Taking a test on the content of a lecture is an effective learning strategy. In this interactive lecture, the participants take a test twice, once individually and later collaboratively in teams.
Deliver your lecture and distribute a test. Ask the participants to respond to the test individually. Collect these tests and have teams take the test collaboratively. Distribute answer keys and ask the participants to score the team responses and individual responses.
To perform effectively on a test based on a lecture.
- Minimum: 4
- Maximum: Any number
- Best: 15 to 30
- 15 to 30 minutes for the lecture.
- 15 to 30 minutes for taking the test and scoring it.
- Test, 2 copies for each participant plus an extra copy for each team
- Scoring key, one copy for each participant
Supplies and Equipment
Prepare the test. Prepare an outline for your lecture and identify the key points. Construct a test covering these points. You may be tempted to use a set of multiple-choice questions, but we warned that it is not easy to create a valid multiple-choice items with plausible alternative responses.
Prepare the scoring key. Write the correct answers to each of the test items. Include alternative responses if they are acceptable.
Present your lecture. Playfully warn the participants that your lecture will be followed by a test. Encourage the participants to listen carefully to the lecture and take notes. Deliver the lecture at your usual pace.
Take the test individually. After the lecture, distribute copies of the test. Explain the nature of the test and announce a time limit. Start the timer and ask the participants to work on the test individually.
Take the test in teams. Blow the whistle at the end of 6 minutes. Ask participants to write a four-digit number on the top right corner of the test (and remember this number). Collect the test papers from all the participants and give everyone a fresh copy of the test. Organize the participants into two or more teams, each with two to five members. Distribute an extra copy of the test to each team. Ask the teams to collaboratively discuss each item on test and record the answers on the extra copy of the test. Announce a time limit and start the timer.
Score team test responses. After the time limit has expired, blow the whistle to announce the end of the team test period. Ask the teams to switch their test papers. Distribute copies of the answer key, one copy to each participant. Ask the teams to score the other team’s test.
Score individual test responses. Blow the whistle and ask each team to announce the score it awarded to the other team. Identify the teams with the highest scores and congratulate them. Redistribute the individual test papers that you had collected earlier, one test per participant. Ask each participant to score the test by using the scoring key.
Conclude the session. Blow the whistle and announce the names of the participants who received the highest test scores. Congratulate these participants. Conduct a discussion about the test items that were difficult, confusing, or unclear.
Adjustments and Variations
Don’t like multiple-choice tests? Use a set of short-answer questions instead. Make sure that all questions have a single correct answer.
Test too easy? The effectiveness of this approach depends on using questions that require higher levels of thinking. So spend appropriate effort in constructing a fairly difficult test.
Recently, I did a training session on an introduction to Agile Software Development.
Here’s the scoring key for the Individuals and Teams activity. The earlier test contained only the questions (without the answers in parentheses):
A Dozen Questions About Agile Software Development
1. According to the Agile Manifesto, where do best architecture, requirements, and designs emerge? (From self-organizing teams)
2. Does the Rolling Wave approach permit the milestones to change? (Yes)
3. How does the agile software development respond to change?
(Quick response and continuous development)
4. In the continuum of development methods, what is the opposite of adaptive? (Predictive)
5. In which document was the term Agile first used in relation to software development? (Agile Manifesto or Manifesto for Agile Software Development)
6. The Agile Manifesto values individuals and interactions over what? (Processes and tools)
7. What are two tools and techniques used to improve the quality during agile software development? (Any two of these: continuous integration, unit testing, pair programming, test-driven development, design patterns, domain-driven design, and code re-factoring)
8. What do team members report during the daily scrum? (What they did the previous day, what they plan to do today, and what obstacles they anticipate)
9. What does the Agile Manifesto prefer more than comprehensive documentation? (Working software)
10. What is an information radiator in agile software development? (A large physical display located near the development team)
11. What is another term for the daily stand-up? (Daily scrum)
12. What is one of the lightweight software development methods that was in use before agile? (Any one of these: rapid application development, unified process, or dynamic systems development method)
The following outline displays the structure of the Individuals and Teams interactive lecture.
Step 1. Deliver the lecture. (10 to 20 minutes)
Facilitator: Make the presentation.
Participants: Listen to the lecture and take notes.
Step 2. Take the test individually. (5 to 10 minutes)
Facilitator: Distribute copies of the test.
Participants: Take the test individually.
Step 3. Take the test in teams. (5 to 10 minutes)
Facilitator: Take back the test papers. Organize participants into teams. Distribute copies of the test. Ask the teams to jointly take the test.
Participants: Work with other team members and take the test.
Step 4. Score team test responses. (3 minutes)
Facilitator: Switch their test papers. Distribute the answer key. Ask teams to score the tests.
Participants: Working a team, score the test responses from another team.
Step 5. Score individual test responses. (3 minutes)
Facilitator: Redistribute individual test papers. Ask participants to score the test responses.
Participants: Score individual test responses.
Step 6. Conclude the session. (3 minutes)
Facilitator: Congratulate the highest-scoring individuals. Discuss test items that were confusing.
Participants: Participate in the discussion.
Reuse the Template
Because the tests used in this technique have to objectively scored, Individuals and Teams is particularly suited for training sessions that present a significant amount of factual information.
Here are some sample topics used with this technique:
- Characteristics and preferences of customers
- Commercial driver’s license rules and regulations
- Green process engineering
- Handling hazardous materials
- Product knowledge
- Technical terms and definitions