Discussion on why short tossups are terrible

Dormant threads from the high school sections are preserved here.
Locked
Tegan
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Discussion on why short tossups are terrible

Post by Tegan »

mlaird wrote: It seems like Illinois is one of the last states to hop on the pyramid bandwagon, given the popularity NAQT enjoys nationwide.
Illinois isn't the last, and while NAQT is certainly the single most populat format, it isn't quite universaly accepted yet for a number of reasons (which is a shame in some regards). Remember, many teams that show up at NAQT are in the same boat as Illinois: their state uses a different format, and this is one of their only chances to play this particular format.

Downstate teams have been given opportunities to play pyramid formats, and a vast majority have turned up their noses (players and coaches alike) at these questions....my favorite claim is "the question is so long, I forgot what it was asking"...

When I took over writing IHSA, I wrote a lot of pyramid questions (one of my science writers refused to alter his short style, so I paid him, and added on to his questions). The IHSA received few complaints to my knowledge, but a lot of coaches (especially from down south) howled about the question length. I kept it up as best I could, but the next editor (who was from down south) discontinued the push for pyramid style questions.

Hopefully, this year will see a return, and there will be an increased interest for teams to pursue this style with Aegis or NAQT.....hopefully even going to PACE in a year.
David Riley
Auron
Posts: 1428
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2003 8:27 am
Location: Morton Grove, IL

Post by David Riley »

The sovereign state of Southernillinois says "nay!" :grin:


Seriously, my colleague Mr. Egan said it more articulately than I did: people in many areas of the state HAVE had exposure to pyramid-style questions and have rejected them. Aegis should include a questionnaire with their kickoff questoins that elicits comments from the coaches--do they like them or not?

More power to Aegis and best wishes for their success. But as Dr. Chuck pointed out, unless mandated by a governing authority (read: IHSA), it will be a long time before pyramid questions are accepted at the state level in Illinois.
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman »

PACE has a post-comp questionnaire that asks the question of one's impressions of the game format. Again, if any tournament in Illinois wants to take part in this survey, let me know.

To say the very least, dealing with "long questions" has been an issue for many years with teams who have seldom had opportunity to play college-style questions. It's not just endemic to Illinois but to a lot of places, including where Chip has his particular strongholds.
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
User avatar
Stained Diviner
Auron
Posts: 4868
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2004 6:08 am
Location: Chicagoland
Contact:

Post by Stained Diviner »

Dr. Chuck is right on this one. A few other points to add to this discussion...

The first group to push for pyramidal questions in Illinois was from Decatur, and there are plenty of coaches in the Chicago suburbs resistant to change.

Additionally, there are plenty of poor question writers who have never stepped foot in Illinois and do most or all of their business outside of Illinois.

My team participated in PACE one time. (It's a great tournament, and I feel bad for not going on a regular basis.) The night before the tournament, we saw teams from other states studying junk like state nicknames. My team convinced them that they were wasting their time.

How does my team know about top-level Scholastic Bowl without traveling more than 3 miles outside of Illinois? UIUC Earlybird, Northwestern NAQT, Loyola NAQT, Scobol Solo, Wash U, and NAQT-written conference questions. We will add Octangulars/Fenwick to the list next year, and Aegis likely will add to the list for several teams. (My team can't attend their tournaments next year but hopefully will in future years.) We often practice with NAQT or PACE questions.
David Reinstein
PACE VP of Outreach, Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT (2011-2017), IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), PACE Member, PACE President (2016-2018), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)
jbarnes112358
Tidus
Posts: 664
Joined: Mon May 03, 2004 5:58 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by jbarnes112358 »

Perhaps, coaches and teams who are not ready for long pyramidal questions might tolerate shorter pyramidal questions. I don't think this is necessarily a contradiction in terms. NAQT wrote some reasonably pyramidal, but shorter questions for the "Battle of the Brains" TV show in the central and southeastern regions of Virginia.

The answers were mostly academic in nature and averaged three sentences in length - a lead-in, a middle clue, and a "give away" clue. The brevity was probably desired due to the time constraints of a 30 minute commercial television program. But, given those constraints, the questions were surprisingly good. Perhaps someone from NAQT would provide a couple of samples here for people to read.

