Writing Effective Multiple-Choice Questions

Writing good multiple-choice questions is challenging. Tricky or verbose questions can reduce the test item’s reliability and validity, while a poor selection of answer choices can make a question either far too easy or incredibly difficult. A question that suffers several common pitfalls might even work against the learning outcomes it is trying to measure. Fortunately, researchers and assessment experts have identified some common guidelines for creating more equitable and reliable multiple-choice assessments. In this guide, we’ll walk through seven tips for writing more effective multiple-choice test items.

The scope of this guide is focused specifically on authoring multiple-choice questions. If you’d like to dig into when to use multiple-choice assessments, as well as recommendations for scaffolding, testing in online environments, and providing feedback, check out this other CATL blog post on general considerations for creating impactful multiple-choice assessments.

Before getting into the tips on writing questions, we’ll review the anatomy of a multiple-choice question and outline some common language that we use throughout this guide.

Table of Contents

The Anatomy of a Multiple-Choice Item

Throughout this article, we will use the following terms and definitions when referring to the parts of a multiple-choice question:

  • Item: A question and its answer choices as a unit
  • Stem: The posited question that respondents are asked to answer; often phrased as a question, but can also be a statement (e.g., fill in the blank)
  • Alternatives: A list of suggested answers that appear after the question stem; comprised of several incorrect answer options and one (or more) correct or best answer(s)
  • Distractor: An incorrect alternative

An example multiple-choice question in which the top portion is labelled as the “stem” and the answer choices A through F are labelled “alternatives,” with “A” serving as the answer and “B-F” serving as distractors

Example of a multiple-choice item, its stem, and the alternatives

Source: Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and Learning

Tips for Writing Effective Multiple-Choice Questions

Most of the recommendations in this guide have been adapted from How to Prepare Better Multiple-Choice Test Items: Guidelines for University Faculty Simple (Burton et al, 1991) and Developing and Validating Multiple-choice Test Items (Haladyna, 2004). We’ve distilled down these long-form documents into a few simple guidelines that align with current recommendations from experts at other centers for teaching and learning (see “Additional Resources”). If you are interested in learning more about the research behind these suggestions, we encourage you to check out one or both of the resources linked above.

Tip #1: Tie each item to a learning outcome

In order to maximize an assessment’s validity and reliability, each multiple-choice item should be clearly aligned with one of the assessment’s learning outcomes (and, by extension, the course learning outcomes). Generally, it is recommended to have each item tied to only one outcome each. However, in the case of items that assess higher order thinking and present complex problems or scenarios, it is possible that a multiple-choice item may assess more than one outcome.

Tip #2: Create a specific, clear, and succinct stem

A straightforward, clear, and concise stem free from extraneous information increases a multiple-choice item’s reliability. When writing and revising your question stems, it is a good practice to ask yourself if there is a simpler or more direct way to rephrase a question. Overly wordy stems rely on students’ reading comprehension, which is usually not one of the intended outcomes of the assessment. Likewise, confusing or ambiguous stems can be accidentally misleading. Ideally, a student who has mastered the target outcome should be able to answer the question posited even without the alternatives present.

For millennia, humanity has been entranced by the ebb and flow of the tides. Many past civilizations believed the ocean's waters were controlled by monsters, spirits, or gods, but today know the scientific laws and theories that explain the tides. These movements are influenced by, in part, the gravitational force from the sun, the earth’s rotation, shoreline geography, and weather patterns, but all of these pale in comparison to the effects of:

  • a)  El Niño
  • b)  The gravitational force of the moon
  • c)  The ozone layer
  • d)  Deep-sea trenches

(Answer: B)

Why it doesn’t work: The extra information in the question stem makes it difficult for the test-taker to discern the question that is being posed. The question itself is also worded ambiguously.

Earth’s tides are influenced primarily by:

  • a)  El Niño
  • b)  The gravitational force of the moon
  • c)  The ozone layer
  • d)  Deep-sea trenches

(Answer: B)

Why it works: The question stem has been revised to remove all unnecessary information and it now poses a simple, straightforward question.

Tip #3: Avoid using negatives in question phrasing

It is usually best to avoid negative phrasing in question stems, such as asking students to identify which alternative does not belong. Negatively phrased stems tend to be less reliable in assessing students’ learning than stems that ask students to identify the correct answer. The exception to this guideline is in cases when knowing what not to do is key, such as questions related to safety protocols. If you do choose to include a negative qualifier, use bold or italics to emphasize the negative word and make sure that you don’t create a double negative with any of the alternatives.

Which of the following is not a quality of an active listener? 

  • a)  Not talking over others 
  • b)  Making eye contact with the speaker 
  • c)  Asking clarifying questions 
  • d)  Mentally planning a rebuttal while the other person is speaking 

(Answer: D)

Why it doesn’t work: The question stem is phrased in the negative and the negative qualifier is not emphasized, making the question less reliable. Additionally, one of the alternatives also contains the word “not,” creating a double negative with the question stem. 

True or false? An active listener…

  • Refrains from talking over others (T/F)
  • Makes eye contact with the speaker (T/F)
  • Asks clarifying questions (T/F)
  • Mentally plans a rebuttal while the other person is speaking (T/F)

(Answers: T, T, T, F)

Why it works: This question stem has been rephrased to avoid using the word “not.” The answer choices have been turned into four separate true/false statements so each item can be assessed separately and have been revised to remove the word “not.”

Which of the following is not a recommended action to protect yourself during an earthquake if you are inside a building?

  • a) Drop to your hands and knees
  • b) Take shelter under a sturdy nearby desk or table
  • c) Crawl to the nearest exit
  • d) Cover your head and neck with your arms

(Answer: C)

Why it works: In this scenario, knowing what not to do during an earthquake is one of the learning outcomes, so it is appropriate to use a negative qualifier. The negative qualifier in the stem, “not,” has also been emphasized with bold and italics to draw attention to it.

Tip #4: Use plausible distractors

Good distractors need to appear plausible to students that have not met the target learning outcome, but not so tricky that they could be argued as correct answers by a test-taker that has met the learning outcome. When you are writing a multiple-choice question it is often useful to write the stem first, then the correct answer first. Once you have decided on these two pieces, formulate 2-4 distractors based on common student misconceptions. If you can’t think of another “good” distractor for a set of alternatives, it is usually better to have fewer alternatives than to include extra alternatives just for the sake of consistency.

George Washington Carver is best known for his work as a(n) ______.

  • a)  Agricultural scientist
  • b)  Extraterrestrial expert
  • c)  Basket-weaver
  • d)  Juggler

(Answer: A)

Why it doesn’t work: The distractors are so absurd and far-removed from the topic of the question that even a student who knows nothing about George Washington Carver could discern the correct answer, making the test item neither reliable nor valid.

George Washington Carver is best known for his work as a(n) ______.

  • a)  Agricultural scientist
  • b)  Electrical engineer
  • c)  Microbiologist
  • d)  Politician

(Answer: A)

Why it works: The distractors seem plausible, creating a question that will more accurately assess students’ knowledge of George Washington Carver.

Tip #5: Use homogeneous phrasing and formatting for alternatives

Small typos, inconsistencies in tenses or phrasing, or changes in text formatting can accidentally provide clues about which alternatives are the distractors and which are correct answers. Savvy test-takers can pick up on these inconsistencies and use this information to deduce the correct answer even if they have not achieved mastery for the desired outcome, so keep an eye out for these things as you proofread your exam. If you notice formatting inconsistencies in your Canvas quizzes, you can use the Rich Content Editor to remove all formatting and set the selected text to Canvas’s defaults.

What three parts of speech can an adverb modify?

  • a)  Verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  • b)  Noun, adjective and preposition
  • c)  Verb, noun and conjunction
  • d)  Adjective, adverb and exclamation

(Answer: A)

Why it doesn’t work: Answer choice “A,” the correct answer, is in a different font from the other alternatives. Additionally, the distractors use the singular version of each part of speech, rather than the plural, and omit the Oxford comma before “and.” These inconsistencies hint to students that “A” is the odd one out.

What three parts of speech can an adverb modify?

