In-class cram session is worth the time
Lisa M Lane

I use a textbook for my San Elijo class, and the weekly quizzes are from the textbook. The purpose of the readings is to give them the context of the era we’ll be studying that week. I want them to read before coming to class. I’ve created a “study guide” that is really just a list of all possible questions.

Previously, I gave the quiz first thing on Monday, trying to guarantee they’d have their “head in the game” so I could lecture.

This didn’t work. We grade the quizzes together right away, so by the break they know what they got. It seemed to cause Topic Fatigue – they were done with that chapter, so didn’t pay much attention to my lecture, and weren’t all that interested. And the scores! Well, I would have to harangue them about studying for the quizzes. Is this what I’m teaching college for?

So I’ve begun lecturing first on Monday, then we take break. Then I give them 15 minutes in groups to study (most bring printouts of the “study guide”, or they can bring it up on their device). They check their answers, argue, ask questions. Then we take the quiz and grade it together at the end of the period.

This works much better. Today the groups were so engaged in studying that I asked them if they would rather have more time together, and grade the quiz Wednesday instead. 100% voted to keep studying, take the quiz, then grade it next time rather than get their feedback immediately.

A student came up after class and thanked me for the extra time.

Now some might say I’m taking up “too much class” time prepping for a quiz. But here’s the thing. If I’m going to bother to assign a textbook, and write up quizzes designed to test their knowledge of particular things, then this implies that the information is worth spending time on. Instead of floating off into their cell phones as I lecture, they are listening to my lecture for clues and then engaging completely in the material in a high-pressure environment (i.e. right before the quiz).

So I think it’s worth it!