August 2008, Volume 9, Number 8
New Topics Now Available Through League Services
Humor as a Coping Strategy for the Stressors of Academe. As a newbie or veteran professor, do you ever experience stress? There seem to be multiple stressors in our academic careers, such as teaching load, hours of advising, student emails, student requests, publication demands, pressure to obtain external funding, a quadrillion meetings, an endless barrage of tasks, and a frantic pace. Participants pinpoint their specific professional and personal stressors. Although the major ones cannot be eliminated, you have choices in how you respond to them.
Among the many standard techniques recommended in the research for managing or reducing stress, participants identify the five most effective and assess their own use of humor in stressful situations on the Coping Humor Scale. Nearly 50 years of research on the psychological and physiological effects of humor and laughter on stress reduction and stress hormones are summarized and then applied to participants’ lives. Several systematic humor strategies will be described that participants can use daily to cope with their stressors. Participants leave this session with concrete methods to deal with whatever or whoever is causing them stress! This topic is available as a 1-hour keynote or workshop.
The Top 15 Complaints by Students About Taking Tests, and Some Solutions. After 75 years of research and experience in testing, why are there still so many complaints by students about test quality and the conditions under which tests are administered? A decade of course surveys by more than 1,500 college students from all over the country has produced the 15 most frequent complaints about paper-based and online course tests. These complaints continue to bubble to the surface in just about every course. Participants are able to propose their own solutions to these complaints.
Complaints include, “Some content on the test was not taught,” “Test content doesn’t reflect what I really know,” “Tests are too long,” and “Not enough time to finish.” Students raise issues that get to the heart of trust of and respect for their instructors and the validity and reliability of the test scores. This session scrutinizes these complaints with participant input and suggests strategies that can be used to resolve them. Warning: This interactive session could change your testing practices forever. This topic is available as a 1–1.5-hour workshop.
Top Ten Flaws in Constructing Multiple-Choice Items. This session is designed to bring novice as well as senior faculty up to speed on ten critical multiple-choice item writing rules (out of 43) used over the past 2,000 years. The workshop begins with a Pretest of Testwiseness to determine participants’ skill level in picking out item flaws. Then a top-ten list of multiple-choice test item flaws is described and illustrated with semiamusing items.
Why are these ten so important? If these flaws are not corrected, testwise students can use them as clues to the correct answer, which can inflate their scores. While this practice may delight students, it is psychometrically evil because it can decrease the reliability and validity of the scores. At the end of the session, participants are given time to correct their pretest answers before they’re scored. By the time they leave this fun-filled session, participants are able to detect even the most subtle and sneaky flaws in multiple-choice items. Participants will not only be able to write better items for their own tests, but will also have the skills to write and review items for publishers of textbooks in their field and standardized tests. This session will benefit faculty and students and is not to be missed. This topic is available as a 1-hour workshop.
Injecting Jest Into Your Course Tests to Reduce Test Anxiety. Are you currently using humor in your tests? No? Most other instructors aren’t using it either. The challenge is using humor appropriately to reduce test anxiety and improve test performance, not to distract or annoy students or to decrease the validity and reliability of the test scores. Research on this topic is reviewed to provide a perspective on humor’s effect. It is clear from the inverse correlations between test anxiety and performance that students with high test anxiety perform more poorly on all exams than their low-anxiety counterparts. How can humor in the test reduce test anxiety in order to improve overall performance? Participants brainstorm answers to this question before surveying the techniques reported in the literature.
Four major topics are addressed: (1) incongruous descriptors under test title, (2) jocular inserts in test directions, (3) humorous note on last page, and (4) humor in the test items. The bulk of the time is devoted to eight strategies for using humor in multiple-choice, matching, and constructed-response items. Content-irrelevant and content-relevant methods are covered. Participants generate humorous distractors and items for tests. Issues related to paper-based versus online administration are examined as they pertain to the various humor techniques. This session can make tests user-friendly and significantly change students’ test anxiety and performance. This topic is available as a 1–1.5-hour workshop.
To find out more about these and other topics available through League Services, email Ed Leach or call (480) 705-8200, x233.
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