  • a)  Verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  • b)  Nouns, adjectives, and prepositions
  • c)  Verbs, nouns, and conjunctions
  • d)  Adjectives, adverbs, and exclamations

(Answer: A)

Why it works: The distractors have been revised to look consistent with the correct answer, creating a question that assesses students’ knowledge of parts of speech, rather than their eye for detail.

Tip #6: Avoid using none-of-the-above or all-of-the-above as alternatives

Questions that provide “all of the above” or “none of the above” as alternatives are generally less reliable for assessing outcomes than a multiple-choice question with mutually exclusive alternatives. The table below outlines the use cases for “all of the above” and “none of the above” along with why they are flawed for reliable assessment in each instance. If you can’t think of another distractor while drafting a question, remember that it is okay for some questions to have fewer alternatives.

Use of “all of the above” and “none of the above” 

Alternative

Weakness

“All of the above” as the answer Can be identified by noting that two of the other alternatives are correct
“All of the above” as a distractor Can be eliminated by noting that one of the other alternatives is incorrect
“None of the above” as the answer Measures the ability to recognize incorrect answers rather than correct answers
“None of the above” as a distractor Does not appear plausible to some students

(Adapted from How to Prepare Better Multiple-Choice Test Items: Guidelines for University Faculty, Brigham Young University)

Tip #7: Create questions with only one correct alternative

Like none- or all-of-the-above alternatives, asking students to identify multiple correct alternatives is a less reliable form of assessment than an item with only one correct answer. Multiple-response questions are also reliant on confusing grading calculations, since selecting an incorrect alternative “cancels out” a correct selection (this Canvas guide goes into more detail about how Multiple Answer questions are auto-graded). And, in questions with more incorrect than correct answers, students can still score points by selecting no answers at all!

A straightforward multiple-choice item with only one correct answer and mutually exclusive alternatives is a more reliable way of discerning whether a student truly knows a concept or is guessing. Another option is to turn a multiple-answer question into a series of true/false questions, which will provide a more reliable picture of students’ understanding and a more valid grade for their efforts.

Check all that apply. COVID-19:

  • a)  Is an infectious disease
  • b)  Is spread primarily through fungal spores
  • c)  Can be treated with antibiotics
  • d)  Can infect people of all ages

(Answer: A and D)

Why it doesn’t work: Because of the way multiple-response questions are graded, they are less reliable than individual multiple-choice or true/false questions.

True or false? COVID-19:

  • Is an infectious disease (T/F)
  • Is spread primarily through fungal spores (T/F)
  • Can be treated with antibiotics (T/F)
  • Can infect people of all ages (T/F)

(Answers: T, F, F, T)

Why it works: Each statement is assessed individually, allowing for more granular and accurate scoring.

Questions?

Want more tips for writing multiple-choice questions? Looking for someone to help brainstorm outcome-aligned questions with? CATL is here for you! Reach out any time to set up a meeting or send us your questions at CATL@uwgb.edu.

Additional Resources

Creating Intentional and Impactful Multiple-Choice Assessments

Multiple-choice quizzes are one of the most common forms of assessment in higher education, as they can be used in courses of nearly every discipline and level. Multiple-choice questions are also one of the quickest and easiest forms of assessment to grade, especially when administered through Canvas or another platform that supports auto-grading. Still, like any assessment method, there are some contexts that are well-suited for multiple-choice questions and others that are not. In this toolbox article, we will provide some evidence-based guidance on when to leverage multiple-choice assessments and how to do so effectively.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Multiple-Choice Assessments

Multiple-choice assessments are a useful tool, but every tool has its limitations. As you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of this format, remember to consider your course’s learning outcomes in relation to your assessments. Then, once you’ve considered how your assessments align with your outcomes, determine if those outcomes are well-suited to a multiple-choice assessment.

Objectivity

Multiple-choice assessments are a form of objective assessment. For a typical multiple-choice item, there is no partial credit — each answer option is either fully correct or fully incorrect, which is what makes auto-grading possible. This objectivity is useful for assessing outcomes in which students need to complete a task with a concrete solution, such as defining discipline-specific terminology, solving a mathematical equation, or recalling the details of a historical event.

