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Quizzes in Women's Studies Courses?

The following discussion about whether or not to give quizzes and what 
alternatives exist appeared on WMST-L in February 1995. Of related interest
is the file Doing Work on Time: Teaching Strategies .  For additional
WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 19:15:28 -0500
From: Roxanne Mountford <mountr@RPI.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
Last year in my Advanced Feminist Theory class, I discovered that
small group discussions were going poorly because students weren't
keeping up with the readings.  This semester I put a warning in my
syllabus that I may give quizzes if I feel there are students not
prepared for class.  So, last Thursday I gave a pop quiz--one of
those easy quizzes designed to show me who had done the reading.
Tonight a student sent me an email suggesting that quizzing "detracts
from the safeness of the class atmosphere."  I am sympathetic to
this student's perspective, and I have a strong distaste for "policing."
However, since my class is based almost entirely on discussion, I
need students to be prepared for class.  Has anyone on the list
found another way to ensure that their students are keeping up with
the reading?  (BTW--my students did not do well on the quiz, so
I believe I will need to do something.)
One more thing--I know that the amount of reading I assign is well
in line with the other humanities and social science courses at my
school.  So it is a question of motivation.
Dr. Roxanne Mountford
Dept. of Language, Literature and Communication
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, NY 12180
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 18:26:40 CST
From: Mary Helen Conroy-Zenke <mhconroy@STUDENTS.WISC.EDU>
Subject: Fw: To quiz or not to quiz?
Roxanne, I think if I were one of your students in an advanced feminist
theory class, I'd appreciate hearing what happened from your point of view,
and getting feedback from your students.  Do they feel the readings are
over-powering in some way?  Is the subject area new to many of them?  Are
there ways to break up topics and have smaller discussion groups?  Do they
journal their reading integration/viewpoints/ideas?  I think teaching to be
a partnership....I know together you'll work something out...Good luck
Mary Helen
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 18:02:45 -0800
From: brenda beagan <beagan@UNIXG.UBC.CA>
Subject: Re: To quiz or not to quiz?
Roxanne -- good question! I know exactly how you feel (hating "policing"
advanced students, yet frustrated by the uselessness of discussions
where no one has done the reading). I, too, would love to know how other
feminist teachers handle this dilemma. I've tried two things that
sometimes work:
1.  In a seminar of 12-20 students on Sociology of Gender and Health
(3rd year undergrad, crosslisted with womens studies) I introduced the
students to "rounds". We began class by having a round in which each
student could speak uninterrupted for 1-2 minutes about the readings.
We agreed on ground rules at the beginning of the course, which included
that the point of the exercise was to raise issues for discussion, as
opposed to simply stating "I liked such and such a lot...."
It allowed everyone to spek at least once in each class, helping to
balance the amount different students spoke. Some students wrote out their
points, which was the only way they were able to speak in class at first.
It also introduced them to "rounds" which are an important part of many
feminist community groups.
It sometimes worked very well. The points they raised become the basis
of discussion for the seminar. What I didn't do well, and would do
differently next time, is record the points they raised on the board
or a flipchart, so everyone can see when someone raises a pont that isn;t
really discussable -- it is less recordable...
The larger the group, the less well this works, as it gets repetitive.
You could have half the class do the exercise each week, choosing randomly.
Of course it was always clear that some read only to get the point for their
round... and read nothing else. I also marked them on participation,
including their contributions to rounds (originality, creativity,
contribution to discussion). Some saw my participation marks as policing...
2.   I always have a class evaluation half way through the term. They
fill out a simple form about what is working well for them and what is not
working so well, and what they would like to change. And we spend half a
class talking about it. That's when we can talk about why they might not
be reading, my frustration with the level of discussion etc. Sometimes this
has worked really well. I have changed things in response, and so have they.
Good luck! I look forward to reading other responses to your question.
brenda beagan
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 1995 21:26:41 -0500
From: Sherry Linkon <sjlinkon@CC.YSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Fw: To quiz or not to quiz?
