Testing if students are engaging with pre-class learning materials

I was worried that students are not doing the required pre-class engagement with materials (lecture and set readings). I was basing tutorials on questions sent by students on the pre-class learning materials. Apparently this is better and more useful than just testing what they already know. However, the idea of them sending me questions and doubts for each weeks material petered out very quickly. So I changed tack and selected different students to present brief summaries of the weekly readings. However, this then allows those not presenting to avoid readings if they wish. How should we test for this, then? I met with Adam Morgan yesterday. One idea we came up with is to require each student to submit to me via email at least 2 days before class, a question accompanied by a short paragraph explaining what they don’t understand, what his/her doubts are in relation to the question. Students get 2 points for this each week over 10 weeks, which equals 20% of their final mark. This can lead to the elimination of the final test, if need be, to avoid adding yet another assignment to the subject. Questions must have quality and not just be dashed off to get the mark (in the first 2 weeks I can explain to students which are useful questions and which are not – which are superficial and reveal little engagement with the topic and the materials). In the tutorial I will then distributes these questions with their paragraphs to different ad hoc groups of students (different each week) who then have 5 minutes to try and generate a quick response to the question. I only intervene if necessary and then at the end.

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