High School Pop Quizzes – Great Teaching Tool?

In an ideal world, teachers intend to do what’s best to prepare their students for the real world. In other words, when they plan their lessons, grade their papers, and give their lectures, they do so not simply with goal of having students do well on whichever test or project is coming up next, but also in order to give them the skills and instincts they need to one day tackle problems and situations in the real world. After all, what is the point of school if not to prepare students for what they will encounter when they leave school?

There is, of course, a difference between the types of challenges students face in the classroom as opposed to the ones they will encounter once they leave school grounds. The situations they find themselves in when inside the classroom tend to be much more structured and predictable than those that the real world will throw at them, so it stands to reason that trying to create a classroom environment that is, at times, less structured and predictable, can be quite beneficial for students.

One tool that teachers and professors might want to take advantage of along those lines is the pop quiz. A pop quiz is basically a small test that students do not know is coming. Whereas most quizzes are announced ahead of time, and students are told what sort of material is going to be covered so that they can prepare, a pop quiz comes out of nowhere. Students might think that a given class day will be focused around a lecture or a discussion, but then they find out, immediately beforehand, that they need to be ready to take a quiz.

That way, students are caught off guard and must rely on whatever knowledge they have up to that point. This is bit more like life outside of school, because when you are not in high school you don’t necessarily know what kind of tasks will be demanded of you on a daily basis–sometimes things just ‘pop’ up and you must be ready to do the most that you are able to do at that moment.

However, there are some people who are not big fans of pop quizzes. There are those who say that it is unfair to base a student’s grade off of something that he or she was not able to prepare for ahead of time. After all, if students are taught to approach their academic challenges in the normal way–that is, to learn ahead of time what is required and when it is due, and then take time to complete the task by the assigned due date–then how can they be penalized when they fail to do something that falls outside of those guidelines?

In all likelihood, the best way to address this situation is to compromise between the two different approaches. In the first place, the skills needed to do well on pop quizzes are skills that people need in the real world, and if teachers, especially high school teachers, are not preparing their students accordingly, then those students will be in trouble. However, because some high school students may not be used to this sort of thing, teachers who wish to incorporate this technique could use some level of warning. This could be anything from just making it clear, on the first day of class, that pop quizzes are on the table and could happen at any time, or it could be the professor giving a range of possible dates for a quiz, such as “you will have a quiz sometime between Monday and Thursday, so be ready.” That way, students will have some idea that something is coming, but they still don’t know exactly when.