I agree with MaryHelen about the importance of talking with students when
they're not doing the readings.  I've had this happen in all kinds of
courses, but when I asked students, I've usually found that they had
reasons that weren't simply laziness or even lack of motivation.  Perhaps
they could use some coaching on strategies for reading theory, or maybe
some specific readings are causing problems.  At the very least, I find
that I learn something about my students and their perceptions of the
course when I ask them why they're not reading instead of trying to quiz
them or cajole them or whatever.
Good luck.  This sounds like a frustrating situation.
Sherry Linkon
Date: Mon, 06 Feb 1995 19:25:30 -0800
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
I agree with Mary Helen about the importance of discussing with students,
as the course progresses, your/their expectations, frustrations,
problems, and successes.  And I have learned a lot from Brenda's
posting.  I'm teaching an advanced feminist theory course this semester,
too, and I've built two techniques into the syllabus that--so far--have
kept discussion focused and have ensured that students keep up with the
readings.  For each assigned reading, I prepared a short set of
discussion questions and circulated them with the syllabus.  I tried to
ask questions that would direct students to the central ideas/issues in
each reading.  I also require students to turn in, for each class, a
"reflection paper" on the assigned reading--2-3 pages summarizing the
author's argument and engaging analytically/critically with the reading
on at least one point (some students use the discussion questions as
jumping off points, others enter the text from their own direction).
These assignments have (again so far) produced engaged and focused
Good luck.  And thanks for asking us to think about this.
Ellen Rose, Director
Women's Studies Program, UNLV
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV  89154-5055
Date: Mon, 06 Feb 1995 23:09:37 -0600
From: Caryn Ellen Neumann <neumann.11@POSTBOX.ACS.OHIO-STATE.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
> Roxanne, I think if I were one of your students in an advanced feminist
> theory class, I'd appreciate hearing what happened from your point of
> view, and getting feedback from your students.
To get honest feedback from the students, I'd suggest passing out notecards
and asking for an anonymous mid-term evaluation of the course and the
Personally, the fear of being called upon in class has always motivated me
to do the reading.  In a small group, I can rely upon someone else to
come up with answers.
Caryn Neumann      |  Pray for the dead,
neumann.11@osu.edu |  but fight like hell for the living
                   |  ---Mother Jones (1830-1930), Am. radical
Date: Mon, 06 Feb 1995 20:21:54 -0800
From: Susan Arpad <susan_arpad@CSUFRESNO.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
     The question posed is a difficult one.  If we set up a "feminist"
classroom, have we defined what that means?  One of the things I tell
my students at the beginning of the course is that a feminist
classroom is one in which
everyone takes responsibility for how the class works.  Because this
is based on an effort to get away from hierarchical structure, it
calls into question any effort on the part of the teacher to
"discipline" the students.  Essentially, the problem is one of having
ideals about what the classroom should be, when everyone in the
classroom is working from a past and present context that is not
     I don't know what the "answer" is.  But let me share one
technique that has helped, in my experience, to alleviate the
situation.  In classes where there are 15 or fewer students and we
have at least 1-and-a-half hours in each class, we each share our
"context" at the beginning of the class.  The theoretical basis is the
feminist insight that everyone comes to a situation with a context
(most generally, gender, class, race, etc., but more specifically,
what has been happening in your life that effects how you view the
material we are now going to approach).  My experience has been that,
as students share with each other what their lives are like, they take
more responsibility for what happens in the classroom.  If they
haven't done the reading, they are likely to say so as part of their
     It doesn't always mean that everyone does the reading, but it
does frequently mean that everyone knows who has and who hasn't.  And
those who didn't do it at the last meeting most often do it for the
next meeting.
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 09:07:13 -0600 (CST)
From: Judy Kaufman <Kaufman@OSUUNX.UCC.OKSTATE.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
I use short reaction papers to the readings.  They work well in helping
students prepare for discussions.  I also get them into small groups
of 3 to 4 at the beginning of class so they can exchange their reactions
and read each others.
Judy Kaufman
Dept. of Applied Beh. Studies in Ed.