I am not saying that those questions are necessarily the ideal for actual (non-TV) games, but it may be a way to transition into the longer pyramidal questions. Once coaches see that pyramidal questions do a better job of determining teams that know more complete knowledge about subject matter, they may not want to go back to a format that tests more for superficial knowledge and for quick hand reflexes.
STPickrell
Auron
Posts: 1501
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 11:12 pm
Location: Vienna, VA
Contact:

Post by STPickrell »

Most teams in states which have a "state-sanctioned" format will have their preferences gravitate towards questions that mimic the questions seen at states.

The Battle of the Brains questions seem to be similar to what I write/oversee for VHSL, and it seems the "short pyramid" style of questions are what is preferred. In the most recent survey of VHSL Scholastic Bowl coaches, over 80% of coaches preferred tossups to stay the way they are, with about 15% wanting longer tossups and only 5% wanting one sentence questions like "Who wrote Paradise Lost?"

As an experience, one district that will be using my questions for next season had used Academic Hallmarks' one-sentence specials, to the tune of combined scores under 100 points for many of the middle and lower end teams. I am aware of one match in any district where the score was under 150.
User avatar
quizbowllee
Auron
Posts: 2179
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2004 2:12 am
Location: Alabama

Post by quizbowllee »

Matt Weiner wrote:
David Riley wrote:Again, you can write good questions that are short answer.
Nope.
Well said.
Lee Henry
AP English Teacher
Quiz Bowl Coach
West Point High School
Cullman, AL
Tegan
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Post by Tegan »

I write the Illinois Octangular questions, which are almost exclusively pyramid-style (computations, which are different in Illinois are not). To given an idea, my goal, in 14 point Times New Roman font and three-quarter inch margins, is to have a four-six line question. Sometimes I go longer....rarely shorter.

I adopted the PACE questionaire several years ago. After two years, I was consistently getting back poor reviews from down state (two tournaments: the questions are too hard, there's not enough "fun" questions...and my favorite..."there aren't enough academic questions like industrial arts"....the upstate sites routinely got 80-90% of toss-ups, with more challenging bonus questions.

Starting two years ago, I started writing seperate question sets for "upstate" and "downstate".....the downstate people got shortened 1-2 line questions, and I made no changes for upstate. Less complaints from downstate folks, and they were still too easy for upstate.]

This year, I made a monster set of questions, and the scores reflected it. When I saw the downstate results, there were some 10-0, 20-10 scores. even the upstate people were crying uncle a bit (a four part bonus on Ancient Egyptian sites was among my personal favorites).

Clearly, I need to go with some less difficult subjects, and I will, but I am thinking of dropping the downstate simplified questions, and telling them in advance: they are what they are, take them or leave them! Perhaps they will tell me to shove it...perhaps they will start to become more used to those questions? I would hope that this policy does not encumber a company like Aegis, which I hope will be doing some work for me this year.
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8424
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

Tegan wrote:Downstate teams have been given opportunities to play pyramid formats, and a vast majority have turned up their noses (players and coaches alike) at these questions....my favorite claim is "the question is so long, I forgot what it was asking"...
Let's also remember another unfortunate truth here: when someone says "the match took too long" or "long questions are hard to follow" or "long questions are harder," or puts forth any argument that is factually untrue, they are not being honest. The real reason that not-so-good teams support short questions is the same reason that short questions are objectively bad: short questions produce essentially random match results that give teams who do no preparation and are not willing to put in the work needed to become a contender a decent chance of upsetting almost anyone in any match. The simple math of any competition shows that the vast majority of teams stand to benefit from making the competition less fair and less rewarding of the skill/effort of top teams, which is why determining the format or canon in a democratic way is patently absurd. In fact, the better way to determine anything would be to take a poll, and then do the exact opposite of what the results say.
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman »

Okay, we should officially branch off the bulk of this discussion to Theory. We're going back to discussing the merits of question length, and it deserves its space over there rather than us hijacking a company debut announcement.

Again, we are talking among the converted. I doubt that any of the coaches that ask for shorter questions frequents this board or really gives an iota about Matt's points about how shorter questions favors more random results and could penalize against actual recognition of in-depth knowledge. It is dangerous for us to presume coaches' motives. If anything has been true to me, it's that a lot of times coaches just want to be sure the kids enjoy themselves... other times, the coaches find this particular activity an additional burden to their real paid job of being a teacher. Training for longer questions is like training for a marathon; it takes a lot more discipline and practice even to finish one, much less win one.

