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How to Quiz Your Students

by Jan Meyer

As a jumpmaster or instructor you do a lot of teaching and explaining. You dole out bits of information to your students. You ask a student if he understands and then go on to the next concept. You should be moving through material at the student's pace, not your own. If you teach to demonstrate your knowledge, then you fail to teach your student.

How do you know when your student knows the material? You can ask questions. You should ask action oriented questions. Ask "Show me such and such", "Tell me...", "What do you do if this happens?" Avoid non-evaluative questions such as "Do you understand?", "Know what I mean?", "Follow me?" Tell a student you want him to be able to demonstrate the dive, both verbally and physically, without any coaching from you.

Question content is important too. There are many levels you can question on. Questions can test memory, applications and evaluations. Memorization of facts and concepts is a prerequisite of all other higher levels of learning. For example, students must remember the exit count. Other things students should remember and recall in a heartbeat, include pull altitude, the be under the canopy you're going to land altitude, the number of times he should pull on a hard pull or go for a floater, sequence of pulling handles, location of handles.

The next level of questioning is translation. A student must express his responses in his own words. Lots of students substitute words for their exit count. For instance, "A-thousand, B-thousand, etc." will work just as effectively as the more common "One-thousand, Two-thousand, etc.". Some may call the altimeter a barometer or odometer.. They use the instrument correctly, but call it by the wrong name.

Other facts such as the name of the canopy, container or jumpmaster are not crucial to the safe conduct of the jump. These types of facts are nice to know, but aren't required for student jumps. Post student status jumps may required this information.

Memory questions will get responses in a student's own words. He will reformulate what you said. Your job is to evaluate his answers and make sure they're correct.

The next level of questioning tests a student's ability to interpret and apply the facts to new situations. Suppose your student knows a good arch is required on exit and a weak arch may cause tumbling. You then ask "You exited and you see ground then sky then ground then sky, what should you do?" A student must realize that he'll probably see the earth and sky if he's tumbling. The cure for tumbling is a good arch. So he must arch.

A student will identify relevant facts and decide upon the best course of action based on what he knows. A student may remember to pull while stable, but he should also know to pull at pull time, stable or not. You may verbally tell a student emergency procedures and then quiz him during a dirt dive to get him to remember the procedure, recognize the situation and apply his knowledge. You then ask him to evaluate his response. Did he live? Was his level of response adequate? (Did he cut away from line twists or a bag lock?) Was his reaction time adequate? Was his execution time fast enough?

You should always end your briefing with a question that asks if the student feels he knows enough to make the upcoming jump safely. More concepts will be learned on subsequent jumps, but for now those ideas could distract or confuse a student. Students don't need to know about dead spiders, max tracks or sequential formations to jump safely.

Questions can test memory, applications and evaluations. A student must remember certain facts and concepts. Some ideas are pertinent to a safe and successful skydive. These concepts should be recalled quickly and without hesitation by a student. A student must be able to apply his knowledge in new situations and evaluate his actions.

Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal V1, #4 Nov./Dec. 1988.
©Copyright 1988, 1996 by Jan Meyer. Republished with permission.

Dedicated to enhancing sport parachuting safety by disseminating information about equipment, environments and human factors.

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