Ok State (kaufman@osuunx.ucc.okstate.edu)
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 1995 10:20:17 LCL
From: green deborah <dxgree@MAIL.WM.EDU>
Subject: To Quiz or Not to Quiz
I have realized for a long time that students won't read if they are
not held accountable for the reading in some way.  I rarely use exams
or quizzes of any kind in any of my courses anymore, but, rather, ask
them to write about the readings in their journals.  This is not an
answer if students at your institution hate writing even more than
reading, but it has worked very well for me.  I ask that they write
about reactions, synthesize material across readings, etc. and NOT
summarize or turn in their "notes" on the reading.  The journals are
collected three times during the semester and the reading entries are
interspersed with their comments about the class discussions, so it is
very difficult to reconstruct this journal if a student doesn't keep
up with the reading.  Few students have had trouble with this
assignment (after some initial uncertainty and grumbling) and most
are thrilled that they don't have traditional exams on the material.
Of course, grading of journals is a problem already discussed at
length on this list!
Debbie Green
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 10:48:47 -0400 (EDT)
From: Lynne Taetzsch <TAETZSCH@GWUVM.BITNET>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
I have found quizzes to be a highly effective way to ensure that students
do the assigned reading.  I make my quizes short and easy (If you read the
material, you will be able to pass).  I don't give quizzes after every
reading assignment, but often enough so they know to prepare for it.  I
don't see how this could possibly threaten the "safety of the classroom
George Washington University
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 10:00:07 -0600 (CST)
From: Karen West <kwest@KCMETRO.CC.MO.US>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
After struggling with the problem of students not prepared
for class discussion I started a policy of basing the student's grade on
written assignments.  I assign a minimum of 10 two page papers based
on the reading to be written and submitted prior to the start of the
class during which the discussion is to take place.  I also give an
essay final.  I don't accept late papers and find that my students come
to class having read and thought about the assignments.
Karen West
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 08:55:52 -0700
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
>  Has anyone on the list found another way to ensure that their students are
>  keeping up with the reading?
One thing I've had Prof's do before is have each of the students rotate
preparing questions that would lend some structure to the class discussion.
That way, especially with smaller classes, it seemed to encourage our
reading the materials.
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 12:13:50 -0500
From: "Patricia J. Ould" <POULD@MECN.MASS.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
I have tried a variety of strategies to get students engaged in the course
readings.  My most successful effort has been to begin the course by having
students spend some time in class during the first meeting writing about a
topic relating their opinion and relevant experience.  The students chose
a partner and read and discuss each other's papers.  We then discuss what we
and our partners have written in a round.  I include myself in the exercise;
on occasion I have had the opportunity to team teach a course and my partner
is my "co-teacher."
When the readings are detailed or difficult I have students read from their
journal entries or give them time in class to respond to a question regarding
the reading in writing before discussing it.  Discussions always begin in a
round, as the semester progresses we may alter that format.  Whenever I have
the class discuss readings, assignments, films, etc. in small groups I always
end the discussion by having them come back to the larger group to summarize
what they have discussed.  I also "drop in" on small group discussions.
The opportunity to write in class seems to give the students the opportunity
to collect and organize their thoughts.  they seem more willing to admit it
if they have not read, and usually are prepared thereafter.  Having something
in writing also seems to give more direction and confidence to their discussion.
I have had the experience where nothing seemed to work!  I recently took
comfort from bell hooks similar experience that she relates in the introduction
to Teaching to Transgress.  She summs up her discussion of a class that
resisted becoming a learning community as follows.  "More than any other class
I had taught, this one compelled me to abandon the sense that the professor
could, by sheer strength of will and desire, make the classroom an exciting,
learning community."  Good Luck!
Date: Mon, 06 Feb 1995 23:37:56 -0500 (EST)
From: Rosa Maria Pegueros <PEGUEROS@URIACC.URI.EDU>
I have tried all sorts of strategies for getting my students to do the
reading including talking about everyone taking responsibility for their
learning, etc.  Most of these strategems have been futile.  So this is what
I do now and it works. I don't know how feminist it is.