There are many challenges that teachers have on their plate. Having other people persuade them that the short answers is the most expedient means to play the game (since Jeopardy! questions aren't that long) is probably the easiest answer. But we have to recognize that we have to find ways to make the coaches understand that longer questions are better for the educational value of the activity, that we do want to emphasize higher level thinking in Bloom's taxonomy, that the type of focus demanded on these students will be expected when it comes to college-level coursework (or the game if those students wish to continue).

The reason why so many freshman drop out is because they are not prepared to deal with longer questions (meaning more than 10 words). At least when it comes to selecting an all-star team, longer questions should play some role in discriminating the best from the rest.
Last edited by First Chairman on Thu May 18, 2006 4:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
mlaird
Tidus
Posts: 574
Joined: Tue Oct 05, 2004 10:07 am

Post by mlaird »

Everytime I hear someone say 'the questions are too long, waaah', all I want to say is 'why don't you answer them earlier then?' Pyramid questions are like a marathon where shorter questions are like a sprint. In a marathon, the differences in preperation become much more apparent than when one runs a sprint.

I agree that there can be shorter pyramid style questions that can be good. If that is what we were talking about way back up at the beginning, then, sure, I wouldn't mind seeing more of those. But I know that's not what we have in Illinois. We have 'Name the man who led the famous military group The Green Mountain Boys.' (which could have two answers, even).

Dr. Chuck or Herr Egan, I'd like to see that PACE Questionaire if it's at all possible. My assosciates and I were actually talking about this last night, and were wondering if it would be possible to get a survey out to all the coaches (and maybe even students, or maybe one per team) at the kickoffs. I would also personally like to see an IHSSBCA score sheet be bundled with every round, so that detailed statistics could be returned to the TDs/Bigwigs/question writers.
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman »

Send me an email.
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
NotBhan
Rikku
Posts: 375
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:30 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Post by NotBhan »

Matt Weiner wrote: Let's also remember another unfortunate truth here: when someone says "the match took too long" or "long questions are hard to follow" or "long questions are harder," or puts forth any argument that is factually untrue, they are not being honest. . . .
None of these things are necessarily factually untrue. I of course am a supporter of pyramidal structure in tossups, but they obviously can make a match take much longer, they can be harder to follow, and ... OK, I'll give you the third one, assuming the tossup topic befits it. A tossup with pyramidal structure is not necessarily a good tossup. A tossup which has an overly-long series of pyramidally-structured clues which fail to significantly differentiate amongst the field of teams is not a good tossup; 20 such tossups can indeed turn an otherwise fun experience into a miserable slough through verbiage for even the dominant teams. And on a tossup in which it is possible for (say) 20+ seconds to have passed since the statement of the key pronoun, it can indeed be difficult to follow the question for even an experienced player, let alone a neophyte. As such, neither criticism necessarily arises out of dishonesty.

In the case of Illinois (though the thread has now been split), the "short pyramid" seems like the way to go, so long as the answers are of appropriate difficulty for the field.

--Raj Dhuwalia
"Keep it civil, please." -- Matt Weiner, 6/7/05
User avatar
Matt Weiner
Sin
Posts: 8424
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2003 8:34 pm
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Matt Weiner »

We've been over this issue of match length before in regard to the collegiate game. I want you to find 20 tossups of average length (6 lines), cut off the last 2 lines of each, and read the remaining 80 lines out loud. It will take you, at most, five minutes. Sufficiently long tossups are not what causes a match to run long; the moderator losing control of the room and allowing teams to break into a Socratic seminar about every tossup answer is. NAQT's best moderators can finish a 24/24 packet of 4 line tossups and 4-8 line bonuses in well under 18 minutes; I can finish a 20/20 packet of 6-line tossups and 10-line bonuses in 20 minutes without racing past the teams' ability to comprehend, and in fact I do so every time I read. It will take a bad reader 45 minutes to read 20 two-line tossups with 3-line bonuses, because what determines match length is not tossup length, but reader experience.

The other point is well-taken. Multiple-clue tossups are a necessary condition for good tossups, but are far from a sufficient condition. There is a lot more to do in order to make questions good.
User avatar
Captain Sinico
Auron
Posts: 2867
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Champaign, Illinois

Post by Captain Sinico »

Okay, see, here's the thing; you can write a bad tossup in any number of ways including but not limited to in a pyramidal format. There can be no doubt that that's true. However, by the very same criterion you use as primary in stating what a bad pyramidal tossup would be, you can easily see that a short tossup (i.e. one containing only one or two uniquely identifying clues) will never be good, which is really more apropos. That is to say, it's pretty trivial to see that such a short tossup will never do an adequate job differentiating among teams' knowledge. In other words, pyramidal tossups aren't necessarily good, but short tossups are necessarily bad (or, in other words, what Matt just said.)

