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Test Question Templates

For many years, I struggled with a common teaching dilemma: how can I help my undergraduate students develop transferrable knowledge and skills in biology courses dominated by traditional high-stakes tests?

In 2019, with the help of Ben Wiggins (University of Washington) and Kiki Jenkins (Arizona State University), I had a breakthrough idea -- a framework that helps students prepare for interesting, complex test questions, while also making it easier for instructors to write such questions! I call the framework Test Question Templates (TQTs).

Fundamentally, a TQT is a student-facing resource that explicitly connects a Learning Objective (LO) with multiple specific examples of how that LO might be assessed on a test. TQTs thus show students what they will need to do on tests, and how to practice, without revealing the details of the tests. From the instructor side, TQTs' pre-specification of test question formats means that test-writing becomes more straightforward; with the freedom to vary certain details within a structured template, we can generate new questions each term with relative ease.

Beyond making tests less stressful and more rewarding for students and instructors, TQTs should generally promote studentsí transfer of knowledge to new contexts by encouraging practice on multiple examples with different surface features (Kaminske et al. 2020).

Since TQTs emphasize (A) abundant opportunities for collaborative student practice and (B) transparent alignment of practice and testing, they may be considered a cousin of TILT, mastery grading, Deb Donovan's Learning Targets and Success Criteria, and Ben Wiggins' public exams (blog post; webinar).

I welcome comments, questions, and comments-masquerading-as-questions! Feel free to email me at gcrowther AT everettcc DOT com.

Papers (Published or in Preparation)
  • Gregory J. Crowther, Benjamin L. Wiggins, and Lekelia D. Jenkins (2020). Testing in the age of active learning: Test Question Templates help to align activities and assessments. HAPS Educator 24(1): 74-81.

  • Gregory J. Crowther (2021). How do kidneys make urine from blood? Qualitative and quantitative approaches to filtration, secretion, reabsorption, and excretion. CourseSource: in press.

  • Dilan P. Evans, Lekelia D. Jenkins, and Gregory J. Crowther. How well do published introductory biology lessons facilitate knowledge transfer? In preparation for CBE-Life Sciences Education.

New/Ongoing Projects
  • Using TQTs to Unpack the Core Concepts of Physiology

  • A Taxonomy of Problem-Solving in Anatomy

  • TQTs and You and Me?
    • Do you have an idea for a TQT-related project? Please get in touch with me (gcrowther AT everettcc DOT com)!

Undergraduate Researcher Wanted!

As of late October, 2021, I am hoping to hire a student to help me with some of the above TQT work. This is a paid position, and coauthorship on a peer-reviewed paper is a possibility. For more information, please see the full job listing (PDF).

Other TQT Resources

Financial Support

In developing TQTs, I am grateful for pilot funding from several wonderful sources:

Dr. C sipping some TQTea.