In Praise of…. Quick evaluation

In my day job, I teach without ever getting to administer one test, quiz, or term paper.  I preach a thirty minute (okay, sometimes I go over) sermon, laying out a variety of insights from theology, biblical studies, archaeology, psychology, and sociology, and I have to rely on body language and vague comments at the door (“Good sermon, pastor”) to try to figure out if they “got it.”

While preaching is different than the academic classroom, there are a few tips of quick evaluation that are transferable.  Here are my three favorite:

1. Poll Everywhere – This is a simpler, quicker version of the classic, “Everyone take out a sheet of paper and answer this question…” version of the pop quiz, which is cumbersome and impractical in a church anywhere.  If your goal is to find out quickly if most of the students are tracking, using Poll Everywhere is unbeatable.  Concerned about not all students having a cell phone?  I would bet that more of them have a phone than a sheet of paper when they come to class.  (As an aside, Poll Everywhere is free for classrooms up to 30 students).

The downsides of this method of evaluation are that the nature of it is multiple choice, which may or may not be useful, and that it is anonymous, meaning you don’t know who is off the mark.

2. Graphic Representations of Concepts – This is a little more complex, but it helps to know if students understand the relationships between ideas, and develop hierarchal thinking.  In preaching, this works well while exegeting a specific text, with a hierarchy based on syntax.  In a classroom, it helps students to put concepts in context.

3. The Two Column Method – Another McKeachie special, the Two Column Method gives the students a chance to advocate for two competing positions, and helps them see the strength of the opposite position.  This reduces the shame experience of being told they are wrong in front of the course (or congregation), without creating the confusion of “everyone’s right.”

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