MaS
Tegan
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Post by Tegan »

I think there may be a misconception on the definition of short....length vs. # of clues.

I think you really can write a good question that is relatively short in length (2-3 lines), but has multiple clues, and establishes a pyramidality to how these clues are presented.

If we're talking short as in having only 1-2 clues, than I would agree comepltely that this is not a good style.

In addition, questions that banter on with long leadins may in fact be 3-5 lines long, but waste everyone's time.

I think my fellow Illinoisians have been arguing for: there are good questions that are shorter in length (2-3 lines) that can be well written questions in a pyramid style....that not every question needs to be 6+ lines long to be "good".....also (and no one is really defending this): just because a question is 6+ lines long, doesn't make it good.
User avatar
Matthew D
Yuna
Posts: 919
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2005 9:52 pm
Location: Scenic Grant Alabama

Post by Matthew D »

I truthfully don't think that anyone would defend the statement that just because a question is long then they are good questions. I do think that a rich clue set is a must with any good question though
Matt Dennis
Coach DAR Quizbowl Team
User avatar
Zip Zap Rap Pants
Yuna
Posts: 780
Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 12:55 am
Location: Richmond/Williamsburg, VA
Contact:

Post by Zip Zap Rap Pants »

^^On that note, in practice today we were reading IS-20 or something around there, and a lot of the tossups had pretty obscure information and then the last sentence was a giveaway, without a lot in between, leading to more buzzer races. NAQT seems to have improved since then (this set was used like two or three years ago), but yea a "long" question has to have good pyramidality and such. Also, sometimes it's hard to define what's a long question and whats not. For instance, the Battle of the Brains TV questions used to be one to two line junk, now the tossups are around 3 lines I think and since NAQT writes them now, there's greater pyramidality (though within the limits of BoB - there are still many buzzer races).
Matt Morrison, William & Mary '10, Tour Guide &c., MA in History '12?

"All the cool people eat mangoes while they smoke blunts and do cannonballs off a trampoline into my hot tub..."
-Matt Weiner

“In beer there is strength,
In wine is wisdom,
In water is germs.”
-Unknown

new email: mpmorr at email dot wm dot edu
NotBhan
Rikku
Posts: 375
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:30 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Post by NotBhan »

Matt Morrison wrote:^^On that note, in practice today we were reading IS-20 or something around there ... NAQT seems to have improved since then (this set was used like two or three years ago)
Actually, six years ago, or at least that's when IS-20 was completed (early 2000).
"Keep it civil, please." -- Matt Weiner, 6/7/05
NotBhan
Rikku
Posts: 375
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2003 12:30 pm
Location: Parts Unknown

Post by NotBhan »

Since this is the theory page, and since I can't sleep at the moment, perhaps I'll take a shot at defending the one-line tossup. Or at least I'll consider any possible advantages in a somewhat neutral manner, since the disadvantages have been addressed at length. [Note: when I refer to "short tossups" below, I'm referring to the dreaded one-sentence tossup with 1-2 clues, maybe 3 tops.]

So what hypothetical advantages might a set of one-line tossups have over a set of pyramidal tossups? A couple spring to mind. ...

[1] You can fit far more tossups into the same amount of time, assuming all other factors are equal. In reading a timed format with mostly one-sentence tossups (and 2- or 3-part bonuses) in Florida in years past, I'd hit anywhere from 40-60 tossups in 24 minutes, roughly the time it takes me to read a typical invitational mACF pack with 20 tossups.

[2], or perhaps [1a] You can ask about many more topics on tossups when twice as many tossups are read.

I don't think either of these comes close to outweighing the disadvantages, but there they are. And I suspect that to those who like short tossups, these are not inconsequential points. Just as I like to hear as many rounds as possible when I travel 7 hours to go to a tournament, those teams might want to hear as many questions as possible. (That's not relevant if the number of questions per round is fixed, of course.) I'll throw in a few other possible advantages which may or may not be valid or relevant.

[3] Short tossups may create a faster-paced game.

[4] In the specific case where an audience is involved (e.g. a TV show), shorter tossups may better fit the audience's expectations of a quizbowl competition (whatever that means), in addition to being more practical in the sense of the first 3 points. The audience is also more likely to hear almost the whole question with short tossups, whereas they don't get to hear a larger fraction of a pyramidal tossup.