The tradeoff of this objectivity is that “good” multiple-choice questions are often difficult to write. Since multiple-choice questions presume that there is only one correct answer, instructors must be careful to craft distractors (incorrect answer options) that cannot be argued as “correct.” Likewise, the question stem should be phrased so that there is a definitively correct solution. For example, if a question is based on an opinion, theory, or framework, then the stem should explicitly reference this idea to reduce subjectivity.

Example of Subjective vs. Objective Question Stem

____ needs are the most fundamental for an individual's overall wellbeing.

  • A) Cognitive
  • B) Self Esteem
  • C) Self-Actualization
  • D) Physiological

(Answer: D)

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, ____ needs are the most fundamental for an individual's overall wellbeing.

  • A) Cognitive
  • B) Self Esteem
  • C) Self-Actualization
  • D) Physiological

(Answer: D)

This version of the question stem clarifies that this question is based on a framework, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which increases the question's objectivity, and therefore its reliability and validity for assessment.

Another caution regarding the objectivity of multiple-choice questions is that answers to these test items can often be found through outside resources — students’ notes, the textbook, a friend, Google, generative AI, etc. — which has important implications for online testing. Experts in online education advise against trying to police or surveil students, and instead encourage instructors to design their online assessments to be open-book (Norton Guide to Equity-Minded Teaching, p. 106).

Open-book multiple-choice questions can still be useful learning tools, especially in frequent, low-stakes assessments or when paired with a few short answer questions. Fully auto-graded multiple-choice quizzes can function as “mastery” quizzes, in which a student has unlimited attempts but must get above a certain threshold (e.g., 90%, 100%) to move on. Using low-stakes, open-note practice tests can be an effective form of studying, and in many cases may be better for retrieval than students studying on their own.

You can also customize your Canvas quiz settings to control other conditions, such as time. Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes include options that add a layer of difficulty to repeatable multiple-choice assessments, such as time limits, shuffled questions or answer choices, and the use of question banks. These settings, when used with low-stakes assessments with multiple attempts, can help students practice meeting the course’s learning outcomes before larger summative assessments.

Versatility

Multiple-choice assessments sometimes get a bad reputation for being associated with rote memorization and lower order thinking skills, but in reality, they can be used to assess skills at every level of Bloom’s taxonomy. This includes higher order thinking skills, such as students’ ability to analyze a source, evaluate data, or make decisions in complex situations.

For example, you could present students with a poem or graph and then use a multiple-choice question to assess a student’s ability to analyze and interpret the example. Or, alternatively, you could create a question stem that includes a short scenario and then ask students to pick the best response or conclusion from the answer choices.

Examples of Multiple-Choice Items That Assess Higher Order Thinking Skills

[The poem is included here.]

The chief purpose of stanza 9 is to:

  • A)  Delay the ending to make the poem symmetrical.
  • B)  Give the reader a realistic picture of the return of the cavalry.
  • C)  Provide material for extending the simile of the bridge to a final point.
  • D)  Return the reader to the scene established in stanza 1.

(Answer: D)

This item tests higher order thinking skills because it requires test-takers to apply what they know about literary devices and analyze a poem in order to discriminate the best answer.

Source: Burton, S. J., et al. (2001). How to Prepare Better Multiple Choice Test Items: Guidelines for University Faculty.

A line graph showing the relationship between time and heart rate for two different groups of individuals that were administered a drug for a clinical trial; the y-axis goes from 70 to 90 and the x-axis goes from their baseline heartrate to 5 min after the drug was administered

The graph above illustrates the change in heart rate over time for two different groups that were administered a drug for a clinical study. After studying the graph, a student concluded that there was a large increase in heart rate around the one-minute mark, even though the results of the study determined that patients' heart rates remained relatively stable over the duration of five minutes. Which aspect of the graph most likely misled the student when they drew their conclusion?

  • A)  The baseline for y-axis starts at 70 beats/min, rather than 0 beats/min.
  • B)  The y-axis is in beats/min, rather than beats/hour.
  • C)  The graph lacks a proper title.
  • D)  The graph includes datasets from two groups, instead of just one.

