Session 8

Student-generated pre-exam questions is an effective tool for participatory learning in STEM subjects
Massimiliano Marvasi, Senior Lectutrer in Microbiology, Middlesex University London
Diane Purchase, Associate Professor in Environmental Health, Middlesex University London

This workshop is divided in two sections. During the first section we elucidate how the instructional practice of student-generated questions supports learning in a blended classroom in STEM subjects. The audience will learn how to develop student-generated questions to support effective learning in undergraduate and graduate modules. In the second section a round table is organized to engage the audience on how students volunteering activities are effective to increase student learning, motivation and employability.

Session summary:
The teaching of STEM subjects that include much scientific jargon, especially by scientists that are not necessarily educators, poses challenges to students' learning. This is especially heightened during the assessment period, where in addition to the complex content of those subjects, students experience exam related anxiety. This observation led Dr Massimiliano Marvasi to look at what tools could assist his students with achieving a better understanding of the subject and being successful in exams. Along with Thomas Berger, who said ‘the cut and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge’, Massimiliano decided to use the 'student generated pre-exam questions' activity as an additional assessment in preparation for the final exam.

Previous research showed reductions in the levels of stress and anxiety associated with exams by using student-generated questions as well as ungraded pop quizzes, peer-graded quizzes and collaborative exams. Despite this prior research and reports that 80% of students were happy with these activities no correlation has yet been found between grades and using questions developed by students. To further investigate this correlation with grades, the present study focused on teaching Bloom’s taxonomy and requiring students to use challenging questions which were then evaluated by a lecturer before being used in the exam. Using this method, the presenters reported results that, on average, grades increased by 7.4%. It was perhaps surprising then to learn that feedback from students showed they were not very satisfied with the task, stating that it was challenging and required the use of many new skills.

In the second part of the session Professor Diane Purchase introduced the audience to the concept of volunteering experience emphasising an increasing importance for students to acquire employability skills. She highlighted that the diverse range of students, with various personal and professional characteristics, does not make this a straightforward task but that there are ways to assist students with work experience which would foster such skills. Professor Purchase emphasised the importance of using a structured framework, adopting engagement assessment methods and providing support. Examples included using video diaries to evaluate students’ experiences and encouraging different forms of assessment, both of which were reported to be successful.