[5] Shorter tossups are easier to write, especially for inexperienced writing staffs, and especially when a time crunch is involved. Of course, any time savings may be offset by having to write twice as many questions. (And in reference to my later babbling, writing a short-tossup set capable of differentiating amongst teams would involve some time in planning.)

[6] Short tossups are easier for an inexperienced moderator to read. Or they're harder to screw up, since there's less volume of verbiage, no between-sentence pauses, etc. Of course, more tossups may require more rapid back-and-forth from tossups to bonuses, which could hinder an inexperienced moderator.

[7] Hearing more questions (if relevant) can improve a more knowlegeable team's chance of winning. For instance, a 20-tossup round with 4 lit questions may have 2 questions on books which members of the much weaker team B had to read, earning team B a split. With questions on twice as many literature topics, team A's advantage increases.

One could also add the game-playing aspects of outracing the opponent on the buzzer, but I don't want to cause any arrhythmias among those reading this. All that said, I don't see either the advantages or the "advantages" of the one-line tossup outweighing the advantages of pyramidal structure.

*************************************

So on a related note, is it possible to write a question set which uses one-sentence tossups but still meets the goal of effectively differentiating amongst teams? Can answer difficulty replace sequential clue difficulty as a means of separation? If some organization paid you to write a tournament set but insisted on one-sentence tossups, could you write a set which effectively differentiates amongst teams? I think it is theoretically possible. A well-written set of bonuses differentiates between teams of different levels, and bonus parts are essentially one-sentence clues. If (say) a bonus on the 1824 election can differentiate amongst teams by asking about Jackson, Clay, and Crawford, why can't a set of one-sentence tossups of similar difficulty accomplish the same goal?

To answer my own question, a fast-on-the-buzzer team with less knowledge might steal both Jackson and Clay, leaving only Crawford for the more knowledgeable team. And for teams of similar level, as we know, the difference in bonus conversion is pretty small. As such, it would be tough to write such a set. I don't know that one can write a set that can (1) differentiate strong teams from middle from weak, (2) be enjoyable and accessible for all levels, and (3) differentiate amongst strong (etc) teams. As for goal 2, pyramidal structure seems far superior on that count, since every team has a shot at nearly every tossup; with differentiation based on answer difficulty, many questions will go dead amongst weaker teams. Goals 1 and 3 are tough to merge. Maybe the ideal circumstance is a tournament where most teams are at about the same level, like a state championship tournament with a small field of regional winners.

I reckon that's probably enough babble for me. I don't know that I offered any useful information, and I don't find these points compelling enough for me to prefer short tossups to pyramidal ones. But some of these might be points to address if you're in the situation of trying to convince a qb organization to switch away from one-sentence tossups.

--Raj Dhuwalia, planning to trim garrulous wording later
"Keep it civil, please." -- Matt Weiner, 6/7/05
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman »

I think that Raj's list of why short tossups can be a positive does hit on the question of breadth of an entire game to differentiate between teams, provided that again the tossups are written well enough to distinguish between the two teams. Many of his points are well taken and do simplify a lot of things for readers and the audience.

Obviously there has to be a balance: for each question there should be an optimal number of clues that must be given to properly distinguish one team from another. For an entire game, there must be enough questions with sufficient curricular breadth (i.e., not all history questions deal with the American Civil War in a packet). In both cases, there is likely a Laffer-like curve because one cannot write down all the clues pertaining to an answer in a question, and one cannot ask an infinite number of questions in a game. I'm pretty sure there is some number in educational psychology that talks about optimal time of a person's attention span given new information, and the best games perhaps deal with questions in which that length is met.

Of course, sometimes I am of the opinion that it's not the questions that are suboptimal, it's the way we test (i.e., reliance so much on buzzer systems)... but that's another question for theory.
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
minty064
Lulu
Posts: 7
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 6:58 pm
Location: Washington, DC
Contact:

Post by minty064 »

Pyramidal tossups seem the best and fairest way of writing questions for quiz bowl. If the tossups take too long, couldn't they be rephrased as some sort of bonus? Also, it's beneficial just to hear the different clues--it could make one more familiar with something they already know. I obviously try to identify answers from an early clue at tournaments and practices, but at home I just read lots of good packets.
jrbarry
Yuna
Posts: 853
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2003 10:22 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Post by jrbarry »

Some of us used long, pyramid-style tossups before NAQT was organized. That's the type of question I prefer.