(Answer: A)

This item tests higher order thinking skills because it requires test-takers to analyze a graph and evaluate which answer choice might lead someone to draw a misleading conclusion from the graph.

Source: In, J. & Lee, S. (2017) Statistical data presentation. Korean J Anesthesiol, 70 (3): 267–276.

 

A nurse is making a home visit to a 75-year old male client who has had Parkinson's disease for the past five years. Which finding has the greatest implication on the patient's care?

  • A)  The client's wife tells the nurse that the grandchildren have not been able to visit for over a month.
  • B)  The nurse notes that there are numerous throw rugs throughout the client's home.
  • C)  The client has a towel wrapped around his neck that the wife uses to wipe her husband's face.
  • D)  The client is sitting in an armchair, and the nurse notes that he is gripping the arms of the chair.

(Answer: B)

This item tests higher order thinking skills because it requires test-takers to apply what they know about Parkinson's disease and then evaluate the answer choices to determine which observation is the most relevant to the patient's care in the scenario.

Source: Morrison, S. and Free, K. W. (2001). Writing multiple-choice test items that promote and measure critical thinking. Journal of Nursing Education, 40 (1), 17-24.

Multiple-choice questions can also be adjusted for difficulty by tweaking the homogeneity of the answer choices. In other words, the more similar the distractors are to the correct answer, the more difficult the multiple-choice question will be. When selecting distractors, pick answer choices that seem appropriately plausible for the skill level of students in your course, such as common student misconceptions. Using appropriately difficult distractors will help increase your assessments’ reliability.

Despite this versatility, there are still some skills — such as students’ ability to explain a concept, display their thought process, or perform a task — that are difficult to assess with multiple-choice questions alone. In these cases, there are other forms of assessment that are better suited for these outcomes, whether it be through a written assignment, a presentation, or a project-based activity. Regardless of your discipline, there are likely some areas of your course that suit multiple-choice assessments better than others. The key is to implement multiple-choice assessments thoughtfully and intentionally with an emphasis on how this format can help students meet the course’s learning outcomes.

Making Multiple-Choice Assessments More Impactful

Once you have weighed the pros and cons of multiple-choice assessments and decided that this format fits your learning outcomes and assessment goals, there are some additional measures you can take to make your assessments more effective learning opportunities. By setting expectations and allowing space for practice, feedback, and reflection, you can help students get the most out of multiple-choice assessments.

Set Expectations for the Assessment

In line with the Transparency in Learning and Teaching (TILT) framework, disclosing your expectations is important for student success. Either in the Canvas quiz description or verbally in class (or both), explain to students the multiple-choice assessment’s purpose, task, and criteria. For example, is the assessment a low-stakes practice activity, a high-stakes exam, or something in between? What topics and learning outcomes will the assessment cover? What should students expect in terms of the number/type of questions and a time limit, if there is one? Will students be allowed to retake any part of the assessment for partial or full credit? Clarifying these types of questions beforehand helps students understand the stakes and goal of the assessment so they can prepare accordingly.

Provide Opportunities for Practice and Feedback

To help reduce test-taking anxiety and aid with long-term retrieval, make sure to provide students with ample practice before high-stakes assessments. Try to use practice assessments to model the format and topics that will be addressed on major assessments. If you are using a certain platform to conduct your assessments, like Canvas quizzes or a textbook publisher, consider having students use that same platform for these practice assessments so they can feel comfortable using the technology in advance of major assessments as well.

Research also indicates that providing feedback after an assessment is key for long-term retention. Interestingly, this is not only true for answers that students got wrong, but also in cases when a student arrives at the correct answer but with a low degree of confidence. Without assessment feedback, students may just check their quiz grade and move on, rather than taking the time to process their results and understand how they can improve.

You can include immediate and automatic qualitative feedback for quiz questions through Canvas Classic Quizzes and New Quizzes. Feedback (or “answer comments”) can be added to individual answer options or to an entire multiple-choice item. For example, you can add a pre-formulated explanation underneath an answer choice on why that distractor is a common misconception. If a student has incorrectly selected that answer choice, they can read that feedback after submitting their quiz attempt to learn why their choice was incorrect.

