Will Students Earnestly Attempt Learning Questions if Answers are Viewable?

Published 2016

Authors

Joshua Sai Yuen
University of California- Riverside

Dr. Alex Daniel Edgcomb
University of California- Riverside

Prof. Frank Vahid
University of California- Riverside

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Abstract

Modern¬†online¬†learning¬†materials¬†may¬†include¬†built in¬†learning¬†questions¬†that¬†are¬†used¬†for¬†some¬†of¬†a¬†class’¬†homework¬†points.¬†To¬†encourage¬†learning,¬†question¬†solutions¬†may¬†be¬†easily¬†available¬†to¬†students.¬†We¬†sought¬†to¬†determine¬†to¬†what¬†extent¬†students¬†earnestly¬†attempt¬†to¬†answer¬†learning¬†questions¬†when¬†solutions¬†are¬†available¬†via¬†a¬†simple¬†button¬†click.¬†An¬†earnest¬†attempt¬†means¬†to¬†try¬†answering¬†a¬†question¬†at¬†least¬†once¬†before¬†viewing¬†the¬†solution.¬†We¬†analyzed¬†data¬†from¬†550¬†students¬†in¬†four¬†classes,¬†at¬†a¬†fouryear¬†public¬†research¬†university,¬†a¬†fouryear¬†public¬†teaching¬†college,¬†and¬†two¬†community¬†colleges.¬†¬†We¬†found¬†average¬†earnestness¬†was¬†a¬†rather¬†high¬†84%.¬†We¬†also¬†found¬†that¬†89%¬†of¬†students¬†earnestly¬†attempted¬†60%100%¬†of¬†questions,¬†with¬†73%¬†earnestly¬†attempting¬†80%100%.¬†¬†Only¬†1%¬†of¬†students¬†blatantly¬†“cheat¬†the¬†system”¬†by¬†earnestly¬†attempting¬†less¬†than¬†20%¬†of¬†questions.¬†Thus,¬†the¬†heartening¬†conclusion¬†is¬†that¬†students¬†will¬†take¬†advantage¬†of¬†a¬†welldesigned¬†learning¬†opportunity¬†rather¬†than¬†just¬†quickly¬†earning¬†points.¬†We¬†noted¬†that¬†earnestness¬†decreased¬†as¬†a¬†course¬†progressed,¬†with¬†analyses¬†indicating¬†the¬†decrease¬†being¬†mostly¬†due¬†to¬†tiredness¬†or¬†some¬†other¬†student¬†factor,¬†rather¬†than¬†increasing¬†difficulty.¬†We¬†also¬†found¬†that¬†analyzing¬†perquestion¬†earnestness¬†can¬†help¬†question¬†authors¬†find¬†questions¬†that¬†need¬†improvement.¬†In¬†addition¬†to¬†providing¬†results¬†of¬†our¬†earnestness¬†analysis,¬†this¬†paper¬†also¬†describes¬†the¬†style¬†by¬†which¬†the¬†learning¬†questions¬†were¬†made¬†¬†how¬†they¬†complement¬†text,¬†teach¬†rather¬†than¬†test,¬†take¬†only¬†a¬†small¬†amount¬†of¬†time¬†each,¬†always¬†include¬†explanations,¬†strive¬†to¬†occasionally¬†“trick”¬†students¬†to¬†explicitly¬†dispel¬†common¬†misconceptions,¬†avoid¬†drill/kill¬†and¬†instead¬†each¬†teach¬†a¬†unique¬†concept,¬†create¬†questions¬†where¬†alternative¬†right¬†answers¬†are¬†less¬†likely¬†to¬†be¬†marked¬†wrong,¬†and¬†more.¬†Via¬†such¬†design,¬†students¬†seem¬†to¬†discover¬†that¬†the¬†questions¬†are¬†worth¬†their¬†time¬†and¬†effort,¬†and¬†thus¬†most¬†students¬†earnestly¬†try.¬†We¬†also¬†discuss¬†processes¬†that¬†can¬†hurt¬†earnestness,¬†such¬†as¬†assigning¬†excessive¬†work.¬†We¬†describe¬†our¬†philosophy¬†of¬†not¬†limiting¬†student¬†attempts¬†for¬†such¬†learning¬†questions,¬†to¬†create¬†a¬†safe¬†learning¬†environment¬†(whereas¬†other¬†activities¬†may¬†indeed¬†benefit¬†from¬†limits).¬†¬†

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