Most folks in GA/SC prefer those because we are used to them. But, to satisfy those who prefer shorter, pyramid-style questions, I use a 4-quarter matrch format which starts off with 10, shorter tossups. Kind of a warm-up round. Our second and fourth quarter tossups are longer ones. All tossups are pyramid in style even the short ones. We do not ask "Who wrote Billy Budd?" as a tossup question.
Tegan
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Post by Tegan »

NotBhan wrote: [6] Short tossups are easier for an inexperienced moderator to read. Or they're harder to screw up, since there's less volume of verbiage, no between-sentence pauses, etc. Of course, more tossups may require more rapid back-and-forth from tossups to bonuses, which could hinder an inexperienced moderator.
As I finally got around to reading this in its entirety, this one struck me and generated a thought....

In Illinois, it is far more common to have coaches split moderating duties, or have some pretty poor recruited moderators read. I wonder if a lot of the opposition to these types of questions has to do with the coaches/moderators who hate reading long questions, versus players actually not liking to listen to them. I know that in many states, coaches never read, and I wonder if this has helped push pyramidality as the standard.

It would be interesting to do a survey of players around these parts and their coaches and see where the "opposition" really lies.
David Riley
Auron
Posts: 1428
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2003 8:27 am
Location: Morton Grove, IL

Post by David Riley »

I think you're right about this, at least perception-wise. But (my usual soap box) I have to say I've heard many players (virtually all of them from south of I-74) complain about long questions, pyramid-style or otherwise.
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman »

Admittedly, that is a concern. I have found that a lot of coaches don't like to read even the one-line-long tossup questions as they stumble on those questions (or worse... the math questions).
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

SO TO FOLLOWUP...

Post by First Chairman »

So this is going to be a challenge for some of you, because as we can tell from each other... we have a tendency to lob bombs at the "other side."

So I have a unique challenge. Obviously attacking the party opposite on why short tossups "aren't cricket" is going to result in ... well... no progress (cf Israeli-Palestinian conflict). If we are going to have some changes, we're going to need to take a different tactic.

I would like to have you all sincerely take the side of the opposition. Under what conditions and reasons would short-question quiz bowl be considered "good quiz bowl"? Tom's responses regarding the games not being "fun" may be easily discounted by this group, but to the people who hold those beliefs, they feel those reasons have great merit. So without engaging in insulting the opposition, can you come up with meritorious reasons why short tossups would be preferable over long ones? Why would questions like "Which French sculptor created the state of George Washington found in the Virginia state capitol?" (#12) be considered "good quiz bowl"?

On the opposite side of the aisle, we engage in short pyramid questions all the time in writing bonus questions. Is there a reason why we are so wedded to having "longer" tossups and "shorter" bonuses? Why should we not strive to have tossups also be of the same length as the shorter bonus questions?
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
David Riley
Auron
Posts: 1428
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2003 8:27 am
Location: Morton Grove, IL

Post by David Riley »

First, thanks to Dr. Chuck for being the voice of reason :grin:

Well, although I'm guilty of starting this battle (at least recently), I never said I preferred short questions, I was simply saying that if Aegis Questions wants to make a profit, they will--at least in Illinois--have to write short, non-pyramid style tossups.

So when can they be good?

1) When they are not buzzer-beaters. I once told my team that if they heard one more question about "who wrote "The Road Not Taken"?, they had my permission to scream as loud as they could in unison (a la Pee Wee's Playhouse). On the other hand, since most Illinois students do not study music or art, virtually anything in those areas is permissible. But if they require other than common knowledge, then why not?

2) The standard pyramid question requires a knowledge of the subject, hopefully so that you can get a "power" where such a rule is used. But this can be very difficult in an area where, for example, Brit Lit is a one semester elective, and the coursework is more vocational than academic. I've found in such cases that Bloom's taxonomoy rarely rises above knowledge and recall, whereas better educational systems (cf. TJ, Maggie Walker, etc.) promote application, analysis, and synthesis. If this is the case, pyramid questions are indeed "too long", because both teams will sit there until the final clue.In this case, short questions would be good quiz bowl. However, I will be the first to say that this shouldn't be applied to either the national circuit or state level questions. Those questions should be the best that can be written.

My $0.02 worth (thus far?)
User avatar
First Chairman
Auron
Posts: 3875
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2003 8:21 pm
Location: Fairfax VA
Contact:

Post by First Chairman »

Thanks for starting this off. I won't directly address your points here, but I want to encourage others to keep going.