Create Space for Reflection

A bar graph showing a positive relationship between final test scores and learning conditions that include practice tests with feedback

Source: Roediger III, H. L., & Butler, A. C. (2011). The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention.

As indicated in the chart above, delayed feedback is potentially even more effective for long-term retention than immediate feedback. Consider reserving some time in class to debrief after important assessments and address students’ remaining questions. For asynchronous online courses, you could record a short post-test video in which you comment on trends you saw in students’ scores and clear up common misconceptions.

If you want to go a step further, you can also have students complete a self-reflective activity, also known as an exam wrapper, like a post-test survey or written reflection. Self-reflective activities like these have been shown to increase students’ overall performance in class by helping them learn how to reflect on their own study and performance habits, in addition to the positive effects on information retention mentioned earlier.

Questions?

Need some help designing your next multiple-choice assessment? Want to learn more about mastery quizzes, Canvas quiz settings, or exam wrappers? CATL is here to help! Reach out to us at CATL@uwgb.edu or schedule a consultation and we can help you brainstorm assessment solutions that fit your course’s needs. Or, if you’re ready to start building your assessment, check out this related guide for tips on writing more effective multiple-choice questions.

a group of UWGB students in green t-shirts smiling and giving a thumbs up as they welcome new freshmen for move-in

Why Didn’t Anyone Do Today’s Reading? – Engaging Students by Building Relationships 

Article by Pamela Rivers

The semester is well under way. Your students have taken their first exam. Some are active and excelling. Others have stopped coming to class or are not completing the assigned readings. Welcome to the end of September.

Maybe you thought this time it wouldn’t happen. Everyone was eager and excited and answering your questions for the first few class sessions. Now, however, you are right back to encountering some disengaged students doing what feels like the bare minimum, and it’s eating away at your passion for teaching. Is this the fate for our classes, or are there more or different things we can do to reach students?

First, to be clear, engaging students is not magic, and although it should be informed by science, in many ways it’s also an art form. Like all art, some of it appeals to us and some of it doesn’t. No one can promise you a room full of fully engaged students who always turn in their homework, laugh at all your jokes, and come prepared every session. No trick or strategy works for every person, every time. There are, however, certain strategies you can employ to make it more likely your students will listen, attend, and want to do well, for you and for themselves.

Relationships Matter

In “Culturally Responsive Teachers Create Counter Narratives for Students”, Zaretta Hammond argues that relationships can be the “on ramp to learning.” She says that relationships can be as important as the curriculum. One research study cited in Relationship-Rich Education showed that alumni who had a faculty member who cared about them as a student felt more connected to their current jobs. Unfortunately, only 27% of graduates surveyed had someone in that role. This powerful research shows that developing relationships with our students not only engages them, but can also lead to their success down the road.

That is compelling research, and it can take a lot less than you might imagine to make a real difference in the lives of your students. Students want to know that you care, and they want to feel welcome in your classroom. Research suggests that colleges and universities need to invest in a “relentless welcome of their students,” (Felton and Lambert, 2020) but faculty can lead the way in their individual classrooms by integrating activities that build relationships and encourage engagement.

Getting to Know You Surveys

Before class starts, whether online or face-to-face, send out a “getting to know you” survey through Canvas. This survey can ask questions specific to your discipline, but it is also a place to show interest in your students and what might hold them back from being successful. You could ask about your students’ pronouns, how they prefer to be contacted, any worries they are having about your class, and any specific needs they have. You can find a lot out about a student by simply asking. Need a ready-made survey? Reach out to CATL to get a copy of our Canvas Template, which includes a sample survey.

Ice Breakers

When you hear the word “ice breakers,” you may groan. The truth is a silly, active icebreaker is a wonderful way to get face-to-face students moving and is a start to building classroom community (Sciutto, M.J., 1995). A people bingo game, for example, can help get students talking and will help them get to know each other. If you are teaching online, there are plenty of icebreakers you can do asynchronously, including video introductions or a game like two truths and a lie.

