunity to see how much they know about a topic, without being tested as such.

In the example provided, the teacher decided to get his students to create questions at the ‘end’ of a learning cycle, as a review activity. It provided him with ‘data’ which is probably a lot more useful than what he would have got with a more traditional end of unit test. On top of that, students had a much better time doing this activity than doing a test.

    • Did it take longer than a ‘regular’ test? Yes.
    • Would it take the same amount of time next time students do the activity? Certainly not, it will be faster as students are familiar with the process.
    • Was it more useful to students than a test? For most, most probably so.
    • Will this teacher use it again? You bet.
  • It can be used at all stages of a learning cycle

Although the teacher aforementioned used the Question Creation assignment type, I have found that it can be used earlier in the learning cycle, by providing sufficient scaffolding, or allowing students to do research. For example, I once used it on a topic completely new to year 10 ICT students (14 year olds). The idea was to ask them to research a topic on a particular website, in this case ‘Input devices’. It was great for me to see what information students would pick out and ‘think’ worthy of a question being asked about. While checking the questions being created (during the lesson), it allowed me to spot 2 students who were in trouble and provided them with help on what to look for. I’d recommend this to anybody, it’s kind of a cool way for students to take notes ๐Ÿ™‚

  • It can be used for peer-assessment

For those of you who have read some of my other posts, you might know that I am somewhat obsessed with peer-assessment. Well, good news for me, I have found a way to use it as a peer-assessed activity, woohoo!

I’ll show it in a video one of these days when I’m done spending all of my time doing things that pay the rent… but for now, please take a look at the following pictures.

  1. At first, same as for any other instances of question creation: every student creates their own questions.
  2. What I did after that was basically to turn students into ‘teachers’ using the ‘assign roles’ and ‘override permissions’ settings for this activity.
  3. I created two question categories ‘good’ and ‘to improve’ and let students loose.
  4. All questions were first placed in the ‘To improve’ section, students were then given a topic, and they would have to review questions already created by their peers.
  5. Some questions made their way directly into the ‘Good’ category after a question was reviewed at least twice (a bit of preparation needed on your end there), and some had to be corrected by students prior to being moved.
  6. Some never made their way into the ‘Good’ pot as the questions would not make any sense in the first place (a lot of our EAL students struggle when it comes to forming questions).

Overall, a great activity that may take time for students to get their head around the first time, but after some practice is a breeze (well, kind of).

  • It can deal with all types of questions

Whether they are built-in question types (e.g. multiple choice) or third-party (e.g. drag&drop ordering), as long as it is available to you as a teacher to use, then it will be available to students as well

  • Supports groups

This doesn’t seem like much but is actually really important and useful. I teach mainly mixed ability groups (very mixed…) and I have created hidden groups/groupings by levels so that questions do not get mixed up and every student can make the most of the activity and access it.

โ€ฆ and the could be (will be?) great

  • A bit funny to add questions to quizzes

One of the features of the Question Creation assignment type is that it creates its own category, accessible only from within each instance of the activity. This makes it slightly awkward to use questions when creating a quiz. For example, if you already have a quiz in your course, there is no easy way to add the questions created in the Question Creation activity. You first have the export the questions from it, save it somewhere, and then go to your question bank and import the newly saved file into it.

  • Not possible to directly create quizzes straight from the activity

Well, do I need to explain this one? Really? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • A few other minor things

I will update this post at some point to try and be slightly less obscure, but to be honest it’s nothing that should stop you from using this assignment type.

In short

Another one of my big Moodle favourites. I thought I had it all figured out after 5 minutes of using it: students will do my online assignments for me, brilliant. Boy was I wrong, this things is much more powerful than just that, it seems to do it all! I must admit I wish I used it more and I might well just. Give it a go, I promise you won’t regret it.

 

Peer assessment overview

As mentioned in one of my previous posts, I strongly believe formative assessment is key to quality learning, and is in line with the IB MYP approach to teaching & learning. When I found the ‘Peer review‘ assignment type I was excited and I have not been disappointed with it.

In a nutshell

Students upload their assignments, they are then given (at least) two of their classmates’ assignments to peer review, against a set of criteria defined by you. Each student has their work reviewed by two peers (at least) and once that is done, you review the work yourself. This is an extremely powerful learning tool!

