Teaching Hub

Mistakes Were Made. What Next?

by Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies

I felt a little bit like John Lindsay this morning. I put a quiz on Blackboard, and, as he said in one of his 1969 campaign ads, “some mistakes were made.” When the student emails started trickling in, I started to have a Lindsay moment.

In reality, this is my first term teaching at UA, and I needed to re-familiarize myself with the process of creating quizzes and tests inside Blackboard Learn. I used the tutorial offered by CIT. While I was vigilant to check some settings, I missed checking the all-important “make the link available” box. So when I announced to the class that the quiz would go up at 2:00 p.m., it remained invisible to the students.

My excellent GTA, Paul Eubanks, was able to go in to check the box at 4:00 p.m. Later in the day, however, students found that the correct answer to question #2 was marked as incorrect.

Dear Professor,

The question: According to your textbook, which of the following are qualities of an “agent”?

Answers: A) Intention B) Motivation C) Accountability D) All of the above

I chose “all of the above,” and it said it was wrong. All of the answers are in the definition of an agent, if not used as a synonym. Another student also got the question incorrect by only choosing “Intention,” which is the bolded term within the definition. Just wondering if there is something wrong with this question.

REL 100 T/R 12:30-1:45

Teaching and learning are structurally oriented to work with gaps in understanding. The very possibility of the hermeneutical circle, what Bakhtin called dialogic, involves reiterative adjustments of preconceptions towards a new synthesis of knowledge. Students learn when their teachers guide them through this process. In my case with creating quizzes on Blackboard Learn, I was confronted by the antithesis of student feedback. What to do?


At times like these, the curtain can get lifted on the wizard.

The trick, I think, is to maintain students’ trust by lifting the curtain just a little by acting decisively rather than defensively. This is where Lindsay went wrong in his 1969 campaign, where his ads ended with the words, “This is the second toughest job in America!” The last thing students need is a teacher who feels and acts embattled.

I put out an announcement on Blackboard Learn saying the following:

Hello Class,

Several of you contacted me about Quiz 1. I will adjust the gradebook such that the lowest quiz mark will be discarded from the final calculations.

Regarding the main issues with the quiz:

  • Technical problems – I do not plan to change format or settings for future quizzes (i.e. only announced in-class on the day of the quiz, 30 minute limit, single attempt), and so you should be sure to do your quiz on a secure connection rather than wi-fi (note: BBL does have an app for mobile phones).
  • Others found a problem with Question #2 – Yes, the answer should be “all of the above.” Our GTA, Paul, will go into the quiz to fix this.

– NL

I am a new professor teaching at UA. What do you think? Did I do the right thing?