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Quizzed About Tests | FAQs About Patton Test Strategies | TAPP 99

by Kevin Patton

Quizzed About Tests | FAQs About Patton Test Strategies

TAPP Radio Episode 99

Episode

Episode | Quick Take

In this episode, I answer a bunch of questions from Jerry Anzalone about the whacky strategies I have for testing in the A&P course. I discuss open online tests with multiple attempts, cumulative testing, pre-tests, test integrity, and much more. A virtual roundup of oddities!

  • 0:00:00 | Introduction
  • 0:00:54 | Quizzed About Tests
  • 0:05:45 | Retaking Tests
  • 0:29:37 | More on Retaking Tests
  • 0:36:33 | Sponsored by AAA
  • 0:38:27 | High Stakes and Low Stakes
  • 0:46:06 | Sponsored by HAPI
  • 0:47:30 | Open Book Tests
  • 0:56:24 | Sponsored by HAPS
  • 0:57:25 | Academic Integrity
  • 1:06:17 | Final Thoughts
  • 1:11:27 | Staying Connected

survey

Episode | Listen Now

Episode | Show Notes

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)

 

Quizzed About Tests

5 minutes

Kevin’s friend Jerry Anzalone calls in to the podcast hotline with questions about Kevin’s somewhat unusual methods of online testing in the A&P course.

    • Have some follow-up questions? A completely different question? Some answers of your own?
    • Call the podcast hotline: 1.833.546.6336

old-style phone with caption: podcast hotline 833.546.6336

 

Retaking Tests

24 minutes

Kevin summarizes the core ideas behind his online testing strategy: retrieval practice, spacing, interleaving, randomized question sets/pools, and more, in response to Jerry Anzalone’s question…
You mentioned that you give your students the opportunity to retake the assessments as many times as necessary until they can answer the questions correctly. How exactly does that work in your courses?

 

soccer ball with caption: what does athletic practice have to do with retaking tests?

 

More On Retaking Tests

7 minutes

The discussion continues by moving on to the topics of pre-tests and cumulative testing.

increasingly high stacks of coins with caption: cumulative testing build proficiency

Sponsored by AAA

2 minutes

A searchable transcript for this episode, as well as the captioned audiogram of this episode, are sponsored by the American Association for Anatomy (AAA) at anatomy.org.

Searchable transcript

Captioned audiogram 

Don’t forget—HAPS members get a deep discount on AAA membership!

AAA logo

 

High Stakes and Low Stakes

7.5 minutes

Kevin answers Jerry’s next couple of questions…
Do unlimited retakes apply only to formative assessments such as low stakes quizzes?
How much of the overall course grade do these unlimited test opportunities make up?

grilled steaks with caption: high-stakes, low stakes testing

 

Sponsored by HAPI Online Graduate Program

1.5 minute

The Master of Science in Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction—the MS-HAPI—is a graduate program for A&P teachers, especially for those who already have a graduate/professional degree. A combination of science courses (enough to qualify you to teach at the college level) and courses in contemporary instructional practice, this program helps you be your best in both on-campus and remote teaching. Kevin Patton is a faculty member in this program at Northeast College of Health Sciences. Check it out!

nycc.edu/hapi

Logo of Northeast College of Health Sciences, Human Anatomy & Physiology Instruction

 

Open Book Tests

9 minutes

Kevin talks hows and whys in response to this question from Jerry:
You also mentioned open-book or open-resource tests. How do you use open-book tests as assessments in your courses. For example, do your courses include one or more mid-term exams, multiple unit or module or chapter tests, frequent quizzes, and which of these, if any, are open book?an open blank book with caption: open-book testing, does it work?

 

Sponsored by HAPS

1 minute

The Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) is a sponsor of this podcast.  You can help appreciate their support by clicking the link below and checking out the many resources and benefits found there. Watch for virtual town hall meetings and upcoming regional meetings!

Anatomy & Physiology Society

theAPprofessor.org/haps

HAPS logo

 

Academic Integrity

8.5 minutes

Kevin answers Jerry’s final question:
Finally, how do you try to maintain standards of academic integrity with repeat test opportunities and open book tests?

heavy chain with caption: online test security, academic integrity

 

Final Thoughts

5 minutes

These strategies are not the only way to do things, but may be interesting if they spark ideas among listeners.

Need help accessing resources locked behind a paywall?
Check out this advice from Episode 32 to get what you need!

Episode | Transcript

The A&P Professor podcast (TAPP radio) episodes are made for listening, not reading. This transcript is provided for your convenience, but hey, it’s just not possible to capture the emphasis and dramatic delivery of the audio version. Or the cool theme music.  Or laughs and snorts. And because it’s generated by a combo of machine and human transcription, it may not be exactly right. So I strongly recommend listening by clicking the audio player provided.

AAA logoThis searchable transcript is supported by the
American Association for Anatomy.
I'm a member—maybe you should be one, too!

Introduction

Kevin Patton (00:00:01):
Robert Frost ended his most well-known poem with this, “I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Aileen (00:00:23):
Welcome to The A&P Professor, a few minutes to focus on teaching human anatomy and physiology with a veteran educator and teaching mentor, your host, Kevin Patton.

Kevin Patton (00:00:38):
In this episode, I answer a bunch of questions about the wacky strategies I have for testing in the A&P course.

Quizzed About Tests

Kevin Patton (00:00:55):
Welcome to Episode 99 of The A&P Professor Podcast, and I’d like to… Whoa, wait a minute. What is that? It can’t be. It’s the podcast hotline.

Jerry Anzalone (00:01:09):
Hi, Kevin, greetings from the Sunshine State. This is one of your former happy students, Jerry Anzalone, from Punta Gorda, Florida. I’d like to ask you a few questions about testing and assessments in our A&P courses. You’ve mentioned that you give your students the opportunity to retake assessments as many times as necessary until they can answer the questions correctly. How exactly does that work in your courses? Do unlimited retakes apply only to formative assessments, such as low-stakes quizzes? And how much of the overall course grade do these unlimited test opportunities make up?

Jerry Anzalone (00:01:55):
You’ve also mentioned open book or open resource tests. How would you use open book tests as assessments in your courses? For example, do your courses include one or more midterm exams, multiple unit or module or chapter tests, frequent quizzes? And which of these, if any, are open book? Finally, how do you try to maintain standards of academic integrity with repeat test opportunities and open book tests? Thank you for considering my questions. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Take care, Kevin.

Kevin Patton (00:02:38):
Well, thanks for the call, Jerry…

Read More

It’s always great to hear from you. And of course, I’m thrilled anytime I get a call on the podcast hotline. Now, this set of questions that Jerry sent isn’t all that long, but as you might expect, my answers are going to be long and they’re going to take some time, most of the rest of this episode, in fact. So, we’ll take each question in a separate segment so that you know where you can easily pause to, I don’t know, return a call that you got on your own hotline.

Kevin Patton (00:03:14):
Now, all my answers are interrelated. So, if it seems like I missed an opportunity to fully explain things, it’s probably one of two things happening, either I’m going to come back around to it as I answer a later question, or it’s, well, that I missed an opportunity, in which case, you’re encouraged to call the podcast hotline and ask followup questions. I’ll give you that number in case you don’t have it memorized already at the end of the episode.

