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 high-stakes tests that traditionally reward memorization above all else?
In 2019, with the help of Ben Wiggins and Kiki Jenkins, 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 Lesson Learning Objective (LLO) with multiple specific examples of how that LLO might be assessed on a test. TQTs thus show students what they will need to do on tests, and how to practice, without revealing all details of the tests. From the instructor side, TQTs' pre-specification of test question formats makes test-writing more straightforward; by varying certain details within a consistent broader structure, we can generate additional new questions 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) cognition above and beyond straight memorization, (B) transparent alignment of practice and testing, and (C) abundant opportunities for collaborative student practice, they may be considered a child of backwards design and a sibling or cousin of specs grading, Mary-Ann Wilkelmes' TILT, Deb Donovan's Learning Targets and Success Criteria, and Ben Wiggins' public exams (blog post; bioRxiv preprint).
I welcome comments, questions, and comments-masquerading-as-questions! Feel free to email me at gcrowther at everettcc dot edu.
Different members of the "TQTeam" are exploring TQTs in different subject areas as illustrated below.
- TQTs for Human A&P
- While I continue to write and edit TQTs, my current set of ~250 TQTs is available in a Google Drive folder for Human Anatomy and Physiology. (I use these mostly with sophomore pre-nursing students.)
- Do Learning Targets and Success Criteria alter students' perceptions of biology courses?
- A Taxonomy of Problem-Solving in Anatomy
- Using TQTs (and More) to Promote Active Learning in Undergraduate Exercise Science and Physiology Courses
- Using TQTs to Teach the Physiology Core Concept of Homeostasis
- 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 edu)!
- Gregory J. Crowther, Sasha D. Gradwell, and Timothy S. Eckert. A simple method for predicting a molecule's biological properties based on its polarity. Revision in review.
- Dilan P. Evans, Lekelia D. Jenkins, and Gregory J. Crowther (2023). Student perceptions of a framework for facilitating transfer from lessons to exams, and the relevance of this framework to published lessons. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education: in press.
- Gregory J. Crowther and Thomas A. Knight (2023). Using Test Question Templates (TQTs) to teach physiology core concepts. Advances in Physiology Education: in press.
- Gregory J. Crowther (2021). How do kidneys make urine from blood? Qualitative and quantitative approaches to filtration, secretion, reabsorption, and excretion. CourseSource 8: 42.
- 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.
In developing TQTs, I am grateful for pilot funding from several wonderful sources:
Dr. C sipping some TQTea.