Apps in Action: Using Quizlet to Aid Memory and Assess

“(Factors with the strongest evidence of improving pupil attainment) identifying common misconceptions… using strategies like effective questioning and the use of assessment”

Sutton Trust, 2014

The importance of assessment cannot be understated. It is argued by the Sutton Trust that effective assessment, which allows teachers to accurately identify misconceptions amongst students is linked to improving pupil attainment. The use of devices in the classroom can help with this, streamlining the process of gathering accurate, formative assessment data, which can be used to help teachers shape future lessons. One app that can help with this is Quizlet.

What is Quizlet?
Quizlet is a free, formative assessment app. It uses the concept of quizzing as a platform to support students in developing their ability to recall information. Whilst recall features at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy, there is a need for students to be able to recall information, for example the definitions of key terminology. These quite often underpin many of the concepts students study and without this basic skill, it becomes increasingly difficult for students to answer questions which use higher order thinking skills. What makes Quizlet so effective is its ability to gamify the learning experience for students, resulting in higher levels of engagement. In addition, Quizlet can be used on a range of different platforms, with apps available for both iOS and Android devices and a web app available for use on Mac and PC. Finally, Quizlet does not require students to log in, which is especially for classrooms which utilise shared devices or for younger students.

Creating resources
Creating resources with Quizlet is a breeze:

Ideas for using Quizlet with classes
Here are just some of the ways to start using Quizlet with students:

  • Use Quizlet as a Lesson starter: recap of key terms from the previous lesson(s)

  • Use Quizlet to engage students in a key word summary lesson as part of a plenary

  • Use the Spell activity to undertake key word spelling tests with students

  • Reward time: take advantage of some of the gamification modes wihin Quizlet and use them as a “reward” for students. They can play a game and learn at the same time!
  • “Beat the Teacher”: complete the matching activity as a teacher and challenge students to try and beat your time
  • Use the flashcards feature to encourage students to revise at home for an end of unit assessment
  • Use as an end of topic key word test
  • Get students to create their own study sets to help with their revision

Sharing Quizlets with students
Once you have created your study deck, you will need to share this with your students. Fortunately, with Quizlet, this is a breeze!

Click the share arrow at the top of the page:

Quizlet.001.jpeg

This will give you a number of different options. You can either share a link to a Quizlet by adding the email addresses of students. Alternatively, you can share study sets directly to Google Classroom or via social media. The app also generates a handy short link which can be shared with students, or copied and placed in an iTunes U course.

Quizlet.002.jpeg

Another way to easily share your study set is to use the link to create a QR code. Simply copy the link and visit a website like QR Stuff to generate a QR code. This can be displayed using a projector or printed and displayed in your classroom. Students will need to scan the QR code to access the study set.

Quizlet.003.jpeg

Why I think quizzing works?
There is a large body of information available on the impact on formative assessment. I believe that some of these ideas are key to explaining why quizzing can be used as an effective formative assessment tool. It is suggested by Dunlosky (2013), that “test, exam, and quiz are four-letter words that provoke anxiety in many students, if not some teachers as well”. These are often seen as the acid test for many students, where failure is not an option. Quizzing doesn’t have the same connotations: it motivates students, its seen as a bit of fun, yet it can still be used as a form of assessment.

In addition to this, Wiliam (2001) argues that those students who see themselves as “unable to learn” do not take school seriously and that high stakes, summative assessment only seems to compound this further. By focusing on low stakes assessment, students have are able to fail safely and learn from their experiences.

Finally, Dweck’s (2014) work on the idea of the growth mindset focuses on the emotional impact that failure in high stakes testing has on students. She states that “(after failing a test) students felt it was tragic, catastrophic. From their more fixed mindset perspective, their intelligence had been up for judgment, and they failed”. This can result in students looking for excuses to explain their failure and may be one of the root causes of disengagement by some. By shifting the focus away from summative assessments to low stakes quizzing, students can fail without it provoking these drastic emotional responses. Instead they can start use it as part of the learning process and as a platform to improve.

Conclusion
Overall, Quizlet is one of many great apps which enable teachers to quickly and easily formatively assess every student in their class. The app is free, quick and easy to set up. Study sets can be created with ease and there is even a facility to create sets using imported documents. In addition to this, there are a range of study sets, created by teachers, that are already available, so you might find the perfect set is already there. Once you have created resources, you can use them over and over again or share them with colleagues, meaning you can put an end to queing at the photocopier to run off a class set of paper based quizzes. Quizlet also engages students : it adds a competitive element (e.g. beat the teacher) and they want to redo it tasks to improve

However, Quizlet is not without its faults. The app fails to recognise spelling errors or words that may have been missed out. However to combat this, there is an override function students can use if they have in fact answered the question correctly. My biggest gripe is the fact that extra features, such as tracking and the ability to create classes and make “better” sets require a subscription which starts at £34.99 per year. Whilst I appreciate that just offering a free app is not sustainable in the long term, I believe that being able to track students is such an important part of assessment, it should be available without the hefty subscription fee: especially when other AfL apps, like Socrative, offer this in their basic, free version.

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