Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scratch-Off Collaboration

This post is part of the 30-Day Blog Challenge from TeachThought. To learn more about the challenge go to

DAY 25: The ideal collaboration between students - what would it look like?

The following is what one of my students submitted for the end-of-week team evaluation on Friday:

"We had some really great discussions Thursday, 
everyone participated and 
we all shared ideas and learned, 
it was really good."

Now I could go on and on about what I hope to see from student collaboration in my classroom, and it would probably be laced with a bunch of edu-babble (as I tend to do). But I think this student pretty much sums up what I would describe as ideal collaboration. The key words for me are: participated, shared ideas, and learned. I especially love his comment at the end: "It was really good." This is what I want for my students when they interact in teams. I want them all to be involved, I want learning to take place, and I want them to feel good about what they accomplished when everything is said and done. 

So what did this student's team do on Thursday that he thought was "really good?" They took a quiz. But this wasn't your typical team quiz. This quiz is based on the Readiness Assurance Process (RAP) designed by Larry Michaelsen as part of his Team-Based Learning approach. I learned about it for first time this summer while taking a Biotechnology class. For a field trip, we visited an active-learning classroom at the University of Minnesota and learned about their science courses that utilize team-based learning. I was inspired and immediately knew I wanted to incorporate portions of this approach in my own teaching.

One facet I wanted to use was the quizzing methodology. After a period of inquiry into a topic, my students are given a content assignment. This assignment gives them options in how they learn the content associated with a given topic. They may read a textbook, watch a video, explore a website, or read an iBook. Regardless of the mode of delivery, students are all expected to come to class with new information they've learned. They then take a 5-point quiz on that topic in class. They record their answers on paper, as well as in an online quiz on Schoology. Finally, the students complete the same quiz one more time, but as a team.

For the team quiz, the students use an IF-AT form to record their answers. The IF-AT form is a way for students to receive immediate feedback on their quiz answers, and requires that teams continue to answer quiz questions until they reach the correct answer. It accomplishes this with a scratch-off process. A team discusses a question, settles on an answer, and then scratches off the box on the IF-AT form that's above their answer. If they've answered correctly, a star will appear. An incorrect answer results in an empty box after being scratched off. If a team answers a question incorrectly, they continue discussing and choose a second box to scratch off. This sequence proceeds until the team scratches the correct box.

Sample IF-AT form. I only use five questions at a time.

What makes this quiz great at eliciting team collaboration isn't the IF-AT form directly, but the discussion and debate that have to take place among group members while completing the quiz. Students still have their personal answers in front of them on a piece of paper, but not everyone in the group always has the same answer. The students have to debate and defend their answers before scratching off the team answer.  This discussion process requires that they think back to the reading or video they completed as homework and use what they learned to support their opinion. The depth and intensity of these discussions are amazing to hear in progress. As well as the cheers when a group scratches off a correct answer. 

These quizzes only make up a minute portion of the students' grades, but I tell them outright that I'm more interested in hearing their debates than the status of their final score. The recall of the new information they learned and defense of their understanding of that information encourage deeper learning of material and better long-term storage. Finally, the comradery the quizzes create fosters improved team interactions and positive attitudes. If students come away from a team interaction feeling good about themselves and the interactions of the team, I know they have had a successful collaboration experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment