Using Quizzes to Boost Student Confidence with Abstract Concepts

Rosalind Beaumont, Lecturer

HaSS Faculty Office

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do?

This case study concerns the use of quizzes in the PG Cert for Research Training, particularly the HaSS Faculty Research Training Programme. Contributions from across the faculty are drawn together in module HSS8007 to provide an initial introduction to research, including abstract concepts such as ontological and epistemological stances. Different ontological and epistemological stances are introduced each week by different lecturers from a variety of disciplines.

How did you do it?

Planning the Learning

Previously these were taught as one-hour lectures immediately followed by seminars. Now being taught online, the input has been broken down into short videos, supported by recommended reading and quizzes, and then a seminar in which these concepts could be discussed further. It had previously been recognised that holding the seminar immediately after the lecture was not ideal as it left little time for students to get their heads around these more abstract topics before moving into a discussion. On the other hand, given the large range of learning situations students were in, practically, it made sense to group all of the Present in Person learning and teaching activities together in this way.

Moving to online learning provided the opportunity to redesign the learning journey a little, and quizzes have been included. Students can use these to test their knowledge and understanding after the learning content has been viewed at a convenient time for them. These quizzes are available before seminars so that students are able to check their understanding and know they are on the right track before attending the seminar. Checking this through an in-module quiz rather than formal assessment helped allow students to feel more confident that their contributions to seminars will be along the right lines, and hopefully encourages them to participate more actively. For example, in this module quiz questions were used to help ensure that students have understood the difference between two related concepts.

Quizzes can also act as a simple way to make the learning more active. For example, one seminar lead added a quiz which could be done alongside listening to a lecture, allowing students to check their understanding as they progress through the material, as well as directing them to engage with and respond to the materials. This is more engaging than simply listening and taking notes, and students can be confident that they have completed the required activity related to the material having gained the required knowledge. These quizzes can be set to be formative/non-compulsory to act as learning materials rather than as part of formal assessment.

Designing the Quizzes

When building the quizzes, you have the choice between new and classic quizzes in Canvas. It’s always worth double-checking that you choose the right one based on what your requirements are. Take a look at the Flexible Learning site to see the key considerations, or view a full set of feature differences on the Canvas website. Consider whether you will need to use analytics or make anything compulsory.

It is also worth considering the context in which you are setting the quizzes – putting things in a context is very useful for more abstract topics, but make sure that your context won’t confuse anyone, for example, not everyone may have watched a particular TV show that you’re referencing as a context.

Another use of quizzes can be to directly prepare students for their final assessment by giving them questions of a similar style. In this module the final assessment requires students to compare and contrast certain approaches in relation to their research project. Introducing more generic compare and contrast questions early in the module allows students to practice and understand what is required of them before their assessed piece of work needs to be submitted. Compare and contrast questions can also help to consolidate knowledge in a module like this where many new concepts are being introduced.


Quizzes can be used in a wide range of circumstances to provide a variety of functions. When teaching a module with a large array of new abstract concepts, quizzes can provide some grounding. Judicious use of quizzes can make the learning more manageable and interactive, allow students to check understanding and build confidence, or help them practice skills that will be needed at assessment stage.


Classic Quizzes vs New Quizzes Key Considerations on the Flexible Learning website –

Classic vs New Quizzes feature comparison –

Writing Good Multiple Choice Questions –


Rosalind Beaumont, HSS8007 co-module leader and Lecturer on HaSS Faculty Research Training Programme and Postgraduate Certificate in Research Training

Lydia Wysocki, seminar leader on HaSS Faculty Research Training Programme (Research Associate in ECLS)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *