Pop Quiz: Soft Skills

Testing is a source of major anxiety for most students, and adult learners are no exception. To help ease the tension a bit, I’ve gotten into the habit of throwing atypical questions into my quizzes. Of course, the vast majority of questions are geared towards applying the content. But I also include questions like, “What did you think of this quiz?” That could be a short/long answer question or a multi-select with answer options like “It was too easy” or “It was about what I expected.” That helps teachers gauge whether they’re setting the right difficulty level in their assessment (at least from the students’ perspective).

I’ve also started “testing” my students on soft skills, professionalism, classroom etiquette, and even the syllabus. These can be a lot of fun. They accomplish multiple goals: ensuring that your students know what’s expected of them, forcing them to actually read the syllabus, and doing so without coming across as a barking, self-important tyrant. It gets the point across without the instructor having to wag the finger in class (cue students tuning you out). For example, here’s one question I sometimes include on quizzes early in the semester:

What should you do if you need to yawn in class?

By the way, my apologies for the answers being in all caps. I really hate that, but I haven’t quite figured out why the poll plug-in is doing that (I didn’t type it that way). Anyway, here’s another one:

Which of the following would be an effective, informative, useful subject line for an email or a discussion board post?

Of course, these kinds of “giveaway” questions are really serving as ice-breakers more than anything (with the added bonus of confirming that soft skills are at least on the students’ radar). I usually set them to be worth fewer points on the quiz than the more substantive questions. But I’ve seen a lot fewer obnoxious yawns lately, and that’s worth all the points in the world to me! 🙂

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