What I'm trying to do is get an idea of where the obstacles will be for any debate on this topic. We do have a lot of people from rather "elite" schools who do very well at nationals. I have a suspicion that the "little" (read: less academically accomplished) schools don't have the same resources as the "big" schools do.

Imagine you are attending or teaching at a high school where there are no AP classes, the art/music budget has been cut, and that athletics is king. Getting your students to actually complete a four-year course of study (or even pass their class) is a higher priority than getting them into the SHRYMP* schools. How is It's Ac or quiz bowl perceived in these environments? In all likelihood, it's not on the high-priority list; the admins and faculty probably don't want to see their kids be on the show to be embarrassed, but they don't have the resources to prepare students for this type of preparation.

I'm just trying to have some of you guys start thinking outside our normal environments and consider the other side a bit more before we go about labeling them all as "misguided" or "dumb." Obviously if we disregard their opinions, we are really missing out on an opportunity...

* The things I learn when I'm at Duke: SHRYMP = Stanford, Harvard, Rice, Yale, MIT, Princeton... all of whom Duke includes as its peers.
Emil Thomas Chuck, Ph.D.
Founder, PACE
Facebook junkie and unofficial advisor to aspiring health professionals in quiz bowl
---
Pimping Green Tea Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
User avatar
Stained Diviner
Auron
Posts: 4868
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2004 6:08 am
Location: Chicagoland
Contact:

Post by Stained Diviner »

Occasionally, when it's a day with half my class not there or a worthless day like the day before Winter Break, I will bring some quiz bowl questions in to my regular classes. When I do so, I bring in short questions because the students have a lot more fun. There is no expectation that students in my regular classes will invest hours in preparation, so it is not a crime when several of them try to buzz in at the same time. Also, many of them are unable to answer what any quizbowler would consider to be an easy question.

When there is no chance of answering a question in the first two or three sentences, then the question is bad. No chance is very different than a small chance. For certain groups of students (such as my regular classes), NAQT questions fit that description. There have been times when I am coaching a weak B Team and we play another weak team on long questions when I have felt like telling the moderator to skip the first sentence or two because the teams were having enough trouble on the giveaways. On other occasions, when my A Team is beating up on some newbie team, I almost wish that somebody would throw a hose our way to give the other team a chance to break 100.

My team will soon play at NAQT, and we are probably in the top half of the field. If we were attending a worse tournament, we would go in with the dream of getting on a run, catching some breaks, and winning the whole thing. (It probably wouldn't happen, but the chance would exist.) At NAQT, there is no chance whatsoever that we will win the whole thing, and that takes some of the excitement out of attending it. We will enjoy ourselves and hope to survive to play Sunday, but the thrill that would come with a potential championship isn't there.
David Reinstein
PACE VP of Outreach, Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT (2011-2017), IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), PACE Member, PACE President (2016-2018), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)
User avatar
NotjustoldWASPs
Wakka
Posts: 151
Joined: Sat May 07, 2005 5:12 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Post by NotjustoldWASPs »

2) The standard pyramid question requires a knowledge of the subject, hopefully so that you can get a "power" where such a rule is used. But this can be very difficult in an area where, for example, Brit Lit is a one semester elective, and the coursework is more vocational than academic. I've found in such cases that Bloom's taxonomoy rarely rises above knowledge and recall, whereas better educational systems (cf. TJ, Maggie Walker, etc.) promote application, analysis, and synthesis.
I know that in our area, the TV show is called "It's Academic," but in my overall experience, I've found that only about 50% (maybe less) of the material I hear in quizbowl questions I actually learned beforehand in a classroom setting. When I first got into quizbowl my freshman year, most of the (very few) buzzes I got at tournaments came from reading I had done on my own. In addition, many things one picks up from hearing the same canonical questions over and over through both tournaments and PRACTICE. I can't count the number of times I've had a lecture by a teacher in which I could have given a decently accurate lecture myself based on stuff I'd learned through quizbowl or reading on my own that was inspired by quizbowl. In general, schools cannot devote the time to giving students such an in depth education as required to know the facts for to "power" many pyramidal questions...there's just not enough time in the day. This being said, the teams that really want to be good are the ones that naturally want to read and learn more. If what I've seen this year through this discussion forum, the cancellation of ASCN, and the ever-growing field at NAQT is indicitive of an overall trend of preferences switching from shorter questions to longer, pyramidal ones, then it won't necessarily "favor" the schools from stronger districts. Rather, as in sports, it will favor the team that comes in not only with the most inate ability (i.e. buzzer skills, recall speed--two things highly rewarded in shorter tossups), but also teams that work hard, through reading and practicing. I know it's helped me a lot.
Neel Kotra
WUSTL '10
e_steinhauser
Lulu
Posts: 55
Joined: Fri May 05, 2006 3:59 pm
Location: Magnolia, AR

Re: SO TO FOLLOWUP...

