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Having students design the questions

(written by Steve Draper,   as part of the Interactive Lectures website)

Another use of MCQs, and hence perhaps of EVS, is to get learners not just to answer questions, but to design (write) them. I myself only realised this because Andy Sharp (then at Glasgow Caledonian University) did it: but with hindsight, this is obviously a powerful idea. A number of people have done it and published about it, but it is still a very uncommon piece of good practice.

It can work well without EVS, but may work better with EVS since that makes if faster and cheaper to administer the questions to the whole class in one way or another.

Designing questions is likely to be strongly productive of (better) learning because:

Support for such an exercise

  • Group work: when the activity is new to the students, then doing it in groups is generally a comfort and support for them. If this became a familiar and frequent activity, then they might do it faster and get more from it by doing it solo.
  • Train/brief them on Bloom's taxonomy.
  • Have the questions tried out on the whole class with EVS: their peer's responses are powerful feedback on the design process.
  • If the questions produced are "marked", then give more credit for:
    1. Higher levels in Bloom's taxonomy
    2. Specifying which response option is correct, and giving clear reasons (in their documentation) for the correctness or wrongness of each answer option.
    3. Questions that discriminate within the class i.e. that some other students get right and some get wrong.
    4. Strong relationship to the learning aims and objectives of the course.

    Motivations and contexts for student question design

  • Require students (or groups of students) to write and deliver a talk to the whole class, and to include some EVS questions as part of their presentation (Sharp & Sutherland).
  • Examine the whole course by MCQs. Tell the students that the final exam will be composed of the teacher's selection from the set of questions composed by the students during the course.
  • One useful activity for student study groups, especially during revision time, is to test each other on questions. Designing questions for use in this context is a further improvement.
  • Weekly quizzes for the class (e.g. using EVS) with students in turn providing questions for these. Thus students coooperate in creating a question bank for the class.


    Here's a list of papers I know about, dealing with students designing questions (not necessarily with EVS).

    Arthur, N. (2006) "Using student-generated assessment items to enhance teamwork, feedback and the learning process" Synergy: Supporting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at the University of Sydney Issue 24, pp.21-23

    Bali, M. & Keaney, H. (2007) "Collaborative Assessment Using Clickers" From the REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007. Available at:

    Fellenz, M.R. (2004) "Using assessment to support higher level learning: the multiple choice item development assignment" Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education vol.29 no.6 pp.703-719

    Sharp, A. & Sutherland, A. (2007). "Learning Gains...My (ARS)S - The impact of student empowerment using Audience Response Systems Technology on Knowledge Construction, Student Engagement and Assessment" From the REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007. Available at:


    Bloom, B. S. (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals (London, Longmans)

    See also this page.

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