The essence of it

The developer and maintainer of the ‘plugin’ strongly believes that assignment criteria should be as simple as possible to understand for students for maximum efficiency. From experience, I can vouch for this as well. When setting up the activity, you are asked to create a set of ‘Yes/No’ criteria e.g. the essay has a title. Students (in my case 11-18 years old) find it easy to understand and I also find that it helps them assess their own work. The criteria are usually quite easy to setup if you had a mark scheme to start off with. I usually have between 10 and 15 criteria depending on the task, but I don’t think there is a limit to the number of criteria you can set. Once the criteria have been set you are ready to go.

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The great…

Peer assessment is awesome!

When doing my PGCE I remember colleagues telling me “how much time you can save getting students to peer mark”. While this may be true to some extent in some situations, I don’t believe this is the case. However, students can really benefit from it as they get an even greater understanding of the task at hand.

Peer assessment can now be done at home, properly

I lack time to do this kind of work in lessons, but I find this to be a very meaningful homework. As long as you explain the criteria thoroughly -I often define the criteria with my students, guiding them to choose the ones I had ย pre-defined prior to starting the task, and adding their own – students will be just fine doing the peer reviewing at home. Though my area of expertise is 11-18 olds, I am pretty sure that this type of peer review would be suitable to students of a much younger age, such as middle/upper Key Stage 2.

Students are asked to give constructive comments

When all criteria have been checked by a student, they are then asked to write a comment on their peer’s work. This part is the most challenging for students, but also the most rewarding. I usually give them a minimum of words to write and a few ideas. The most able students usually have no problems finding ideas of their own, but I find that less able students benefit from having set phrases (I have a web page set up for that) that they can use and ‘fill-in’ really helps.

Some of the work is done for you

I said earlier in my post that peer assessment does not really save time, well it does a bit, let me explain. Say student A has their work reviewed by student B, student C and student D. If Students B, C and D all ‘agree’ on their review (i.e. they all ticked the same boxes), then there is a good chance that their review is accurate and you can then only ‘scan’ the work, looking for missing pieces. This might shave off only a couple of minutes per student, but that quickly adds up to an hour if you have a big class ๐Ÿ™‚

Lots of support

The creator and maintainer has really made an effort to document and provide support for his work (videos, etc.). This is to be noticed and is much appreciated.

… and the could be (will be?) great

Groups are not yet supported

I share all but one of my Moodle courses with colleagues, and while it is great for sharing resources and our workload, peer assessment should really happen within the same teaching group (in my opinion anyway). One workaround that I have found is to make as many copies of one assignment as there are teaching groups in my courses and make each copy available to one group only. This is not perfect by any means but allows me to use this great plugin which would otherwise be useless to me.

Teacher cannot assign work to be reviewed by particular students

I teach in an all inclusive school, and while I have a great time in the classroom, differentiation can be challenging. I have some very able students and some students who need more support. Sometimes, I would like to be able to assign particular assignments to particular students so that everyone can benefit from the task as much as possible. The solution described above (using groupings) allows for this to happen to some extent but is cumbersome to maintain.

Labels are not supported

It would be great if criteria could be ‘grouped’ together, unfortunately this is not yet supported.

In short…

I love this assignment type, use it all of the time and really think that my students have benefited from it a great deal. A million thanks to the developer!

Example of a crossword

In a recent survey I conducted, most of my younger students complained that Moodle is not ‘fun’ enough and that they would like to see more use of educational games. I have already discussed and quickly reviewed the ‘Game’ module but today I’d like to focus on the ‘Crossword’ component of the module.

Example of a crossword

Example of a crossword

Here is a video showing you the crossword in action

I have found the crossword to be versatile and have used it for the following:

  • Vocabulary learning & revision
    • Very useful for exam groups in subjects where a lot of topic specific vocabulary is used, spelling tests etc.
  • As a ‘fill in the gap’ activity
    • A ย  ย – – – – – – – cannot change its spots
  • As a ‘synonym’ activity
    • I am a synonym for the word famished: – – – – – – –
  • As an ‘antonym’ activity
    • I am an antonym for the word hungry: – – – – – – – –
  • As a research activity/quiz
    • I am the capital city of Vietnam: – – – – –
  • As a means to test my students’ knowledge on a topic
    • A different take on a test, which appeals to some students, but not all

For the activities in blue, make sure you use a ‘hidden’ glossary so that students cannot see the answers.

