Use IF-AT Cards…Make Tests Fun!

The 2016 UCO Collegium on College Teaching Practices showcased many different active learning strategies employed by UCO faculty. The below short essay describes the success, Maurice Haff, an Instructor in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, has found using the Immediate-Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) cards. These cards are free to UCO faculty and available at the Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning (CETTL).


Written by Maurice Haff, Instructor, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, College of Business – MHaff_UCO

When was the last time your students enjoyed taking a test? Have your students ever been apprehensive about “bombing” an exam? Can you list a few instances where taking a test taught your students anything about the subject matter? Does the specter of cheating haunt your classroom? Do your exams engage your students in meaningful ways? Are your students relaxed when they show up for test day? In short, do your exams help students learn?  I can confirm from my experience over four years of using the Immediate Feedback Assessment Test (IF-AT) method that IF-AT will address the forgoing issues.

Key Benefits:

  • allows students to continue answering a question until they discover the correct answer.
  • ensures that students’ last response is the correct one.
  • teaches while it assesses.
  • facilitates learning and improving students’ retention of the information being tested.
  • students love using the IF-AT — it makes assessments enjoyable for them!
  • instructor is able to determine how many answer attempts it took for students to discover the correct answer.
  • the instructor who uses the IF-AT is able to give partial credit to his/her students.

Psychological Principles. The IF-AT was developed by a psychology professor whose specialty is human learning and memory. The IF-AT is based on solid psychological principles:

  • Immediate feedback is beneficial for learning (and is superior to delayed feedback)
  • The best test/quiz/homework assignment, etc. doesn’t just assess; it also teaches
  • The last response given by students on a test item are the ones they learn (i.e. the students leave the test item believing they have chosen the correct answers)

Recommended Use Strategy

Assessment of student learning is an essential element in what we do as educators.  If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve on the methods you use.  Our top priority needs to be helping students learn.  I have found student engagement at every opportunity, including testing, can help do that.  My approach is to test often (e.g., 4 to 6 sessions) as follows:

  1. Explain the IF-AT method and how you will use it so that students understand.
  2. Provide study guides that help students comprehend and own the subject matter.
  3. Break each exam into three parts: Out-of-class questions, In-class individual, In-class group; score weighting highest for the In-class group exam (3 to 5 students per group).

The Out-of-class part helps the students understand what you believe to be most important. The In-class individual part is a short set of questions on the key aspects that helps you assess individual learning. The In-class group engages students in subject matter discussion on the questions presented requiring reaching consensus on each answer.  I have made the questions on the In-class group exams increasingly more challenging and found that the students respond well to the challenge, with scores maintained at a high level. Students laugh, talk, and challenge each other during my exams. They come into each session smiling…they usually leave that way!

Reference:

Epstein Educational Enterprises. (n.d.) What is the IF-AT? Accessed 03/22/2017 at http://www.epsteineducation.com/home/about.

Comments

  1. Great article, Maurice! It’s particularly heartening when students are led to step up their game as a result of this process — as you say, the in-class group exams become more challenging over time.

    Students who enjoy learning from taking tests — who’d a thunk it?

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