I prepare a very detailed syllabus with explicit information including
deadlines in boldface; a two-page lesson on how to study; a page that lays
out exactly  what they need to do for each grade (To get an "A"...to get a
"B"...); explaining what plagiarism is; and most important of all, explaining
my attendance policy which is very strict.
On the first day of class, I warn them that there is a great deal of reading
for my class and that I expect them to be prepared. If they can't or won't do
the reading, if they tend to miss class frequently, I tell them to drop the
class because I have students waiting to get in, and I won't give a good
grade to someone who attends irregularly and/or doesn't prepare.  When a quiz
or assignment is coming up, I start reminding them 10 days before it's due.
If someone wants to add the class, I go over the syllabus and my policies
in detail and warn them as well. I take attendance every class and at the end
of each semester, I post a list with their names and number of unexcused
absences.  I also put the number of absences on the last paper they hand in.
In the beginning, I would have 10-15 students drop the class immediately, and
a handful who didn't keep up or frequently missed class. Lately, I get few
students who drop after the first day. My classes have near-perfect attendance
and very high performance.
Some would say that I'm a martinet, but I maintain a very low-key, cheerful
atmosphere in my classes; I grade very fairly, and never lose my temper
or my cool. I think that what I have learned is that if you tell students
exactly what you expect of them and you follow through, they are glad for
the structure and certainty that that knowledge gives them. I have heard them
complain that they have to drop extra-curricular activities to keep up
with the reading in my class, or that they do the reading for my class and
let their other classes slip, but in any case, they are lining up to get in
so I must be doing something right. Is it feminist? I dunno.
Rosa Maria Pegueros
Rosa Maria Pegueros             e-mail: pegueros@uriacc.uri.edu
Department of History           telephone: (401) 792-4092
217C Washburn Hall
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881-0817         "Women hold up half the sky."
Date: Mon, 06 Feb 1995 22:14:42 -0700
From: Nancy Bender <nbender@NMSU.EDU>
A technique that I use to encourage reading is to require students in my
composition classes to bring in 3-5 questions about the reading that they
would like to ask of the writer, about which they're genuinely confused.  This
technique privileges questions rather than answers, and students know that
they're responsible for raising these questions during the discussion.
I teach basic English and ESL composition, argumentation and tech
writing--but I believe this technique could be adapted to other kinds of
classes as well.
e d u c a t i o n   i s   n o t   t h e   f i l l i n g   o f   a   p a i l
     NANCY KING BENDER  migrant educational worker  LAS CRUCES, NM
 b u t   t h e   l i g h t i n g   o f   a   f i r e.   w  b  y e a t s
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 12:10:10 -0600 (CST)
From: Anne MacNeil <ma5c@MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
When I was in graduate school, one professor began each class by asking
someone to summarize the readings for that day.  We never knew who would be
asked, so we all kept up with the readings, just in case.  This method had
the advantage of teaching us all how to distill arguments down to a
sentence or two, in addition to providing the class with a point of
departure for subsequent discussion.  The usual follow-up question was to
ask another student if they agreed with the summary or had anything to add
to it.
Anne MacNeil
American Institute of Indian Studies
The University of Chicago
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 10:36:19 -0800
From: Carolyn Austin <eahu436@EA.OAC.UCI.EDU>
Subject: To Quiz or Not to Quiz
I've started using e-mail this quarter in my class.  I'm teaching an
introduction to the Humanities course, and ask each of my students to
answer a discussion question (one of many) on each text.  They then
respond to two other students' answers.  At first there was a good deal
of grumbling -- about opening an account, about learning the ins and outs
of e-mail -- but I'm now seeing a good deal of real thought and
interaction.  Many of my students' messages to each other now begin with
phrases like "Your answer takes off on a different track from other
people's -- very interesting!"  The fact that they have to respond to
each other takes some of the burden off me, and makes them realize that a
class is ideally a conversation, and not a lecture.
Carolyn Austin
University of California, Irvine
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 12:11:05 -0400
Subject: Re: To quiz or not to quiz?
