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Five Surprises: The Key To Re Engineering The Traditional Quizzes

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Back to Basics in Mechanics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.646.1 - 11.646.7



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Paper Authors


Robert Martinazzi University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

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Robert Martinazzi, P.E. is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He received his B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. His interests include engineering economics, management and leadership development. He has worked as project engineer for Armstrong World Industries, does engineering management and leadership consulting work and presents seminars on effectiveness and leadership at both the individual and corporate levels. He is Colonel (Ret) in United States Marine Corps Reserves.

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Brian Houston University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

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BRIAN L. HOUSTON is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering Technology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Managing Partner of Roundtable Engineering Solutions, LLC. Prior to academia, he worked as a Senior Design Engineer in the petrochemical industry and is licensed in several states. He received a B.A. from Northwestern University in 1986, and a B.S./M.S. in Civil Engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1997/99.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Five Surprises – The Key to Reengineering The Traditional Quiz


Most professors use quizzes as a method of keeping students focused on their responsibility to learn the course content. With the potential of a quiz looming, the consequences of coming to class unprepared serves as motivation to students to do their homework and the assigned readings. This method is negative rather than positive reinforcement, and is not as effective as it could possibly be for student learning. In previous research, working alone and quizzing were ranked lowest in terms of preferred classroom learning.1

Part of the problem lies in the fact that traditional quizzing methods are neither collaborative nor active in nature. Students literally have no input into when quizzes are administered or to the actual content of the quiz. For classes in which teamwork and active learning techniques are stressed, alternative quizzing methods are more consistent with the instruction and potentially more beneficial to the students in developing team skills and working under pressure.

Students are more interested and engaged when a variety of techniques are used to test their knowledge and analytical abilities, just as active learning techniques are more effective when a diverse sampling of methods are employed. When given a voice into the quizzing process, the students invest more in their own learning. This serves as positive reinforcement and truly motivates the students to become active learners.

This paper examines a wide variety of alternative quizzing techniques. The title of the paper, “Five Surprises” reflects the quantity of quizzes given per semester and the unannounced nature of the quizzes. Some are formulated by faculty and others recommended by students. Some have been employed in the classroom; others are being evaluated by faculty for possible implementation in the current and future semesters. This paper will highlight some of the best ideas which have been given specific names suggestive of the type of quiz. Overall, nine alternative quiz types have been identified and include names such as “Dante’s Quiz”, “Jumping Beans”, “Who Wants to be an Engine-aire”, and “The Relay”.


Assessing student learning remains a principal requirement for faculty wanting to increase their teaching effectiveness. Faculty members develop a wide repertoire of methods to evaluate student’s knowledge of the material presented in lectures. Some type of “testing” needs to occur in order to accomplish this evaluative task. Many faculty members choose tired, proven, and traditional means of keeping students engaged in the learning process. The traditional quiz, especially unannounced ones, appears to work, but possesses a “carrot and stick” mentality which may not serve to motivate and encourage the student to take ownership of the course material. While these traditional methods may produce short-term results, they create student anxiety and produce an adversarial relationship between the student and instructor.2

Martinazzi, R., & Houston, B. (2006, June), Five Surprises: The Key To Re Engineering The Traditional Quizzes Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--944

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