What Quizzes Are Actually For (Teaching Better)

I used to think that teachers gave quizzes because they felt like it. My students think I do it because I’m mean, which is ridiculous. I’m mean because I care.

In reality, the answer to the why-do-quizzes-exist question is simple: so that you can know if you’re doing your job. All sorts of implications fall out of that:

  1. Quizzes shouldn’t be used to calculate final marks (at least not in the traditional way)
  2. Quizzes should impact what you do tomorrow and a week from tomorrow
  3. Quizzes should be really challenging. Like, the kids have to put an ice pack on their heads to prevent their brains from running out (that’s what mucus is, who knew?)

This flies in the face of what most teachers do with quizzes, which essentially boils down to an ethically perverse form of classroom management.

Nah, that ain’t me.

So, without further ado, I present to you the results of my most recent physics quiz:

Prompt: A hockey player takes a slapshot on goal. The puck stays on the ice and leaves the face of the stick at 60 m/s fast. When is the puck moving the fastest?

The responses were wild.


If the puck travels at 60 m/s then it was always moving ‘the fastest.’


The puck accelerates up to its top speed after the force from the stick wears off. Then it keeps the same speed until it hits the goalie.


It speeds up the whole way because the ice is slippery.

There were more, but they were all either correct, ambiguous, or iterations of those above.

Teaching science is all about attacking misconceptions with a tweezer, and I think we’ve got some to excise.

Here’s the crazy part: they would have passed this quiz three weeks ago. Think about what that means. You’re a shitty teacher. I think it means that we’ve trained kids to like the binge and purge, which is why you have to switch to SBG. It’s not just about grading, it’s about their little souls retention.

Retention. Retention. Retention.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to spend the next two days having students analyze NHL videos. I’m going to have them look for this misconception in younger students. I’m going to do anything to dredge this back up, and delouse it. That’s teaching like a boss.

Eat a bagel!