        If all your students have access to E-mail or WWW there are a few
interesting possibilities.  I have my students do the reading and then
        a) By no later than 26 hours before class each student submits a
question (enters it into a webbed area of the computer we all have access to)
based on the reading(s).  I ask that the question direct us toward what they
consider the best place to carry on class discussion.
        b) By no later than two hours before the class each student reviews the
submitted questions and "votes" for the three best (in their opinion) questions
of those submitted.
        I mechanically "collect" these questions from the computer and print
them up so that at the beginning of class we have a ranked list of what the
students want to talk about.  The students thus direct the discussion to their
satisfaction and it does require them to do the reading both to enter their own
candidates and to judge the proposed questions of others.  I sometimes put them
into small groups to propose clarification or preliminary responses to the
        I do, by the way, talk to them about what makes good questions;  also,
setting up such a structure to work effortlessly requires a good computer
person, which I have access to.
        The technique I described is in place for a class of 20 first-year
students studying prejudice and discrimination.
        I hope this might interest others on the list as well as the original
poster.  Further details available on request. 8-)
/  Lawrence R. Ashley           BITNET:Ashleyl@SNYCORVA
/  Department of Philosophy     INTERNET:Ashleyl@SNYCORVA.CORTLAND.EDU
/  125 DeGroat Hall             SUNY DECnet:SCORVA::Ashleyl
/  SUNY College at Cortland     Bus. Phone: (607) 753-2015
/  P.O. Box 2000                Home Phone: (607) 753-0058
/  Cortland, New York, 13045    Fax by prearrangement to home phone.
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 12:36:00 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: To quiz or not to quiz?
        A technique I've used recently with some success in classes where
students were having trouble keeping up with the reading: give out a study
aid sheet the class before the reading is to be discussed, with enough "Why
do you agree/disagree with X concept" questions for one for each student.
Put numbers on bd., beginning of class, ask each student to sign for one
they prefer to answer, with the understanding that their statements will be
a minute or under.  When opening statements end, we go to general
discussion.  I find that many students want to read critically, but haven't
been taught/empowered to do so, even at the jr.-sr. level?
Rosemary Killam, University of North Texas rkillam@music.unt.edu
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 15:16:59 -0500 (EST)
From: Bob Wheeler <R1199@VMCMS.CSUOHIO.EDU>
Subject: Quizzes
The seminar classes I teach on a regular basis were often plagued by
students who did not keep up with the readings.  I determined that after
long mid-term evaluation discussions with the students that they were not
clear why they were reading the particular essay or book or what I wanted
from various portions of the readings.  In response I began to write study
questions for each reading assignment in the course.  Questions deal with
specific content and with overall perspective - I can guide their reading and
ask questions as they confront the material.  In addition, each class a certain
number of the questions are due and I collect them on a random basis.  Their
answers make up one-third of their final grade.  With this system in place
I have found the discussions much more viable - not tied to the questions
but based on key elements.  Students feel rewarded for completing the reading.
Hope this is of some help.  Bob Wheeler Cleveland State University  r1199 at
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 17:25:31 -0500 (EST)
From: Renae Bredin <bredin@ANDROMEDA.RUTGERS.EDU>
Subject: Re: To quiz or not to quiz?
R. Mountford asks about ways of helping students to keep up with the reading
in a Women's Studies class w/o playing cop.  The method I've found to be
most successful (an idea passed on by mentors teaching Women's Studies) is
to ask for a discussion/journal page for each of the assigned readings.  They
must be turned in at the beginning of class, before we begin.  And the grade
is based solely on relevance and quantity--one full page that addresses the
issues in the reading.  These papers count for 10% of their final grade, but
they are always an A if the two criteria are met.  Students seem to be
very able to get through this, discussions are fruitful, and I have some
insight into each individual's thinking on the material at hand.  Hope this
is helpful!                       Renae
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 17:15:07 -0500
From: Iana Pattatucci <luciana%bchem.dnet@DXI.NIH.GOV>
Subject: On quizes and structure
Perhaps the following example by analogy will illustrate my ideas on
the subject.  I co-parent 2 children, a 12 yr. old female, and a 14
yr. old male.  My partner and I have a policy that everyone MUST wash
their own dishes and utensils.  If one of them has a friend over, they
are responsible for those dishes as well.  The policy works wonderfully
as long as we are strict (eg.  If there is a dirty cereal bowl in the
sink, the culprit must stop whatever they are doing and come and wash it).