Class Norms

Developing a set of agreed-upon class norms (expectations or guidelines), both for your students and you, that everyone is involved in creating goes a long way toward building both trust and community. Next semester, take part of your first class session to have your students help you develop norms. If you need some ideas for what these class expectations might look like, check out the “Trust” section of this CATL toolbox article.

Make It Matter

Find ways to tie your assignments to students’ goals, lives, and futures. If you ask me to spend 2 hours every week looking up dictionary definitions for words I’ve never heard of for a random quiz that doesn’t seem to have any bearing on what I’m supposed to be learning in your course, I am unlikely to be motivated to keep spending my time looking in the dictionary. If, on the other hand, you explain to me the importance of the words I’m learning, how they will be useful in my next class, and even how they may show up on a licensing exam for my future career, my motivation changes.

Unplanned Conversations

In face-to-face or synchronous online courses, you can use the time before class or while students are working to chat with those students who are unoccupied. Mention something you liked about their work, ask how their weekend was, and show a genuine interest in them. You never know what you might learn in these conversations. It may not lead to anything, or it may lead to a student feeling seen. Establishing a friendly and open line of communication with students in this way also makes it more likely that they will feel comfortable coming to you if they have a question or issue in the class.

Give Your Students a Chance to be Successful

As you build up to the major coursework in your class, have small, low-stakes assignments that give them all an opportunity for success and to receive formative feedback. As students get a small taste of success, they will want to feel that more.

Use Your Students’ Names and Pronouns

Another way to make a student feel seen is by how you address them. Ask your students what they would like to be called and what pronouns they use in a “getting to know you survey” or some other activity at the start of the semester. If you are teaching a face-to-face class and are good with names, try to memorize their names and pronouns during the first few weeks and use them frequently. If you are teaching online or have more students than you can remember for a large face-to-face roster, ask students to complete the name pronunciation activity created by CATL to help instructors with names. In face-to-face classes, also consider having students create name tents that they can pull out for class use. These small steps show that you care about making them feel comfortable in class, and help students learn the names of their peers as well.

Engagement is Key for Student Success

There are no silver bullets for engagement, but hopefully there are a few things on this list that you can consider adding to your teaching practices. And the truth is, engagement matters. According to Miller in “The Value of Being Seen: Faculty-Student Relationships as the Cornerstone of Postsecondary Learning,” engaged students experience more academic success and have higher persistence rates. Keeping our students engaged gives them the best chance at success.

References

Cohen, E., & Viola, J. (2022). The role of pedagogy and the curriculum in university students’ sense of belonging. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 19(4), 1–17.

Felton, P., & Lambert, L. (2020). Relationship-Rich Education. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hammond, Z. (2018, June 18). Culturally Responsive Teachers Create Counter Narratives for Students. Valinda Kimmel. September 12, 2023, valinda.kimmel.com

Lu, Adrienne. (2023, February 17). Everyone Is Talking About “Belonging,” but What Does It Really Mean? Chronicle of Higher Education, 69(12), 1–6.

Miller, K. E. (2020). The Value of Being Seen: Faculty-Student Relationships as the Cornerstone of Postsecondary Learning. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal, 13(1), 100–104.

Sciutto, M. J. (1995). Student-centered methods for decreasing anxiety and increasing interest level in undergraduate. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 22(3), 277.

Importable Canvas Resources on Canvas Commons

CATL has created several Canvas resources that UWGB instructors can import directly into their Canvas courses through the Canvas Commons. To import any of the following resources in your course, access Commons from the global navigation menu while signed into Canvas, and search for the resource by its title below. You can import the resource directly into your course(s) right from Commons. For full instructions, please see the KnowledgeBase guide Canvas (Instructors) – Importing a Resource from Canvas Commons.

