Importance of Hot Spot Questions in Teaching and Assessment

When delivering content, educators almost always use some sort of visual component. Think about it—when was the last time you gave or attended a lecture that featured nothing more than a person standing in the front of the room talking? Faculty use visuals to help solidify key concepts and to ensure that students can correctly identify key components visually and not just in theory. Using image-based, or more commonly referred to as hot spot questions, in both teaching and assessment can help to improve retention of knowledge as well as allow a student to demonstrate his or her knowledge in an effective manner.

Studies show that including images with text during instruction leads to better long-term retention and improved performance on assessments. When you teach with a combination of written text and visuals, students retain more information. Therefore, using image-based questions helps to ensure that you are teaching in the same manner that you are assessing. Using images helps to tie in the visual component of learning and positively affects overall student learning outcomes. Providing students content in a way that improves their performance on assessments will ensure that faculty are setting up students for success in the classroom.

It is imperative to assess content similarly to how it is taught. Therefore, if we use images during instruction, we should also include images in our assessments. This is especially true of content that is dependent on the image or video to truly assess student knowledge of a concept. For example, a medical assessment that is testing knowledge on treatment of injuries specific to body parts should probably include identifying those body parts. Using the appropriate assessment method is just as vital as use of a specific exam item itself. ExamSoft’s Hot Spots feature allows you to design questions in your assessments that require an exam taker to correctly identify a specific part of an image. To appropriately assess student knowledge, students should be required to select the correct location on an image to answer the question—especially when it comes to assessments that prepare students for clinical or practical experiences.

Tips For Using Visuals in Teaching & Assessment


1. Use hot spot questions in pre and post-test assessments to drive instruction. Have students complete a pretest assessment, including key images for the day’s lesson. Review student results in real time on these items. Use this information to help focus your instruction on the items on which students performed poorly. Close class with the same Hot Spots assessment you used to open class to confirm students learned the necessary content that day.


2. When planning an active learning unit, include hot spot questions with your pre-class lesson, when applicable. These repetitions with key content images will help students to be better prepared for active learning sessions in the classroom. Furthermore, having results from this pre-class assessment will allow instructors to tailor their lessons to areas in which students struggle the most.


3. Create asynchronous assessments with hot spot questions for students to use as practice on key concepts. The more students see these images in an academic context, the more they’ll retain information in the long term. Providing feedback to students that shows them the correct answers with written rationales will create much needed tangible study materials upon completion of these assessments.


4. An added bonus for educators assessing students in the same way in which they were taught is improved course alignment, which is a key component of a well-designed course. Course alignment refers to the following process: first, create learning objectives that clearly define what students will be expected to learn; second, teach content in methods that will help students achieve these objectives; and third, assess content in a manner that ensures students have met these objectives.

I often like to use the analogy of throwing a curveball to explain this. When writing a learning objective for teaching a student how to throw a curveball, the instructor would first have to decide at which level the students would need to learn about curveballs. If the objective indicates that students will be able to “define a curveball,” then this lesson could be taught with a lecture and/or reading on curveballs. The assessment could easily require students to answer a multiple-choice item about curveballs. If students are expected, and the objective indicates, that they will be able to “throw a curveball,” then the lesson would require students to actually practice throwing curveballs after being instructed how to do so. Come exam day, students would then be required to throw a curveball to fulfill the objective.

Click here to learn more about using ExamSoft to create hot spot questions in your assessments.