Of course, the outcome is that the children adjusted rather quickly and
simply clean up after themselves at the time that they eat.  HOWEVER, if
I even one time slack up, considering it less of a hassle to simply
clean up after them myself than to call them to do it, within a couple
of days, the sink is loaded with dirty dishes.
My point in all of this is that when a classroom environment is created
where there is little apparent structure, it should come as no surprise
that students will learn rather quickly that they can often "wing it"
in class even if called on - particularly if it is a discussion-
oriented forum.  The class, as a whole, may not be nearly as interested
in a given reading as we may be, and, of course, they have lives and
other priorities outside of the classroom.  Just as with my
children, those "other" priorities will come to prominence if the
structure is relaxed in the classroom, or in my case the kitchen.
Adults tend to be offended when their behavior is compared to that of
a child.  However, I am constantly amazed at just how child-like
many of us are, including myself.  Five minutes watching the
attorneys in the O.J. Simpson trial will convince you of this if
I haven't (*smile*).
Angela Pattatucci
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 1995 19:02:03 -0500
From: Dianna Taylor <TAYLODE@UCBEH.SAN.UC.EDU>
Subject: to quiz or not to quiz
In most of my graduate seminars we are required to write "seminar papers," one
to two page papers which analyze the readings for that week.  Most professors
require this for each class, others divide the class into two groups and
members of each group write every other week.  Professors collect these papers
in their mailboxes a day or two before class.  In one case, the professor
organizes them (i.e., according to common themes, two people who wrote on the
same essays, etc) and the class is then organized in a similar way.  We are
required to read these short papers in class, a fact which motivates students
(at least in my experience) to write a decent analysis.  I guess this could in
some ways be considered a "quiz."  Since I also TA an Intro. to Women's Studies
section, I know how difficult it is to generate a decent discussion when people
don't prepare.  I don't think there's anything wrong with quizzing students or
requiring them to prepare _something_ for each class.  I've found that allowing
prolonged periods of silence after posing a question also serves to get them to
participate in some way!  I guess I'm unsure as to why requiring students to be
prepared would be considered an invasion of one's "safe space."  As the
discussion on this list of "safe space" several months ago seems to suggest,
the meaning of "safe space" itself is rather indeterminate.
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 13:48:42 -0500
From: Feminist Teacher <feminist@WHEATONMA.EDU>
Subject: Re: To quiz or not
In my intro to women's studies (enrollment 65), I can't bring myself to
read reaction papers on each reading, but I do want to ask students to
gather their thoughts about each before they come to class.  So I ask them
to write "reaction sentences"--one really thoughtful sentence about each
article or chapter.  These I can get through in about two hours--65 pages
of reaction papers would be hopeless.  They complain a lot, by the way, at
being limited to one sentence.
Footnote: The idea for the one-sentence reactions was John Clower's.  John,
are you on this list?  If so, thanks.
--Paula Krebs
English Dept., Wheaton College (Mass.)
and Editorial Collective, _Feminist Teacher_
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 13:14:29 -0800
From: Deanna Zachary <dzachary@WEBER.UCSD.EDU>
Subject: To Quiz or to Fail?
I love the discussion about how to encourage students to participate in
the classroom. As a feminist teacher, I have always felt it to be largely my
responsibility if students don't participate in class. BUT AM I WRONG?
A professor friend of mine has one of those exceedinly difficult classes
where few students read and fewer speak. I passed along to her all of
your marvelous suggestions including reaction papers, journals,
discussion questions written by both students and teachers, e-mail
discussion circles and course evaluations.  But she feels that we have
focused far too much on the professor's role and she feels like throwing
in the towell on this particular class. I keep suggesting she try yet one
more novel idea and she says no.
When should a professor give up on a particular class?