Kevin Patton (00:03:50):
Now, before we get started, I want to emphasize that I’m answering from my own experience with my own courses, because Jerry asked me, it’s not at all that I’m trying to promote my way as the best way, or that you should follow my pattern exactly or in any way, but I do think that when we hear about what other faculty have tried successfully in their own courses, in this case, me and my courses, it broadens our perspective and adds potential new arrows in our quiver of teaching strategies. Or, maybe it gets us thinking differently about how to shoot the arrows that we already have in our quiver.

Kevin Patton (00:04:44):
And I also want to emphasize that I didn’t invent any of this. I don’t think. I was, well, I’m certain, I was an early adopter of some of it, which goes back decades, even though it’s evolved over those years as I’ve tweaked things based on feedback and my own experience of what’s going on in the course, and maybe by this time, it’s a rather unique combination of existing strategies. And while I’m emphasizing that point, I want to say that pretty much all of this is supported by studies and perspectives in cognitive science, specifically, learning science. Okay, enough preamble, or maybe I should say pre-ramble, let’s get to Jerry’s questions.

Retaking Tests

Jerry Anzalone (00:05:45):
You mentioned that you give your students the opportunity to retake assessments as many times as necessary until they can answer the questions correctly. How exactly does that work in your courses?

Kevin Patton (00:06:00):
Well, that’s a great question to start with because it allows me to lay the groundwork of my thinking as far as the way I do my testing. And that groundwork centers on the concept of retrieval practice. And retrieval practice is the name of an idea that’s been around for a long time, only more recently called retrieval practice, and that is that in order to learn something, you have to form memories, right? And those memories are either taken out and used as is if it’s a fact-based thing that you need, or you take those memories out of storage, maybe they’re facts, maybe they’re strategies, maybe they’re memories of things that have worked or memories of things that haven’t worked, and you pull them out and sort them out and compare and contrast them and process them and then make some kind of decision.

Kevin Patton (00:06:56):
So, those are the higher levels of thinking that we normally identify as one of the goals of our teaching of A&P. We want our students to have a big treasure trove of available facts in their memory. So, yeah, memorization is a good thing, and we want to help students with that part of it, but we also want them to be able to use those facts to compare and contrast them, to pull out the facts that apply to a particular case, and maybe use them to solve some sort of problem or be creative with them in some way. So, all of that requires us to retrieve things out of our memory. But the thing about retrieving things out of our memory is, if we form a memory and then just leave it alone, the more time that goes by, the less likely it is that we’re going to be able to retrieve it when we want to, when we have a problem to solve or a fact that we need to spout.

Kevin Patton (00:07:57):
Maybe we’re on Jeopardy!, and, oh, man, I’m so disappointed, I wasn’t chosen as a new host of Jeopardy!. Oh, well, anyway, that’s another story. The point is, sometimes I need facts for Jeopardy! or for some other reasons, sometimes I need a whole bunch of different facts, different kinds of facts, maybe across different topics and subtopics and so on, and I need to sort them out and see which ones apply and then start to apply them. Either way, I have to do that retrieval. And if I haven’t practiced it, odds are, it’s not going to come when I need it. And I need it when I need it, right?

Kevin Patton (00:08:39):
So, one thing I can do to increase the likelihood that it’s going to become available to me when I need it is to practice that retrieval. So, ask me this question. Okay, got the answer. Great. And then I want to come back later and say, “Okay, ask that question. And yay, I got it again.” Or maybe, “Oh, shoot, I forgot that. Well, don’t tell me, don’t tell me. Okay, tell me.” Or, “Let me look it up,” or whatever. So, okay, now, I thought I knew it, it turns out I didn’t know it, so, I need to look it up or get the answer some other way. Now that I’ve confirmed that’s the correct answer, ask me again. “Okay, this time, I got it. No, no, no, shoot, I forgot it again. Okay. So, let’s try this again.”

Kevin Patton (00:09:26):
So, maybe a few times later after doing this retrieval practice, I finally got it, like, “Yes, I know the answer to that.” And then I wait a little while and think, “Oh, man, it was so great. I practiced it, now I know the answer. And you know what? Next time I get asked, oh, shoot, I know I know that because I answered this before. Why don’t I know it now? So, okay, go ahead and tell me.” Or, “Let me look it up,” or whatever. So, you got to keep doing it, and there’s going to be some forgetting in there, and that’s okay, that’s part of the learning process. As a matter of fact, a lot of research has shown that that forgetting is a necessary part of the learning process.

Kevin Patton (00:10:06):
And so, if I want it in my longterm memory, which, what good is if it doesn’t get into my longterm memory? Okay, I’ll tell you what good it is, the good it is is it might let me pass that test that’s coming up tomorrow or next week. It might go into my short-term memory and I can pass that test, and now I’m going to have to learn it all over again for the final exam, but I’m going to hope the final exam isn’t comprehensive, because if it’s not comprehensive, then I don’t even have to know it then. And then once I’m out of the course, forget it. I’m never going to have to really learn it. I’m going to have to relearn it every time I take another course. And my instructors are going to wonder, “What in the world did he learn in that previous course? They didn’t do anything there because none of these students remember anything of that stuff.”

Kevin Patton (00:10:53):
Well, yeah, that’s going to be the case if that previous course is not really doing a lot of retrieval practice. And you know what? I don’t want my course to be that course. And you know what? For many years, my course was that course, that course, well, how can you remember all of that A&P going forward? So, yeah, okay, that’s an unrealistic expectation, but they should be walking out with the core ideas, the things that they really do need to know when they get to that next course. And what I found is that if I really focused on retrieval practice, then that started happening more and more, that is, the students were getting things into the longterm memory and taking things into their next course and eventually into their careers from A&P much more so than they used to do before.

Kevin Patton (00:11:50):
Now, built in there is this idea of spacing, that if you asked me that question and I get it wrong, okay, and ask me again three seconds later and I get it wrong, and then ask me again three seconds later and I get it wrong, and then another three seconds and now I get it right. Okay, that’s not going to really stick in my longterm memory that long. I mean, it’s not really, I wouldn’t even call that longterm memory, right?

Kevin Patton (00:12:18):
But if I give him a little time, and tomorrow, you ask me that question, or in a couple of days, you ask me that question, then, yeah, okay, that’s got some spacing in there, and a lot of research shows that if you put a little space in between sessions of retrieval practice, so you don’t have like one long, massive retrieval practice and then you’re done, but now you space it out, then it’s going to be more likely that that’s going to get into your longterm memory, it’s more likely that you’re going to be able to retrieve that information when you need it. Okay. So, that’s why I allow students to retake their tests over and over, because I want them to do that retrieval practice, and they can’t do it if I only give them one test one time and that’s it, we’re done. That’s not retrieval practice.

Kevin Patton (00:13:13):
Now, yeah, I know that we can hope that they’re doing retrieval practice on their own, but after a lot of years, I realized, there are handful of students that do that. And half of them would have done it anyway, the other half do it because I told them that that’s the way to do it, but that’s still only a handful. I want all my students to be successful. I want all of my students… Well, I’m going to have to force them if they… I’m going to have to push them into it. I mean, from when I was a kid and I played soccer, and I don’t want to go do practice all the time, I just want to play soccer games. I just want to play soccer. I don’t want to have to practice dribbling or practice heading the ball. Boy, I especially didn’t want to practice that. Oh, man, I can feel it right now, and all the other things, and practice passing.

