Syllabus Quiz
Syllabus Quiz avatar

Hi everyone, I’m new to blogging so bear with me if I am not that lucid. One of the key issues I face with my onsite classes (also with my hybrid and online, but our focus here is onsite) are students not knowing what they are getting themselves during the first two weeks, and then regret their decision and usually withdraw.

Granted I teach math, and that has its own emotional/stereotyping from students, but that is a topic of another post. What I have done, and have heard that other instructors also do, is a syllabus quiz. Now, I know and understand some use the built in blackboard system to achieve this goal, and I am not advocating nor promoting any system in particular, rather just the concept. As an ulterior motive for my post is get comments and/or suggestions on how to improve the questions in my quiz.

What I do is to send a week ahead of class start my syllabus via email, along with the following link for the quiz  http://goo.gl/forms/KJf6DyAxHy   (All are welcomed to test and post any response that you want, I will not grade any of you for posting to the quiz, its a zero point assignment anyway.) If am an not that organized at the start of the semester, I print the syllabus and give it to them on the first day of class along with instructions of how to access the link to the syllabus quiz they should expect in their email.

I like Google forms rather then blackboard, or surveymonkey, or any other system,  because I have become a Google drive advocate, so all my information is centralized, and also I do not have to worry about blackboard upgrades or migration migraines.  Plus, to my liking, I can make it pretty!

Now the basic questions of, where do you do your homework and such are routine and I do not really check their response. I have build in some small validation questions, where they cannot submit the quiz until they check all the check-marks on certain questions. But the new improvement I have made this semester is the reflection statements. They are basically two questions that makes the student reflect on why are they taking this class in particular. And how math is used in the real world, and hopefully they can open their eyes and try to enjoy the class vs dreading taking it.

My first reflection question might need some polish, but mentions: “Why are you taking THIS math class? (Just a grade or to get to the next class might not be the best motivation to keep up your performance at top level for the full semester).” If I see a short response I do not read anything into it, but I have gotten great responses from students that put the class in context with their goals, some responses I find interesting have been: “I am taking this class to become more prepared before I start taking college level math,” another reads “To be able to help my daughter with her math and understand better what she is learning,” now I know that these responses might seem typical for our diverse student population that we are serving. But I feel that once the student makes a connection of their goals, and associate it with this particular class they are taking this semester, it makes them a bit more responsive and responsible for it. Sometimes I feel I’m just a coach pushing student to persevere, since most a very well capable of passing our classes, if only they applied themselves correctly.

The second reflection question is made after watching a small 6 min youtube video (http://youtu.be/90wFGf534ao) that can be viewed directly in the syllabus quiz. Its a short documentary on how experts from companies like Google, or national laboratories emphasize that math is what they will need to a wide range of career.  Great student feedback has been made, like: “I did not know how much math can actually come into play outside of education.” Another one: “Math is a necessity that is very needed, a lot of people including myself believe that math is just a school thing and will rarely be needed outside of school, but this video proves otherwise. It is very fundamental and useful in life’s and jobs; math is the foundation for science. ” And one more for indulgence sake “Math can help invent new drugs and medicines and cure diseases. Having a math background can be very useful. Math is not just for smart people. ” This last sentence melted my heart.

I know that this is not a math blog, rather I think that every subject can tailor the syllabus quiz to insert their own small preview of career that are out there if you take this class seriously. If anyone wants me to share the Google forms template for them to make your own quiz let me know. All of the responses are captured into a Google sheets, to which you can download a MS excel file if you prefer.  Now I do use the same syllabus quiz for all the schools that I teach (three separate districts, yikes), so this semester I have gotten 158 responses and counting. At the end of each semester you can destroy all responses in order to preserve student privacy, and any other legal issues.

Well, that’s it for this post. Any commentary, recommendation or suggestion are welcome. Or better yet, school me and share with me more cool things you are doing in your classes so that I can “borrow” them 😉