  • UWGB Student Resource Module – This importable module provides information to students on how to use Canvas and how to get help from student support services at UW-Green Bay.
  • UWGB Name Pronunciation Recording Assignment – This importable assignment guides students through the process of making a very brief audio or video recording of themselves pronouncing their own name, saving that recording to their Kaltura My Media library, and then adding a share link to that recording to their Canvas user profile’s “Links” section. Students and instructors can then access each other’s profiles through the People page or discussions to listen to each other’s name recordings and learn how to pronounce each other’s names.
  • Kognito Training Assignments – Assign a Kognito training simulation to students as part of your course to prepare them to engage with issues of mental health, inclusion, and wellness. Find out more about Kognito and each available training on the UWGB Wellness Center’s website.
    • UWGB Kognito “At-Risk Mental Health for Students”
    • UWGB Kognito “Cultivating Inclusive Communities”
    • UWGB Kognito “Sexual Misconduct Prevention”
    • UWGB Kognito “Alcohol and Other Drugs”

How Will Generative AI Change My Course (GenAI Checklist)?

With the growing prevalence of generative AI applications like ChatGPT and the ongoing discussions surrounding their integration in higher education, it can be overwhelming to contemplate their impact on your courses, learning materials, and field. As we navigate these new technologies, it is crucial to reflect on how generative AI can either hinder or enhance your teaching methods. To support instructors in this endeavor, CATL created a video presentation and checklist designed to help you assess the extent to which generative AI will affect your courses and provide guidance on next steps for moving forward.

How Will ChatGPT Change My Course – CATL Presentation Slides (PDF)

Checklist for Assessing the Impact of Generative AI (ChatGPT, etc.) on your Course

View the Checklist for Assessing the Impact of Generative AI as a PDF.

Step One: Experiment with Generative AI

  • Experiment with ChatGPT or a similar application by inputting your own assignment prompts and assessing its performance in completing your assignments. Consider using a de-identified email account when doing so.
  • Research the potential benefits, use cases, limitations, and privacy concerns regarding generative AI to gain a sense of the potential applications and misuses of this technology.

Step Two: Review Your Learning Outcomes

  • Reflect on your course learning outcomes. Which outcomes lend themselves well to the use of generative AI and which skills go beyond the current limitations of AI? Keep this in mind as you move on to steps three and four, as the way students demonstrate achieved learning outcomes may need to be adjusted in course assignments/activities.

Step Three: Assess the Extent of AI Use in Class

  • Assess to what extent your course or discipline will be influenced by AI advancements. Are experts in your discipline already collaborating with tools like ChatGPT? Will current or future careers in your field work closely with these technologies?
  • Determine the extent of usage appropriate for your course. Will you allow students to use it all the time or not at all? If students can use it, is it appropriate for only certain assignments/activities with guidance and permission from the instructor? Be specific and clear with students and teach them how to cite ChatGPT.
  • Revisit your learning outcomes (step two). After assessing the impact of advancements in generative AI on your discipline and determining how the technology will be used (or not used) in your course, return to your learning outcomes and reassess if they align with course changes/additions you may have identified in this step.

Step Four: Review Your Assignments/Assessments

  • Review your assignments and evaluate whether revisions are needed to make them more resistant to generative AI or to incorporate generative AI collaboration. Which assignments are vulnerable to applications like ChatGPT and which ones can stay as is?
  • Provide an alternative for students who choose to opt-out of working with generative AI due to legitimate concerns regarding privacy and accessibility. This only applies if you choose to incorporate generative AI into an assignment.
  • View this CATL blog post on strategies for creating “generative AI-resistant” assessments for recommendations that focus on avoiding generative AI usage and view this resource on what aspects ChatGPT struggles to do.

Step Five: Update Your Syllabus

  • Add a syllabus statement outlining the guidelines you’ve determined pertaining to generative AI in your course. You can refer to our syllabus snippets for examples of ChatGPT-related syllabi statements.
  • Include your revised or new learning outcomes in your syllabus.

Step Six: Prepare to Address Misuse

  • Develop a plan for potential instances of suspected misuse. Your syllabus will be a valuable resource to communicate those expectations and boundaries to students.
  • Address and discuss your guidelines and expectations for generative AI usage with students on day one of class.

Step Seven: Seek Support and Resources

  • Engage with your colleagues to exchange experiences and best practices for incorporating or navigating generative AI.
  • Stay informed about advancements and applications of generative AI technology.

Need Help?

CATL is available to offer assistance and support at every step of the checklist presented above. Contact CATL for a consultation or by email at CATL@uwgb.edu if you have questions, concerns, or perhaps are apprehensive to go through this checklist.