Kevin Patton (00:14:05):
“Okay, pair up and we’re going to…” Just pass back and forth down the field. Okay, there’s some fun to that, but it’s not the same as actually being in a game. I wanted to be in the game, I didn’t want to practice. And our students are like that too. You can tell them practice is necessary, and the ones that end up really being good at soccer, they practice on their own anyway. But if you were a soccer player like I was as a kid, you have to be forced into practice. The coach really has to say, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do, we’re not going to play, we’re going to do this.” And that’s what I’m doing, I’m being the coach and I’m saying, “No, this is required, you have to do this. This is a, you can call it a practice test if you want, but if you don’t do it, you don’t get the points.”

Kevin Patton (00:14:50):
So, yeah, there’s a motivation there. You’re going to get some course points for doing that. We’re going to circle back to that in a second based on another question we have from Jerry, but I want to explain also that I haven’t always let my students take unlimited attempts at their test. When I’m talking about testing, I’m usually mixing together in my head two different kinds of courses that I’ve taught over the past several years. Now, it’s been a few years now since I taught my longtime regular two-semester A&P course, which you’re probably thinking of right now as either the one or two-semester A&P course. And in that course, for my online test, I allowed up to three attempts, and only the highest scoring attempt would be recorded.

Kevin Patton (00:15:48):
And the reason I had it as not the third attempt but the highest attempt is because I didn’t want students to get maybe a pretty decent grade on that second attempt and then decide not to try it a third time, because then their score might go down, because my goal was really to get them to do as much retrieval practice as necessary. So, I let them take three attempts, and if they flubbed at the third attempt, there was no penalty, they still got to keep that higher grade on the second attempt in our example. And yeah, it worked out pretty good because I think three attempts that are named P test is probably enough, and you want to take them seriously, so, you want to do the best you can on those three attempts, not just put your brain in park and then take the attempt and think, “Oh, I have unlimited attempts, what the heck?”

Kevin Patton (00:16:44):
I mean, that is a waste of time and probably a lot of students wouldn’t want to do that, but some would. So, I wanted to make sure they were really focusing on those attempts, and so, I only allowed three attempts. Now, I have this other course that I’m still teaching now, and that is Pre-A&P. And Pre-A&P is a really weird course. It’s a completely online course, it’s a self-paced course. It’s only one credit and it isn’t even credit toward graduation, it’s developmental level credit. It’s the same kind of credit a student would get for taking a developmental math or a developmental English course. And it counts for something, but it doesn’t count toward graduation, doesn’t count toward a degree, let’s put it that way.

Kevin Patton (00:17:29):
So, it’s a short course, it’s basically a developmental course, and it was developed to do extra retrieval practice. So, students who, no matter how they did in their previous biology courses, trailing all the way back to middle school or whenever they start teaching biology, I wanted them to have some practice doing retrieval practice to relearn those things that they forgot because that’s part of learning, I wanted them to be fully prepped for the regular A&P course. So, I took 10 modules that focus on some of the main ideas that we want all our A&P students coming in with, things about cell biology and basic chemistry principles, and basic measurement principles and reading graphs and stuff like that, maybe a basic rough idea of how the body is put together in terms of organs and systems and so on, some basic terminology, some metabolism, such as how do we get ATPs? Where does the ATP come from? Where does the energy in ATP come from?

Kevin Patton (00:18:43):
And there’s a whole variety of them and that’s the subject of a upcoming episode, I better put that in my notes, upcoming episode. I need to talk about Pre-A&P. But in Pre-A&P, all of their tests, so, there’s 10 modules, each module has a test, and each test has to be passed before the following tests open up. And when I say pass, that’s an 85% or better. So, to be better, and then that’ll unlock the next test. So, they do all 10 tests, and then when they get to the end, there’s a comprehensive final exam. And on all of those, they can take as many attempts as they want until they get a passing grade. And if I didn’t allow as many attempts as they want, then a student could maybe get to the second test and never be able to pass it if I only gave them three tests, and well, if they can’t take the rest of the course, that would be really unfortunate. No, that wouldn’t work at all.

Kevin Patton (00:19:44):
So, it’s just kind of a weird course that prompted me to allow him to take all the attempts they want to, but you know what? After doing that for so many years, and I’ve been doing it for, oh, well, over a decade, well, maybe not well over a decade, but a little over a decade, I have found that I think that would work in any course, I think that would have worked in my regular two-semester A&P course, and maybe I’ll try it there if and when I teach that again. So, yeah, I think that that could work, and I’ll tell you why I think that can work as we travel along in this episode a little bit further, but let me also explain some other brass tacks here about what’s going on.

Kevin Patton (00:20:29):
One thing is, how do I… Don’t students just memorize that? Don’t they take their first attempt and then just print it out or something, or write down the answers, and then they have that next to them and they take the next attempt? And of course, they’re going to ace it. Well, number one, no, that’s not of course. Come on, you know students well enough. You know that even if it were set up that way, and it’s not, but even if it were set up that way, there are a lot of students who wouldn’t really do the due diligence to find out what the correct answer is that they got wrong, and then they’re going to sit down and take it again. They might mess it up again, because they’re just guessing at the next stanza, right? Like, “Oh, it wasn’t this, maybe it’s this.”

Kevin Patton (00:21:12):
And so, yeah, okay, they’re going to just keep doing and it’s just not going to get them anywhere. So, what I do is, I give them randomized tests. So, when they take it a second time, they’re going to get questions on the very same concepts they got questions about before, but they’re going to be different questions. Okay, one or two of them might be the same, but the odds of them getting the exact same test are astronomical. I mean, it’s pretty much impossible. It’s like the same as the state lottery, it’s just, yeah, that ain’t going to happen. And I’ll tell you how I do that in a second and why the odds are so far against them getting a second test.

Kevin Patton (00:21:59):
So, when they get the next test, having taken the first test, that will be helpful to them, and I want them to print it out and I want them to get the right answers first, and then have that ready and have that as one of their resources that they can use when they take that next test. The way I do that is, and all learning management systems can do this, is I set up my test in question sets or question pools. Every learning management system has a different word for it. But basically, let’s say there are three questions on this test, now, I give a lot more than that, but let’s say there are three questions on the test. So, for question one, the student just sees one question, but the learning management system might have five different questions there.

Kevin Patton (00:22:45):
And if I set it for randomization and there’s a little check box I have to check to make my learning management system do that, then I will check that, and so, the learning management system will just randomly select one of those five items, and I’ll pull that one out. Now, the next time that student takes the test, question number one will be randomly chosen from those five items. So, yeah, there’s a one in five chance it’ll be the same question, but there’s a four in five chance it’ll be a different question on that next attempt. And then they go on to test two, and maybe there’s five questions in that question set. So, the learning management system will pull one of those five. And then go to the next one, test number or question number three, and then it’ll pick one out of that question set, and there’ll be another one.

