Writing quizzes for everyone

During my recitations, I am responsible for writing a weekly quiz. The instructor doesn’t offer a lot of feedback, and so I get the opportunity to try new methods and write my own quiz questions. As you can imagine, this means l write some good questions and l write some bad ones. I never hear much about the good questions, but boy do I hear about the bad ones. If I hear a lot of confusion over a question, I usually drop it the next semester or try to clarify the wording.

This week covers some of my favorite material, which means I have to hold back my creativity and remember to write level appropriate questions. I try to write a couple of softball questions, a mid level and a high level question, with the points weighted to easy questions. Well one of my softball questions gained considerably more attention than it deserved. I had a student waiting outside the room for me. He was unhappy with his grade.

As it turns out, his understanding of the concept was correct, but his answer was not precise enough to merit points on my rubric. And so its back to the drawing board. Maybe I should have given him points back, but it seems that he was thinking about it incorrectly and l don’t want to reward his complaints. I find it tricky to decide when I should focus on concept or details and what about precision? I don’t want to make students feel hopeless, but I want precise answers.

How do you teach students to answer precisely without crushing their morale in the process?

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