I love the fact that the grades can be stored in the gradebook automatically. It provides me with an extra tool to monitor my students’ progress and make sure that the activities are completed.

Students between 11 and 18 years old at my current school really enjoy using the crossword and I have found that it has helped my less able students learn and retain vocabulary. This is probably due to the fact that they can try as many times as they want, until they get ‘100%’, but I have no way to be sure of that.

Please feel free to add your own ideas to this post by commenting. I will add your ideas to the body of the post and link to your blog/Twitter/Facebook if you send a link. You can also have a stab at answering the examples above ๐Ÿ˜‰

Example of a checklist

Formative assessment is a key element of good teaching & learning. Students should always know how well they have learnt a topic – what they know well, and what they could improve on. Allowing students time to self-assess is not always possible during lesson time and Moodle can be used to solve this issue, shifting some of the self-assessment for homework.

The ‘Checklist‘ package (updated less than a week ago) is very easy to use, and creating your first self-assessment with it should be a breeze, as long as your criteria for self-assessment are clear and easily understandable by students.

Example of a checklist

Example of a checklist - using optional items to categorise items

Although it is a great resource, I must warn you that the Checklist package does not allow for a scale to be used (e.g. I am very confident doing this, I am confident doing this, I am sometimes confident doing this, I am not confident doing this, I do not know how to do this) and you should use either the ‘Questionnaire‘ or the ‘Feedback‘ modules to achieve this, though in my opinion it takes longer to setup and is not as ‘child friendly’. The Checklist package allows only for a very simple ‘Can do / Need to work on’ setup, which I have found to be very useful to students, and myself.

The package can be used in your everyday teaching, and here are some of its benefits:

The obvious one – it helps your students

My students often need to write individual targets for each subject, and it is invariably difficult for them. Prior to using the ‘Checklist’ module, I was doing other self-assessment activities but the more organizationally challenged students struggled to keep a record of it. Now, they can easily see what they need to improve on at all times, especially if the criteria are grouped together. Using the module has encouraged students to write meaningful targets as opposed to the dreaded ‘I need to get better grades in ICT’. Overall, they become more familiar with the syllabus and our expectations as teachers.

Individual checklist

Each student gets their own checklist, with a progress bar

This tool will help you with your lesson planning

At the moment, my students are revising for their mock exams, and though I have planned revision activities based on past test results and past experience, it is always useful to know what the students need the most – right now. The ‘View Progress’ feature allows you to do just that. At a glance, you can see which skills/topic has not been understood by most of your students and focus on them. This could also be used to comment on your scheme of work for the following years.

Progress report

According to this, I clearly need to focus on CPU and Hardware & Software

It helps with report writing

After the mock exams, it will be ‘long’ report writing time for me (looking forward to that!). Of course I use the data from tests completed this term to comment on students’ performance, but I find it useful to have data from the students, to see how they perceive their learning, and use it for some of my reports. Each student gets their own checklist report, as well as a ‘Progress Bar’, so it is easy for me to compare whether students are performing as well as they think they are. So far, there hasn’t been too much discrepancy between their attainment grade and their perception of skills/knowledge attained but I think it is a valuable tool to have under your belt.

I think the developed has done a great job and some of the additions from the last iterations add value to the package (colours, progress bar). I’d like to see the following implemented in a future version:

Colours

It is now possible to pick from a choice of colours for each item. While it is a great addition, it is rather time consuming. A colour picker would be great, or at least using the same colour as the last previously added item would be a great time saver.

Labels

Optional items are great to categorise items, but show as ‘not done’ in the ‘All item’ progress bar, which bothers some students. Labels would be an efficient way of grouping items, and with the use of HTML editor pictures and the like could be inserted.

HTML tags support

At the moment, items only support text. Support for simple tags such as <strong> would be welcome, but that is nitpicking really.

I strongly encourage you to use the Checklist package as part of your formative assessment routine. Do feel free to comment to share your own practice and ideas.