Kevin Patton (00:23:39):
So, it’s randomization. And when you calculate what the odds are of a student like on a 50-point or a 50-question test, or even a 30-question test, what are the odds that they’re going to get the exact same test again? It’ll break your calculator. It will literally… Well, okay, it won’t break your calculator, but your calculator will give you an error message because it can’t calculate things that high, or at least the calculators I normally use. You probably have a better calculator, maybe it’ll give you some kind of… Well, even if it gives you an exponential number, it might be pretty wacko. So, it’s just really, really high level. So, I’m not concerned about them getting the same test twice. That just doesn’t happen. So, that’s how it works.

Kevin Patton (00:24:25):
Now, of course, a secret behind this is that you have to build a library of tests. So, if you have, let’s say, a 50-item test that you want to give them, and you want to have five questions for each one of those, now, you’re going to need 250 test items, right? Ooh, yikes, that’s a lot more than the 50 you started with, and it sounds like a lot, but, well, okay, it is a lot. It sounds like a lot because it is a lot, right? But it’s not as daunting as it sounds, it’s just kind of daunting.

Kevin Patton (00:25:01):
I did it over the course of a year. I was teaching two-semester A&P, so, I decided to do this, well, I decided to do this longer before I actually did it, and I knew I was going to do it that semester that I started, but I just kept putting it off. So, there I was a week before the semester started and I thought, “I haven’t done any of these test items, I guess I better get started.” So, what I did was, about 20 minutes every day, when I got home from school, because I didn’t want any interruptions, so, I did this work in my home office, I got home from school and spent 20 minutes writing test items. And if I did that every day of the week, only 20 minutes, I mean, it’s not really that much, I would start running test items.

Kevin Patton (00:25:48):
So, I would take my learning outcomes and divide it up into little sections like, “Okay, what are the concepts and the sub-concepts and so on for this learning outcome and this learning outcome and so on for test one?” And I would have that framework and I would have that sitting in front of me, and I would start writing test questions, so that for every little subdivision of that outline that I had, then I would have five questions, or at least more than two. If I couldn’t think of two or more, then I would just have one. Okay, fine, there’s one that they’ll always get that question, and that’s okay, but I would just do the best I can in, you know what I found? And so, I’d have like five different versions of that question.

Kevin Patton (00:26:33):
Not only different formats, but different wording and different things like that, but it was essentially, if not the same question or a question about the same sub-concept, because on a 50-question test, we’re not going to ask a question about every single thing we expect students to know. It’s randomized, right? I mean, we just arbitrarily pick this one and that one and the other one, and then next year, we might mix it up a little bit and have slightly different questions and so on. So, that’s what I was doing. And you know what I found out? Is after the first couple of them that I did, I was just like flying through them. I just got better and better at writing test question and thinking them up and so on because I just kept doing it all the time.

Kevin Patton (00:27:15):
Practice, practice, practice makes perfect. So, I wasn’t doing retrieval practice, I was doing retrieval practice practice. Retrieval practice writing practice. Okay, I don’t know what I was doing but it was repetition that allowed me to get better and better as I went along. The other thing I found is that after I gave a test, I would get students coming back to me saying, “I don’t understand why this one is wrong,” and I would realize that I programmed the answer key wrong, or it was just a badly worded question, or it was unclear, or something was wrong with it. So, I would either fix it or throw it out of the library right there. I mean, I’ll write it on my little handy-dandy card that I always have in my pocket, but then I would right away go back to my office and change it. So, now the entire database was fixed.

Kevin Patton (00:28:03):
By tweaking it that way, I learned a lot more about writing questions, what kind of questions work, and what kind of questions don’t work. What kind of questions are confusing and so students have a hard time with them, as opposed to questions that are, well, they’re challenging questions, and that’s why students have difficulty with them. I want some challenging questions in there, I don’t want any of the confusing questions in there. So, that’s how it works and what I did. And every year then, I went back and I would add a few more questions, maybe group them more so, then I got to a point where my database, my test bank, my master test bank had a lot more questions in it than when I first started. So, it’s something that you can just start small and add to it as time goes by.

Kevin Patton (00:28:49):
As a matter of fact, I just went ahead and jumped right in and made all of my tests online, my in-class tests online, I’ll come back to that later too, but I made them all online. But what I could have done is just say, “Okay, we’re going to have one online test this semester, or two online tests,” and work on those. And then the next time I teach that course, then maybe I’ll say, “Okay, this time, we’re going to have three or four online tests instead of one or two, and the rest are going to be just regular traditional tests,” until I filled out my whole course with just online tests. So, I’ll be back in a few minutes with Jerry’s next question.

More On Retaking Tests

Kevin Patton (00:29:35):
All right. So, my answer to Jerry’s first question was a really long answer. And guess what, I have even more I want to say about it, such as some followup things that I want to mention that weren’t directly part of Jerry’s question. But since I’m on the topic of how I do these tests, I thought I would bring them up, and that is pretests. Pretests are something that I stumbled on that I saw happening, well, it was a paper I had read about somebody doing it in a math class and how wonderful it was, and I just thought, “Well, that’s…” I knew about pretests, pretests are what you give before you give a post-test, and then you compare the results, and the whole purpose is assessment to see if students are really gaining any value in your course and so on.

Kevin Patton (00:30:27):
And that kind of pre-testing is fine, but I wasn’t particularly interested in doing that, what I had read in this paper was that just by the fact of you giving a pretest, it’s going to improve learning, whether you do a test later, specifically for post-testing to compare results or not, it’s just, that’s something different, or something, I shouldn’t say totally different, but something different you can do with that same pretest. Since I already had this big, huge test bank of questions, I could easily just set it up to have one of those attempts at the beginning before the students start studying that module of information. Let’s say it’s a cardiovascular system, they could do the cardiovascular test first, and the way I set it up was, they had to do, and it only allowed one attempt because it’s a pretest.

Kevin Patton (00:31:20):
It wasn’t for a grade, they didn’t get a grade for it, but if they didn’t do it, then it wouldn’t unlock the whole rest of the module in the learning management system. So, they couldn’t take the regular tests, they couldn’t get to a lot of the resources they need to study, they were really in trouble. So, yeah, they were going to take that pretest. And I told them, “Don’t study for it. Don’t look things up. Don’t try to get a good grade on it. That’s not what this is about. What this is about is to give you a flavor for what you’re going to get later. And you don’t get any points for it. So, just do the best you can, guess, really just guess, and then you’ll have an idea of what you’re going to see later on on the actual test. So, maybe hold on to that.”

Kevin Patton (00:32:13):
I mean, they still had access to the learning management system anyway, but some of them printed it out and had that alongside them as they were studying the rest of that module because they knew that it was not an exact guide, but it was sort of a rough guide to what to do. And boy, they never asked me for a study guide or anything after that because they had that, they had other things they could use as study guides too. I had like a outline of what they needed to know, I had learning outcomes, I mean, all those other kinds of guidelines for them, but this made something that they valued, boy, a lot to have that.

Kevin Patton (00:32:53):
And you know what? Once I started doing that, it was like magic. Their scores are not only their online tests but they’re tests that aren’t online, and I’ll get to that later, they just did much better, because it kind of primed the pump. It gave them an idea of what kinds of things are important to learn in this module. And another thing I did besides the pre-test, and I didn’t start either of these at the same time I started doing online randomized tests, and I didn’t start them at the same time as each other, these are just things that evolved over time, but the other thing is cumulative testing. I had read a lot about the fact that if we keep going back to previous information and interleaving that with new information.

