Enhance your training with quizzes

The in-service quiz can serve both as an attention getter for fun and bring a mentally resistant attendee into the class


Remember when your teacher in high school calmly announced to the class that she will be giving you a quiz?  If the quiz was a surprise, the reaction was unsually a collective groan.  Of course, there were students who had studied and were prepared did not panic — they figured they had a good chance to pass.

Now with all the dislike of a pop quiz, students will tell you later that they learned something.  Quizzes were not meant to play head games with students — they served as a jolt to keep students on their toes.  Many good discussions have resulted from the use of a quiz.

In corrections, in-service instructors — either in academies, conferences or at roll calls — can jazz up their presentations by giving quizzes. I have done this in my college classes, in academies and for several clients, asking questions on various subjects such as manipulation, ethics, civil rights of inmates and security/contraband.

While college class quizzes on academic corrections are for credit, the in-service quiz can serve both as an attention getter for fun and bring a mentally resistant attendee into the class.  These are the correctional staff who are “just here for the hours” and view the class as merely a day or two away from the jail.  They choose to not participate, have little to say and can be found surfing the Internet on their mobile devices or doodling.

A challenge for any instructor is how to make the class interesting and keep everyone engaged.  Quizzes can do that, and, with that in mind, here are a few suggestions on how to be a “Quizmaster:”

Start the class off with a bang: After your introduction, pass out the quiz and tell the class that you would like to see what they know about the subject.  Believe me — they will not be expecting this.

Offer prizes:  Make the quiz is like a game show. Bring in snacks or donuts as prizes. Tell the class if anyone passes the quiz with 80, 90 or better, for example, they can have the treats.  (In my classes, no one passes with these high scores — but I give out the treats anyway.)  To have group activities that are interesting, make the quiz short (between 5 and 10 questions) and if the group is small, divide into two teams who compete against each other.

Tell them that they can cheat: Like the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, they can ask any friend in the class or search online. (After the quiz, ask them please to turn off mobile devices until break time.)

Make the quiz ‘entertainingly difficult’:  For example, all corrections officers have an idea how crafty inmates can be when they manufacture contraband or have it smuggled in.   Many legitimate online news services carry stories on these subjects, and some are unbelievable but true. 

Take news stories and write multiple choice questions, making sure that the right answer is mixed in with other choices that are possible and difficult to choose from.   Make it hard, so two things happen:  they have to think about the answer. 

And in discussing the questions and correct answers when you go over the quiz, they learn.  As veteran correctional trainers know, there are news stories about inmate con games, manipulation, security violations and escapes that appear bizarre but true. 

There are many corrections web sites that contain news articles, as well as respected non-correctional web sites that carry interesting stories about criminals, jails and prisons.   Remember that all news sources — print or online — want to attract readers and viewers. 

The more interesting the news story, the more prominently it will be featured.  You can also use incident reports filed in your facility.  This is especially effective with new officers fresh from the training academy.   There are magazine articles, blogs and books written by correctional staff and academics that can be treasure troves for information.

Be mobile and get attendees involved: The attendees that do not engage in discussions or make it obvious that they think the class is a waste of their time will usually be noticeable.

Get away from the podium, walk around to where these folks are sitting and ask them how they are progressing with the quiz or when you go over the quiz ask them what answers they chose and have them explain why.  Choose them for a team.

Remember that some people are shy and like to quietly sit and absorb the training; that is perfectly all right. Be careful and do not embarrass anyone. 

So to enhance your training, be a correctional training “Quizmaster;” learning can be fun!

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