Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Now that the bar exam is over, it's time to turn our attention to the incoming first-year students. Orientation is right around the corner. I have roughly 50 minutes to speak with the students during orientation about academic support programming. I used to give a lecture style overview and then distribute some handouts. The students politely listened, but few left the session enthused about the Academic Excellence Center. For the last few years, however, I've used the IF-AT lottery scratcher quizzes during orientation, with much success. Now, after adopting the scratcher quizzes, students routinely queue up to chat with me after the session. Here are the details.
1. What's an IF-AT Quiz?
According to the creator's website, the "Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique, also known as the IF-AT, is an exciting and revolutionary new testing system that transforms traditional multiple-choice testing into an interactive learning opportunity for students and a more informative assessment opportunity for teachers." In more direct terms, it's a small card that looks like a lottery scratcher. The correct answer has a star (*) underneath, while the wrong answers are blank. Students can take a guess from the four options. If they are correct, they'll see a star and get full credit for the question. If they are wrong, then they'll see a blank space, and have the opportunity to select again from the three remaining responses.
You can buy the scratchers online. The smallest box available for purchase is a 10-question, 4 answer choice batch of 500 scracthers at a cost of $90 plus $15 shipping and handling. You can also get longer and more complex quiz formats at a slightly higher price. I only use about 20 scratchers at orientation for an incoming class of 100 students. So, for just $115, I now have enough scratchers to last me for my entire ASP career (assuming that I'm only using the scratchers at orientation).
2. What kind of questions do you put on the orientation quiz?
I draft a 10-question quiz with both facts that I want the students to know about the Academic Excellence Center and academic support tips that are helpful during the first two weeks of school. The current version of the quiz includes questions like:
-- Before joining WVU Law, Professor Trychta worked as: (a) a family law attorney, (b) a judicial law clerk, (c) a federal prosecutor, or (d) a professional writer.
-- Dean’s Fellows are: (a) students on full academic scholarship, (b) select high-performing upper level students who apply to work as paid tutors, (c) the student who earned the highest grade in a particular course, or (d) volunteer upper-level students who serve as “big brothers” and “big sisters.”
-- Professor Trychta is available to meet with students: (a) on a first come, first serve, walk-in basis anytime; (b) on a first come, first serve, walk-in basis during posted office hours; (c) with or without an appointment at any time; or (d) by appointment only.
-- There are 13 subjects on the essay section of the Uniform Bar Exam (or West Virginia bar exam). How many of those subjects are required at WVU Law? (a) 7, (b) 9, (c) 11, or (d) 13.
-- The biggest challenge for most first-year law students is: (a) understanding the reading assignments, (b) balancing time commitments (a.k.a. time management), (c) getting “cold called” in class, or (d) learning the legal vocabulary.
-- Which is a true statement? (a) Professor Trychta once walked 125 miles in 4 days. (b) Law students should practice multitasking while in law school, because it is valuable skill for young lawyers. (c) Because of the volume of material discussed, your computer is a must-have in the classroom to take notes. (d) For the best results when studying, read the material over and over again until you know it cold.
-- How many hours per week should a law student anticipate studying outside of class? (a) 17-34 hours per week, (b) 34-51 hours per week, (c) 51-68 hours per week, or (d) there is no magic number.
-- During the fall semester, the Writing Center will periodically offer writing workshops on which day of the week? (a) Monday, (b) Tuesday, (c) Wednesday, or (d) Thursday.
Each question is designed to invite conversation among the students and between the students and myself.
3. How do you administer the quiz?
I hand out a copy of the quiz to every student. I then give each student about 3-5 minutes to look over the quiz individually and to mark their preliminary guesses. Next, I put the students in small groups and distribute the IF-AT scratcher. I tell them that they must work together to select the best answer, as a group. Students are told that the group with the highest score will receive a small prize. Groups earn 3 points if they select the correct answer on their first try, 2 points for a second choice, 1 point for a third choice, and no points if the correct answer is the only answer remaining from the four original choices. The maximum scores is 30 points.
After each group has a chance to complete their card, I review the answers with everyone. The quiz review component goes quickly because the students already know the right answer (from completing the scratcher) and have already discussed the pros/cons of the other answer choices. I'm simply reinforcing what they discovered for themselves earlier in the session.
4. What if you don't have a designated timeslot during orientation?
For this upcoming year, in an effort to better streamline the overloaded orientation agenda, I agreed to move my ASP session to one of the catered lunch breaks. It's now a working luncheon. I plan to place copies of the quiz on the round lunch tables prior to the students arrival. Once everyone is seated with their meals, I'll explain the rules to the game. The students can then eat and chat about the quiz, in a relaxed setting. I fully expect that the lunch table layout will actually foster and aid the group project, not hinder it. I also plan to walk around the room and introduce myself to the lunch tables. By the time I say hello to each table, it will be time to tally up the points and declare a winner.
So, if you don't currently have a designated time slot, and the students have a catered lunch break, I recommend asking if you can turn the lunch into a working ASP lunch.