Kevin Patton (00:33:44):
So, yeah, there are different topics, so, the cardiovascular test might have questions that came from previous topics like skeletal and muscle and so on, and we know that a lot of those actually have something to do with cardiovascular anyway, right? Because in the skeletal system, it’s a place where we can store calcium, and we know calcium is important in the cardiovascular system, at least in the pumping action of the heart, the myocardium, and of course, that leads us to muscles too. So, knowing something about muscles in general, at least, it’s going to help us understand cardiac muscle. But even if they weren’t as directly related, it’s still helpful to go ahead and review that stuff because you’re doing more retrieval practice, and there’s a lot of research that also shows that if you interleave what you’re learning with other topics that aren’t as closely related, that that enhances learning as well.

Kevin Patton (00:34:40):
And of course, we were doing kind of a spacing, like an extra long spacing, meaning that we were coming back, after allowing some time to forget those previous topics, we were coming back and reviewing them again. So, remember how we said that that reinforces learning. I already had the test bank, so, it was easy to do all this. For the pretest, I just set up another single attempt of the test as a separate test. I just copied it over and made it a separate test. And then, for the cumulative testing, what I did was, I just took the questions from the previous test banks, usually, not all of the questions, but I’d pull out some of the question sets from the previous test banks, and I’d put that in there.

Kevin Patton (00:35:26):
Actually, a couple of times, what I did was, I just took all of the questions from previous test, put it in the new test, but mushed them all together into one giant pool. And I told the learning management system to take two items out of this pool and give them that. So, it was, who knows what exact question they’d get on those previous topics? But they were getting something from the previous topics. So, that’s a cumulative testing part. And that really had a magical effect as well. And students, the first time, they were like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe how unreasonable you are, Kevin, for making us do this cumulative test. Pretest is just crazy.”

Kevin Patton (00:36:12):
After a while, they started like, “Hey, this is cool. This is working. I’m accomplishing something. I’m really smart now.” And they liked it. And it took some getting used to because it was different than what they were used to, but they liked it, and I liked it because they were doing much better as a whole.

Sponsored by AAA

Kevin Patton (00:36:33):
You might already know that a captioned audiogram and a searchable transcript of this episode are supported by AAA, the American Association for Anatomy, at anatomy.org. Now, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but AAA’s journal called Anatomical Sciences Education, or ASE for short, is an excellent source of all kinds of information about what works and what might not work so well in teaching A&P, even with content that isn’t directly about A&P. And there’s plenty of A&P content, but also the content about teaching the straight anatomy course, or about the medical school curriculum as a whole. There’s still a lot that I find useful. For example, I recently shared a link to a recent report from ASE about various effects of removing the lab part of histology education from a medical curriculum.

Kevin Patton (00:37:37):
Now, I’m not going to reveal the results, I’ll let you read them, but it did show some effects. And I think what they found can also influence how we teach histology in the undergraduate curriculum. So, even though that paper was about medical curriculum, it’s something I can still use as an A&P teacher. So, there’s a lot there. I mean, there is a lot there. So, don’t forget, HAPS members get a deep discount to AAA, so, you might want to think about joining so you can get Anatomical Sciences Education and get all of the value that I get out of it. Maybe you’ll get more value out of it than I do. Just go to anatomy.org and sign up.

High Stakes and Low Stakes

Jerry Anzalone (00:38:28):
Do unlimited retakes apply only to formative assessments such as low-stakes quizzes? And how much of the overall course grade do these unlimited test opportunities make up?

Kevin Patton (00:38:41):
Okay. So, there are really two questions there, they’re related questions, but there are two questions there. I’m going to address the first one about unlimited retakes applying only to formative tests such as low-stakes quizzes. Well, again, I mean, I have these two different kinds of courses. So, in my Pre-A&P course, which is that review course, refresher course that students can optionally take before A&P, all ten tests in the comprehensive final exam are the unlimited retakes. And yes, those are formative assessments, but that’s kind of the purpose of that course is to be formative. It’s not to see how much they know before they go into A&P, it’s to sort of brush up on what we hope they know before they go into A&P. So, it’s all about refreshing and brushing up. So, with that course, I have no problems doing that.

Kevin Patton (00:39:43):
But a test can be formative, meaning, a test with the purpose of learning, of forming new knowledge of the process of learning, at the same time, that it’s a summative test and evaluation of final measurement of what has been learned. It’s formative in the sense that you’re taking all these retakes and you’re getting better and better and better, we hope. And if you’re not, that’s my role as the instructor to figure out, “Well, what’s going on here? Why aren’t the test scores getting better? What can I do to help you? What’s the hold up here? What’s the issue?” And I’ve never had a case where we didn’t figure something out and push on.

Kevin Patton (00:40:32):
It was usually just a matter of not giving up, I mean, just being encouraging and saying, “Look, I know this is starting to get frustrating, here are some strategies for how to do better on the next one and so on, and I’m right behind you here. So, let’s not worry about it, let’s just see what we can do the next time.” So, that was the role I played. So, they were formative, but once they get to the point where they finally do get that B or better that they need to get in Pre-A&P to unlock that next module, well, that has now become a summative test, hasn’t it? It’s now is measured that, “Hey, they can do well enough to get a B or better, so, yeah.”

Kevin Patton (00:41:11):
So, it can be both formative and summative at the same time, at least, that’s my viewpoint. Are they low-stakes quizzes? Well, yeah, the first few attempts are low stakes until you get to the one where it’s high stakes, right? That’s the one you’re going to keep in your grade book. That’s the one that’s going to allow you to move on. Now, what about my A&P class? Well, depending on whether it was A&P 1 or A&P 2, the students either got seven or nine online tests because it just the way things were divided up and so it was different. We had those, and then I also, in A&P, had one midterm and one final exam that were on paper. And these were closed tests that were not open book or open resource tests, except that the midterm and final, I did allow them to bring one index card with notes, which I found was kind of like a psychological trick in a way, because how can you possibly get all the information you need in A&P test on an index card?

Kevin Patton (00:42:15):
I mean, I could see like on a physics test where you could put some formulas down or something, and sometimes in A&P there’s a formula or something you’re weak on, but you know what? I watched the students and they hardly ever referred to their card, they spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to put on their card, and trying to print it out or write it out as smaller print as they could, but you know what? They never referred to it. And they even came back and said, “You know what? I never used it, but boy, the process of trying to figure out what’s important helped me.” So, yeah, I let them bring in an index card with notes, so what?

Kevin Patton (00:42:54):
Getting back to that question about formative assessments, low stakes, high stakes, I guess you could say the seven to nine online tests were lower stakes than the midterm or final, because there’s either seven or nine of the online tests and there’s only two of the midterm and final, and this gets to Jerry’s second question, how much of the overall course grade do these unlimited test opportunities make up? Well, in Pre-A&P, it’s all the points, I mean, they’re just all online tests, of course, but in A&P 1, 64% were the online tests that each allowed three attempts. So, that’s about two-thirds, right? And then A&P 2 was a little bit less, was, 57% were online tests, and most of the rest were the midterm and final.

