A recent Profhacker post about reliance on test banks for exam questions prompted a lot of discussion in the adjunct office at my school. My, rather negative, thoughts on test banks are for another post, but this situation in Florida has made me even more proud of my crowdsourcing effort for the grammar exam in eng101.
Here’s what I do: At the beginning of the semester, I give my students in Composition I (eng101 ) a brief (too brief…it needs to be revised during break to be clearer about my expectations) handout asking them to create a sentence for each of the six sections of grammar we study during the first two months of the semester. Later in the semester, after we finish our final discussion of grammar, students must submit one sentence for each section of grammar. I take those, grade them for participation, and then copy/paste the best, or worst, sentences into each section of the exam. If I run short of good, or bad, sentences, I add them myself or bring back questions from quizzes that a lot of students had trouble with during the semester. This becomes the grammar exam.
My students have found this a very interesting way to engage with grammar. Many express excitement, and will comment as such in the margins, at their sentence, or some version of it, being used on the exam. Others have commented that writing your own questions offers supplemental practice that is absolute necessary for many of them. Some just think it’s cool having agency over what goes into the exam. Finally, I get to see what is, and is not, important to that particular set of students that particular semester.
This kind of participatory education is something I believe very strongly in. I am working on other ways to incorporate my students in the decision-making process in my classroom. I strongly prefer democratic participation over mindless regurgitation of facts and ideas from a textbook.