  The even broader question is what is the balance
between the professor's responsibility and the student's responsibility.
If students don't want to read-should we blame ourselves and our teaching
strategies or assume that regardless of how  interesting the course may
be, there are too many other interesting and necessary things fighting
for their attention, including other classes, work, family, friends,
lovers and e-mail?
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 13:33:40 -0800
From: Deborah Jean Brasket <dbrasket@TUBA.AIX.CALPOLY.EDU>
Subject: Re: To quiz or not to quiz?
Another answer to the quiz or not quiz problem is to three to five
students (depending on how big the class is) responsible for leading the
discussion by preparing a list of three probing questions drawn from the
readings to share with the class.  This works well in my Freshman
composition class in which we do a lot of readings pertaining to sexism,
racism, classism, and so on.  Not only does it ensure that at least three
to five students will be prepared to discuss the reading, but it also
encourages the rest of the class to do their reading as when it comes
time for them to ask the questions, no one to be put in the position of
receiving no responses.
Good luck!
Deborah Brasket
California Polytechnic State University, SLO
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 19:08:02 -0500 (EST)
From: Suzanne HIldenbrand <LISHILDE@UBVM.BITNET>
Subject: Re: To Quiz or to Fail?
On the question of resposibility for learning--professor v. students --
with the supposedly "good" liberal, feminist folks coming down on the side
of the prof having most (all?) responsibility I think that there is something
that is overlooked. That seems to suggest that the prof is the active agent...
yet surely we all think that learning requires active involvemnt on the part   
of the learner? Isn't that how we look at our own learning? SOme profs are more
helpful, some less but no one learns math for you, you learn it for yourself.
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 16:36:45 -0500
Subject: Re: To quiz or not (go for the e-mail assignments!)
I'd like to ditto the people who are encouraging using e-mail to
facilitate discussions of readings materials. During Spring 1994
I set up an e-mail system for my graduate class (about 16 students)
in Gerontology. As one subscriber said, they initially whined, pouted,
and protested (e.g."But I don't know anything about computers...").
Besides talking to each other, I also required them to subscribe to
2 gerontology lists. When I got the course evaluations in mid-summer,
100% said that the most valuable part of the course was learning how
to get on e-mail and "talk" to each other. In fact, some graduate
students from previous semesters complained that I had not required
the same of them. They said they felt they had missed something.
As one subscriber said, this can't be done overnight. For example, I
had to muddle through 2 training sessions because our computer
person didn't show up. However, it's worth considering for future
semesters. Women, especially, are forced to learn a few things about
using computers that they've sometimes managed to avoid in the past
and it increases their self-confidence phenomenally (if that's a word).
As I recall, Arnie Kahn (who's on this list, I think), published a
nice article on setting up computer bulletin boards for classroom
use in a recent article.
niki Benokraitis
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 12:17:10 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Reading, discussion student suggestions
I have students pick buddies in each class.  Each pair must talk once a
week between classes by phone or in person about the next reading
assignment and come in to class prepared to discuss what they had
already discussed with each other.  For several weeks of the term, they
are to write up their discussion briefly commenting on the readings,
alternating writers.  Judy Gardiner, UIC.
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 1995 23:20:53 -0500
Subject: Re: To quiz or not (go for the e-mail assignments!)
Niki writes:
>As I recall, Arnie Kahn (who's on this list, I think), published a
>nice article on setting up computer bulletin boards for classroom
>use in a recent article.
>niki Benokraitis
Yes, the paper has been published in TRANSFORMATIONS.  An early version
is available on the WMST-L fileserver [this early version is now on InforM 
under the title A Computer Bulletin Board in Women's Studies Courses. ].  If 
you'd like a hardcopy reprint of the final version, email or write me at the 
address below.