Kevin Patton (00:43:42):
And so, yeah, between half and two-thirds of the points, but they were divided up into either seven or nine online tests. So, you could consider those low stakes, but they’re not as low a low-stakes test or quiz as some might imagine. Some might imagine really only a sliver of the points, the total points for the overall course go to these unlimited test attempts. And you can do it that way. I’ve heard of people doing that and it probably works just fine for them, and you can do that if you want. Boy, I did, it worked really, really well for me, so, there’s no reason for me to do that. I think that a lot of people are uncertain about giving more than one test attempt. It just feels wrong. And so, “Ooh, I don’t… Well, what if somebody finds out? What if some of my peers find out? What if my dean finds out?”

Kevin Patton (00:44:39):
Well, what I found is, you go talk to the dean first, you get them buy in on why you’re doing it the way you’re doing it, then you don’t have so much problem with that. It’s really just getting the students to understand that they’re going to be doing something different and to get comfortable with the fact that they’re going to be uncomfortable for a little while until they get the hang of it. So, that worked out really well for me. So, it’s, I wouldn’t call them exactly low stakes, but they were lower stakes than the midterm and final.

Kevin Patton (00:45:07):
And there’s something about those terms, I think, low stakes and high stakes, that are kind of, I don’t know if I really like those terms because low stakes sounds like, “Well, why even do it? I mean, this is just worthless.” I mean, doesn’t that give that impression? And I don’t want to give that impression to anybody, including my students. And then high stakes, well, that sounds almost like, “Oh, my gosh, if I don’t do this, then my life is not worth living. It’s high stakes, it’s make or break,” and that’s going to increase test anxiety, I think.

Kevin Patton (00:45:42):
So, even if I don’t want to say it to them, I mean, it flavors how I approach it, and that could influence how my students are looking at it. So, it’s all just kind of, let’s not talk about stakes, let’s just talk about what works and what doesn’t work. So, that’s how I do it.

Sponsored by HAPI

Kevin Patton (00:46:06):
The free distribution of this podcast is sponsored by the Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction, the HAPI degree, from Northeast College of Health Sciences. Jerry, the guy quizzing me about tests in this episode, mentioned that he’s one of our graduates. He was already an experienced college instructor when he started our program, and he tells me that he gained a lot, not just in terms of reviewing content and sharpening teaching skills, but he also had the added value that allowed him to go looking for, and then landing that dream job, a region of the country he loves, and the kind of program he was looking for, because he had something that none of the other candidates had, a master of science in human anatomy and physiology instruction.

Kevin Patton (00:47:00):
Is that something that interests you or maybe one of your friends? Well, check out this online graduate program at nycc.edu/hapi, that’s H-A-P-I, or click the link in the show notes or episode page. There’s a new cohort forming right now, I mean, like right now, so, you better get going.

Open Book Tests

Jerry Anzalone (00:47:30):
You’ve also mentioned open book or open resource tests. How do you use open book tests as assessments in your courses? For example, do your courses include one or more midterm exams, multiple unit or module or chapter tests, frequent quizzes? And which of these, if any, are open book?

Kevin Patton (00:47:54):
Okay. Now, I think, in my previous answers, I’ve already answered part of this question from Jerry, and that is, yeah, in my A&P course, I generally did have one midterm exam, what we had called classical exam, paper exam, and then one final. And they were both comprehensive exams. So, I did that. Of course, I don’t do that in my Pre-A&P courses, I mentioned in previous segments. And I have all of my courses divided up into modules. So, modules just have one or two chapters, others have more than that. And I use a textbook that has shorter, more numerous chapters than your typical A&P books. So, number of chapters really is meaningless there unless you happen to be using the same textbook.

Kevin Patton (00:48:49):
And I don’t give any other quizzes or anything like that. So, in terms of the testing, kind of activities that they get, or were getting in my A&P 2 course, is, they were all regular online tests and midterm and final tests. And I had a bunch of activities mixed in there, and very few points went for the activities, some points, enough to make it worth it, but a lot of it was really things that were preparing students to do better on their online tests and their midterm or final tests. So, it was sort of an indirect thing. They weren’t solving a case study for points for that case study, they were solving a case study because they knew they were going to get something like it on their online and/or midterm and final exams.

Kevin Patton (00:49:45):
So, yeah, that’s still worth doing even if we’re not getting points today, we’re going to get points tomorrow for it. Getting to the open book and open resource aspect of it, yes, they could use their textbook, they could use their lab manual, they could use any other textbook or lab manual they wanted, they could use any book that has ever existed, except those from the Library of Alexandria, which were unfortunately lost many years ago. And I’m still upset about that, clearly, because otherwise, why would it have come up now, of all times, in my consciousness? But my point is, is that, yeah, they can use any book, and they can use any resource.

Kevin Patton (00:50:25):
So, yeah, they can Google it, they can do all that, but the questions I ask are not necessarily things that you can Google or look up easily, they’re things that have a little, at least a little bit of application aspect to them. So, yeah, they can look up facts about what this question is about, but how do they answer this question? I don’t know. And what are the odds that that question is going to be something they can directly look up? And they soon find that that’s not really the best strategy.

Kevin Patton (00:50:57):
If they suspect that strategy is going to work, or try to Google the answer and all that, they find out that, “I can’t do this for every test item on all these… If I want to take a bunch of attempts, oh, my gosh, this is going to eat up… I mean, already taking too much of my time, this darn A&P class, it’s going to take up just too much time. I need a shortcut. I’m not going to work that hard. That’s crazy. He can’t think I’m going to work that hard, so, I’m just going to try and answer the best I can, and you know what? I got another attempt coming if I don’t get it right.” Yeah, they can use open resource. And you know what? They can also consult with each other.

Kevin Patton (00:51:35):
Now, the one thing that they can’t do, according to my course rules, is, they can’t have somebody else actually answer it for them, but they can shop it around and say, “Well, what do you think? What do you think?” And of course, this is the opportunity for them to all tell me, “Look, I work in a medical office and all the people with doctorates, none of them could answer this question off the top of their heads. So, this is just too hard. Obviously, this is, you’re asking stuff that’s beyond what we need to know.” Well, you and I know what’s going on there. That’s not really a fair measure of how unreasonably hard my tests are. There are other measures that are better at how unreasonable my tests are, but that’s not one of them.

Kevin Patton (00:52:23):
But my point is, is, yeah, you can consult with other people, but you’re the one that’s got to determine, are they right? Or are they wrong? Based on what you know and what you learned in our course, what you think this question means. And so, yeah, they can do that. And why do I make them so open? Well, because my view is, is that’s how real life works. I mean, that’s what we do. I mean, I’ve used this example in like, well, some way back episodes, when I was first learning Tai Chi, a particular form of Tai Chi, boy, I’ll tell you, it was hard to remember after I have a lesson, and then I go to do some practice, and I went to retrieve the information about like, “How do I do this move?” It would be gone because I would have forgotten it.

