One guideline that textbooks tell us about quiz writing is that the questions have to be seen as meaningful to your learners. Each question should be about something important... something that the employee actually does need to know, or be able to do. The questions should be about something that everyone would agree matters in the workplace... at least for the intended audience of the training.
Let’s take an example. I was teaching a class for an organization, and one of the learning objectives was: The employee must know all five of our board members.
One of the questions on the quiz was this: What is Board Member Jane Jones’s middle initial?
Imagine what your students would say if you wrote a question about such a minor point of trivia like this! I can just hear the grumblings:
That’s not fair!
Why does it matter?
I can name all five board members. I forget one middle initial and I get dinged on my quiz score?
On the face of it, this question does not meet the criterion of meaningfulness.
But what if I told you that the students in this case were the administrative assistants responsible for proofreading all of the Board’s correspondence?
Now, it makes sense that they need to know the middle initial. They need to be able to recognize immediately if the initial is wrong. And they need to know a lot of other details that would also seem like trivia to another training audience. They need to spell the names right. They need to know how many tabs to indent the signature line. They need to know whether to capitalize the phrase Board Member.
Let’s see what happens if the audience is different. What if I told you that the students are the security guards at the front door of the building. The objective is the same: They must know all five board members. But now, what is it that they have to know?
This time, the middle initial probably is meaningless trivia. What the guard needs to know is how to recognize Ms. Jones on sight! My proofreaders may know Ms. Jones’s middle initial, but they could walk right by her in the hallway and never realize it. But the guard needs to know immediately to allow Ms. Jones into the building.
In sum, your quiz questions have to be meaningful, specifically to the audience of the training. It is all too easy to write questions about trivia. Think about your training audience to keep your questions meaningful.
Jennie Ruby, CTT, COTP, is a veteran eLearning developer, certified master trainer, and author. Jennie has an M.A. from George Washington University and is a Certified Technical Trainer and Certified Online Training Professional. She teaches both classroom and online courses, and has authored courseware, published training books, and developed content for countless eLearning projects. She is also a publishing professional with more than 30 years of experience in writing, editing, print publishing, and eLearning.