I, of course, strongly encourage electronic communication in classes
in which faculty want students to discuss, but I also use weekly
quizes to keep them reading.  In Psych of Women we cover a chapter a
week.  I give a quiz each Monday, first thing, over the chapter to be
covered that week.  It takes about 15 minutes and the rest of the week
is usually devoted to discussion of the topic.  Forcing the students
to read ahead of time often leads to comments such as, "in the book
the authors state..."  It's also quite an experience to walk into the
classroom (actually the Women's Resource Center where students are
sprawled out on the floor) and see the students all reading the text and
studying their notes.     Arnie
Arnie Kahn, Psychology, JMU, Harrisonburg, VA 22807     (703) 568-3963 - day
fac_askahn@vax1.acs.jmu.edu                             (703) 434-0225 - night
fac_askahn@jmuvax                                       (703) 568-3322 - fax
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 1995 09:27:20 -0500
From: Jennifer Alabiso <jalabiso@CCAT.SAS.UPENN.EDU>
Subject: Re: To quiz or not to quiz?
In my graduate level Human Development course the professor used what
might be seen as a mix of some of the suggestions already stated here.  She
recognized that not all students were going to read all the material all
of the time, and her response to this was to ask for volunteers to
"teach" each of our readings.  This worked on several levels.  It meant
that we all read, and responded to, big chunks of material.  It also
meant that we were "off the hook" certain weeks, and could feel less
pressure and focus on our other classes.  It thirdly meant that all
students participated, at length, on given days, and that made for a very
broad spectrum approach to our learning of the theories and readings.
All in all this worked great!!
RE: whether it's the teacher's responsibility or the students to DO the
reading.  I can only speak for myself.  I work full time and am doing
graduate work part time and have a family and so am VERY busy.  There are
weeks, no matter how I try, that my reading doesnt get done, or gets done
half heartedly.  HOWEVER, once my life calms down and I find some time,
the reading gets done.  So, If your students seem not interested, maybe
that is a function of the class or the teaching.  If they are engaged and
animated, but obviously behind, don't despair, they may get to it on
their own.  Though this doesn't help alleviate the frustration of an
unprepared class, it may give insight as to why students feel "policed"
by quizzes and such.
Hope this helps.
Jennifer Alabiso
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 1995 17:15:42 -0500
From: Roxanne Mountford <mountr@RPI.EDU>
Subject: To quiz or not to quiz?
I appreciate all the responses I have received from listmembers
for alternatives to quizzing.  The student who claimed that
quizzing made the class environment seem "unsafe" has, on further
questioning, revealed that she is not a good reader.  That has given
me an opportunity to teach her how to read more efficiently (she gets
the reading done but doesn't remember any key concepts).  I gave a
"response" quiz on Tues. (asking for open-ended response to an essay
that was provocative), and all the students who did the reading (all
but three), did very well.  I used the responses to begin discussion
today.  Today all students were prepared--the article due for today
was heavily highlighted by all :-).  So, my sisters, I thank you for
your ideas.  My class is back on track.
I want to echo Su Epstein's assertion that it is important to work in
popular essays with the difficult theoretical essays in order to
motivate student interest.  In addition, creating courses that seek
to explore difficult issues from different vantage points also attracks
student interest (I think of it as teaching through issues).  For
instance, teaching identity politics can include Adrienne Rich, bell
hooks, and Judith Butler, quite a range of writers.  Students are
sure to love hooks, in my experience, and to find Butler daunting.
But, if they know they are reading Butler FOR identity politics, they
are more motivated (and they can see the connections back to hooks).
Roxanne Mountford
Rensselaer Polytechnic Insitute
Troy, NY
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 1995 13:09:38 -0600
From: Green Suzanne D <sdgreen@JOVE.ACS.UNT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Fw: To quiz or not to quiz?
Here's another idea that might work.  What about some sort of either
response essay to the day's readings?  Require them to be typed, thus
eliminating the possibility of some sitting in the back row and writing
them during class.  They not only require the reading, but also give the
students a good idea what they'd like to contribute to the discussion.
Or you could modify it slightly and do a reading journal...have them
comment on selections from the reading(s) that appeal to them...and react
to them.  I've tried both of these strategies, and found them to work
especially well.
If you come up with other ideas about this, I'd love to hear them.  This
is something I've thought about a lot, and I'm interested in other
people's ideas about it.
Suzanne Green
University of North Texas

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