Kevin Patton (00:53:11):
Sometimes I could look it up, like, I could Google it and so on because there’s all kinds of YouTube videos on what is supposedly the form I was learning, but what I didn’t realize at the time is, my form is particular to that one teacher. And so, yeah, there were some of those moves that you will see in the YouTube videos, but they were not necessarily in the order or done exactly the same way as my teacher wanted me to do for his form that he was teaching me is, particular idiosyncratic form, it was of limited use to me. I just had to forget and come back the next time and say, “Hey, I forgot this part, forgot that part,” and he’d always smile and say, “Well, that’s good. You can’t learn until you forget.” So, he knew the secret of learning, or at least that secret. He knew a lot of secrets of learning, and secrets of Tai Chi while we’re at it.

Kevin Patton (00:54:01):
So, my point is, is that that’s how real life works, it’s not just for Tai Chi, but for everything, that, yeah, if these students are going into a medical career, for example, we’re not going to tell them that, “Oh, I don’t know what the correct diagnosis is, or whether it’s a nursing diagnosis or physical therapy diagnosis or I’m not sure exactly what therapy to use for this diagnosis that’s been given by another health professional.” I’m not going to say, “Well, then just guess, just do your best and make it work.” No, “Look it up and see if… Ask a colleague if they remember, if they can help you with this.” I mean, that’s what’s going to happen, right?

Kevin Patton (00:54:44):
And, I mean, you see health professionals walking around all the time now with their smartphone or their iPad or whatever, where they’re using these medical consult platforms, these software programs, these resources, and they can do that sort of thing. Sometimes even when they don’t want it, answers will pop up to make suggestions about what information they’re entering into the patient record. So, why are they open? Because real life is open. And the other aspect of that is, why I do open resource test is, because they get these multiple attempts, they’re really doing without reading I wanted them to do but they didn’t do anyway. They’re going back and reading the textbook and saying, “I need to answer this question, so, let me read this section.” So, they go ahead and do that.

Kevin Patton (00:55:36):
Now they’ve done their reading, holy smoke, and they know why they’re doing their reading, and they know that the reading is important, and they’re really trying to figure out what it says, not just glossing over it and not really, truly comprehending what’s there. So, that’s why I do that, those first few attempts are the formative attempts, right? They’re the ones where I want them to be open because I want them to use all the resources to find the answers, and then finally, they’re going to have a time where they can really ace it, and they’re not going to have to keep looking everything up because why would you keep looking things up when you already know the answer? And you will already know the answer, at least most of the answers, because you’ve done all this practice. So, yeah, open book tests, open resource tests, yay.

Sponsored by HAPS

Kevin Patton (00:56:25):
Marketing support for this podcast is provided by HAPS, the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, promoting excellence in the teaching of human anatomy and physiology for over 30 years. Don’t forget that there’s an awesome virtual one-day HAPS conference, it’s a region conference, coming up in September. There are two scheduled keynote speakers and a whole bunch of workshops. One of the keynote speakers is pretty mediocre, it’s me, one of the keynote speakers, but the other one, who’s my long time friend, Tom Lehman, is pretty darn awesome. And I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot from the workshops too. I always do. To find out more and to register, go visit HAPS at theAPprofessor.org/HAPS, that’s H-A-P-S.

Academic Integrity

Jerry Anzalone (00:57:25):
Finally, how do you try to maintain standards of academic integrity with repeat test opportunities and open book tests?

Kevin Patton (00:57:35):
Oh, yeah, that’s a great question. This is a question I get a lot, and I think it’s an important question, because we do want our courses to have a certain level of integrity, right? Because, if they don’t have integrity, then they’re worthless. And if our courses are worthless, then we’re worthless, right? So, we shouldn’t remain employed. I want to remain employed and I want to do some good in the world. I mean, that’s why I teach, because I want to do some good in the world. I want to help people. And so, if I don’t have a good, a wholesome course, meaning, a course that is honest and has integrity, then I’m wasting my time. I’m doing worse than wasting the time of my students.

Kevin Patton (00:58:22):
So, yeah, that’s an important question. But the thing is, is if the tests are open book, then the honest thing to do is to use that book, or not use it, it’s your choice, but there’s nothing wrong. I explained why I do the open book thing, so, there’s a reason to do that. So, it’s not cheating when you do it. Students feel like it’s cheating at first, but then they get more used to it. And you know what? They’re developing the habit of looking things up when they need to know stuff. I want them to have that habit. That’s a great thing to practice and become ingrained in a future health professional, or athletic professional, or whatever it is they’re going to do with A&P, just being a human, I think that’s a good thing to do. So, we have that part of it.

Kevin Patton (00:59:06):
But there are some ways that they can cheat, they could have somebody else do their test for them. But let me start off with the idea of two underlying principles I have to this whole integrity and cheating thing, and one is that I put a lot of effort into building and then maintaining a culture of trust in the course, sort of an honor code type thing. And if you build a culture of trust in the course, then integrity naturally flows out of that. And of course, nothing is 100%, nothing is foolproof, but if you work on that end of your course, then it is going to definitely have an effect on the other end of your course, that is, you work on the trust culture, then at the other end, the academic honesty end of things, it’s going to have a positive effect.

Kevin Patton (01:00:02):
And I came to that idea after many years ago reading a book by Ken Bain, you’ve probably read it yourself, it’s a selection in the A&P Professor Book Club, it’s called What the Best College Teachers Do, where he interviewed a lot of people who are considered to be master teachers in the hopes of finding that one thing that defines a master teacher, and if we can capture that, we can all become master teachers. And I want to spoil the book, but there isn’t one thing, there’s a whole bunch of different things. And there’s a lot of variety among great teachers, but something that a lot of them do is not worry about the academic dishonesty as much as the rest of us do. They are more about building this culture of trust.

Kevin Patton (01:00:51):
So, I thought, “Well, you know what? I’m going to try that.” It has worked very well for me. The other main underlying principle that I want to mention is the idea that cheater’s going to cheat. The head is, there’s always going to be dishonest people in any group. And there’s always some level of dishonesty, I think, in all of us. I think all of us are sometimes tempted to do something that we shouldn’t, and the question is, what choice do we make when we’re tempted? And sometimes the easy choice is to cheat. Sometimes we think that we’ll never get caught and we don’t realize or appreciate what the consequences are going to be, or maybe we do appreciate and we do it anyway.

Kevin Patton (01:01:34):
So, yeah, cheating is going to happen, and dishonesty is going to happen. I can’t eliminate that entirely. I can reduce it by building that culture of trust and making extra effort to maintain that culture of trust, and reminding students on a fairly frequent basis about the trust that I’m placing in them, and the trust that their clients are going to place in them as they move into their professions and so on. So, yeah, I do a lot of that. I also design things to minimize dishonesty, that is, do what I can in the design of my course and the design of my test to not allow those enticements to let them make the wrong choice. But in the end, I have to realize that I just can’t stop cheating. I can’t stop it entirely.

Kevin Patton (01:02:32):
And I need to consider, where is my time and effort best spent? Is it best spent in erecting all kinds of elaborate anti-cheating strategies? Or is my time and effort best spent in developing the learning activities and implementing the learning activities that are going to help my students succeed, and in coaching my students, and supporting my students? So, yeah, I spent some time in designing things, I spent some times in monitoring things, but it’s not a huge thing for me. And as I said, my students, that to open book, open resource, consult with whomever you like, when you do that, it dissipates the need to cheat. There really aren’t a whole lot of ways they can cheat.

