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Lightning Quizzes

Approximately once a week, the daily opener will be a Lightning Quiz. Lightning
Quizzes consist of five multiple-choice questions about material we have recently covered or
have covered in previous units but is relevant to upcoming material. Students will complete the
Lightning Quizzes within four minutes. After the time has expired, the class will check the
answers together with students self-grading their quizzes. In this debriefing period, we will cover
both the reasoning behind the correct answers and some basic strategies for approaching
multiple-choice questions when students are unsure of the correct answer. Gradually, students
will build up a toolbox of strategies for dealing with multiple-choice questions. The Lightning
Quizzes will be very lightly weighted, being worth the equivalent of only one days opener.

The purpose of lightning quizzes is to assess and reinforce students understandings of

background knowledge and to practice and refine students multiple-choice test taking skills. A
large body of research has shown that multiple-choice test questions are not effective at eliciting
or assessing historical reasoning skills, the ability to analyze and use evidence from sources, or
the ability to build and support arguments, which are the primary skills I focus on in my
curriculum. Multiple-choice tests tend to reinforce the approach to history as just a list of
events, dates and people and to encourage the type of rote memorization that is not applicable to
students lives now or in the future. Due to these short-falls with the multiple-choice format, the
exams given in my class are made up entirely of short-answer and essay questions instead, which
push students to analyze sources, think critically and build persuasive evidence-based arguments.
However, multiple-choice tests are still a popular form of assessment in college courses
and most importantly, on college entrance exams. Furthermore, research has shown that a large
portion of success on multiple-choice exams can be attributed to test-wiseness, the ability to
use knowledge and experience of the format itself to answer questions. Therefore, it is important
for my students to be comfortable with multiple-choice questions and familiar with common test-
wise strategies for approaching them. Hence, the Lightning Quizzes which can build students
test-wiseness in a small, low-stakes way that avoids shifting the focus of their learning to the rote
memorization encouraged by full, high-stakes multiple-choice exams.
In addition, Lightning Quizzes give me an opportunity to assess the basic background
knowledge of my students. I can then address important shortfalls that would prevent them from
undertaking the higher-level thinking that is the focus of my lesson plans.