Kevin Patton (01:03:26):
If they’re going to have somebody do the test for them, which is about the only way to cheat on one of my online tests, that is a huge undertaking you’re asking somebody, because you have all those many attempts of all those many. I mean, if I’m giving seven or nine online tests in a course, yikes, that’s a lot tests. And so, you ask somebody to do that for you? Like, let’s say you do three attempts of nine tests, that’s 27 tests you’re asking somebody to take. So, if you’re having a friend do it, they better be a really good friend who’s willing to do that, and that friend better be willing to do a lot of work to get all that done, because that’s, just taking those attempts involves a lot of reviewing of what went wrong on the first attempt and finding the answers and so on, and that’s a lot of work.

Kevin Patton (01:04:18):
And if you do get somebody to do that for you, and they’re willing to do all that work, they’re going to be learning an awful lot about A&P, even if they already had a background in A&P, because this process is going to give them even more retrieval practice, so, they’re going to get really, really good. So, that friend is going to get all the benefits, and you’re going to get none of the benefits, and you’re going to be at a high risk of really bad things happening to you, like being maybe even expelled or something from the school. And if word gets out, that could harm you in terms of your future employment prospects. So, yeah, a lots of issues there with doing that.

Kevin Patton (01:05:00):
And I have caught students having someone else take their tests, not another student, but someone outside the course, which did not help them, by the way. It was a bad move all the way around that so many bad choices when that happened, but it has happened very, very seldom. I can picture their faces right now, it’s so few times that that has happened. And there are ways in the learning management system to look for suspicious behavior and so on, one of them was when a student was in class with me while an attempt was being taken over in the library. And there was a couple of ways I found that, not only looking at the timestamps, but also by an astute, a librarian, who figured that something weird was happening with the student who was taking a test.

Kevin Patton (01:05:55):
So, they didn’t seem to be in my class but they were taking my test based on the questions they were asking the librarian. So, there are ways to figure this out and find it, but I’m sure there may have been a couple other cases that happened that I never found out about. But I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Final Thoughts

Kevin Patton (01:06:17):
Yeah, I know, this is a really long episode, but I wanted to keep everything together in one episode so we could think about these various aspects of the way I do my testing all at the same time. And yeah, I know that some of this flies in the face of our previous experience, probably a lot of it flies in the face of our previous experience, even though, I think we’ve all probably experienced some version of some of these strategies before, either as students ourselves, or as faculty members. But when we had those experiences, we probably chalked them up to being odd experiences, which, by doing that, we probably further solidified their position in the X-files inside our brains.

Kevin Patton (01:07:05):
So, when we think about those things, we think about them as being odd. For example, boy, as a freshman, my first experience of the university, we had an intro to sociology course that did a lot of what I’m doing here, except it wasn’t online, it was actually in a class, where, well, I don’t want to go into all the details, but it was just the craziest class. It was so different than what I expected, and at first, I thought, “Well, I’m not being taught by the teacher, I’m having to teach myself, and this is just crazy. And I want my massive tuition money back.” And you know what? I still remember stuff from that course decades and decades and decades ago that I don’t remember from a lot of my other courses from my freshman year.

Kevin Patton (01:07:53):
So, wow, that it ended up really working even though it was really crazy. And it’s still in the X-files in my brain there like wacko courses in terms of the way they were taught. So, yeah, I know that, I know that. And I also, when I’m thinking about these things, I think about the first time I traveled to a community outside my neighborhood. I lived in the suburbs of St. Louis growing up, but my grandmothers and my other relatives, they lived in city neighborhoods. And then I started visiting and staying with cousins in rural Missouri, on farms and ranches. And then I started traveling to other regions of the United States, and then to foreign countries on all the continents except Antarctica, where I still want to go, by the way, so I can visit Patton Glacier before it melts.

Kevin Patton (01:08:46):
And on each trip, I noticed more and more that the way things are done at home are not the only way to do things. That mindset is still being chipped away with every trip I take, is I find out that other ways of doing things and work too, maybe sometimes better than we do things back at home. Or, if not better overall, these other ways of doing things might be a better fit for me. They’re certainly a good fit for whatever area it is I’m visiting, at least they seem to be. It took me a long time to apply that to my teaching and my learning practices. There’s not one right way. That sometimes other ways of teaching or other ways of learning are better than the way we do it at home, or perhaps just a better fit for me or for my students, which leads me to my next point, I’m just sharing what I’ve done.

Kevin Patton (01:09:56):
These practices have worked very well for me, very, very well for me. That’s why I’m excited about them, I just said that. I’ve used them for many years. And yes, I have tweaked them to make them a better fit, using feedback and data from my own students in courses, but also listening to other educators, whether in person or in seminars or workshops or books or whatever. As I mentioned before at the beginning of this episode, I’m not saying, “Do this,” or even that the way I do things is the best way of doing things, I’m instead simply offering up my experiences so that you can take a trip to a strange land, Kevin’s land of college teaching, where you can see that the way you do things at home are not the only ways that can work.

Kevin Patton (01:10:54):
Maybe you’ve realized that you like the way you’re doing things, it’s just fine, even after visiting my strange world. Well, great, I’m not trying to push you in any direction, but maybe you’ve realized that there are some ways that are a better fit for your situation than the strategies you’ve gotten used to, that you’re familiar with. Well, that’s great too. I just hope that this episode has got you thinking. That’s all.

Staying Connected

Kevin Patton (01:11:27):
Oh, I know what’s happening to you about now. Actually, it probably started quite a while ago near the beginning of this episode. It always happens when I discuss my wacky manner of testing in the A&P course. In your mind, if not out loud, you’re sputtering, “But, but, but.” It never fails. It always happens. Sometimes I think those three buts are spelled B-U-T, but sometimes I think maybe people might be calling me names when they say that, “But, but, but.” So, yeah, you need to talk to someone about what I said. That’s the only way to cure but syndrome.

Kevin Patton (01:12:17):
And you know what? There’s an easy way to share this podcast with a peer so you can have that conversation and also earn yourself a bit of cash. Just go to theAPprofessor.org/refer to get a personalized share link that will get your friend all set up with this episode. I have a lot of links to past episodes and other resources that dive a bit deeper into all the topics that I covered in this episode. If you don’t see links in your podcast player, go to the show notes at the episode page at theAPprofessor.org/99. And while you’re there, you can claim your digital credential for listening to this episode.

Kevin Patton (01:13:05):
And I invite you to be like Jerry. Yes, inquisitive and thoughtful and otherwise awesome like Jerry, but also a caller to the podcast hotline at 1-833-LION-DEN, that’s 1-833-546-6336, or send a recording or a written message to podcast@theAPprofessor.org. And you’re invited to join my private A&P teaching community way off the social platforms at theAPprofessor.org/community. I’ll see you down the road.

Aileen (01:13:56):
The A&P Professor is hosted by Dr. Kevin Patton, an award-winning professor and textbook author in human anatomy and physiology.

Kevin Patton (01:14:03):
Please keep this episode and all other sharp objects away from your eyes.

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Last updated: August 14, 2021 at 12:49 pm

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