Post by e_steinhauser »

E.T. Chuck wrote:On the opposite side of the aisle, we engage in short pyramid questions all the time in writing bonus questions.
Not to pick nits here, but I don't think this is true at all, unless you count the (increasingly unpopular) 30-20-10.

Bonuses test a different set of knowledge and skills than tossups. Bonuses are the breadth and depth check for an entire team, and well-constructed ones will differentiate between the experts and those with a more passing familiarity. Because they are directed towards one team and uninterruptable, the differentiation comes through the different topics and answers instead of a hierarchy of decreasingly obscure clues. Therefore, they can be somewhat more pithy.

To employ the old Dreaded Sports Analogy (TM), tossups are analagous to defense, while bonuses are the offense, particularly in the non-bounceback style. Even though tossups do give you some points, their greatest benefits are in giving your team the opportunity to put a lot of points on the board, while at the same time denying your opponent those points. As such, tossups are the most important part of the game. Defense dominates once again.

I think it just makes logical sense that the most important part also be the best written and most developed.
--eps
Trevkeeper
Tidus
Posts: 527
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2005 7:12 pm

Post by Trevkeeper »

Is it possible to think about a bonus as just an expansion of a tossup? Perhaps a tossup on Steinbeck would mention that he wrote Cannery Row, Travels with Charley, and Of Mice and Men; a bonus question could go into depth on all three texts, instead of just mentioning them in passing.

I know that was rather incoherent, but I was never good at articulating my points. In fact, I'm not sure whether I agree with you or not on that point Dr. Chuck. :smile:
Nick, IU and Aegis Questions
Tegan
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Post by Tegan »

If the goal is to have fun, that equates to scoring. Shorter toss-ups won't delay the gratification of hitting the buzzer. Questions that are simpler mean that more players have achance to see their light go off, and thus get rewarded ..... it gives the appearance that the team is more balanced and that everyone is getting involved ..... thus it makes you look like a better coach because there is a greater probabilty that everyone is more happy. If your team has a propensity to lose, the shorter, easier questions give your team an incresed chance of pulling an upset ..... increasing reward and gratification for you team. Its like climbing the mountain on a funicular.



These came off the top of my head, but I would guess that these may be going through some coaches' heads either consciously or unconsciously from time to time.
brownboy79
Rikku
Posts: 329
Joined: Sun Oct 02, 2005 7:22 pm

Post by brownboy79 »

Tegan wrote:If the goal is to have fun, that equates to scoring. Shorter toss-ups won't delay the gratification of hitting the buzzer. Questions that are simpler mean that more players have achance to see their light go off, and thus get rewarded ..... it gives the appearance that the team is more balanced and that everyone is getting involved ..... thus it makes you look like a better coach because there is a greater probabilty that everyone is more happy. If your team has a propensity to lose, the shorter, easier questions give your team an incresed chance of pulling an upset ..... increasing reward and gratification for you team.
I fully believe that a match is to reward those players with the most knowledge, rather than those who have the best reflexes. Getting involved is a minor reason to play a game, quiz bowl should showcase the team that has the most in-depth knowledge, regardless of the number of people contributing. I always feel happier when I hit an early power than when I win a buzzer race at the end. If a coach is in his/her positiong to look good, he/she shouldn't be there. Upsets, while interesting, should definitely not be a question writer's goal.

I realize that the above is not well-organized, but it's 1 AM.
Tegan
Coach of AHAN Jr.
Posts: 1975
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2004 9:42 pm

Post by Tegan »

bb79,

I agree, but I was taking up Dr. Chuck's challenge to look at this argument from the flip side.....as sadly I think many coaches do. I have run into a lot of coaches who look at this strictly as a "let participate and have fun" type activity rather than a competitive venture that offers a lot about learning "knowledge beyond strict academia" as well as learning about competing in a fair, healthy environment.

The former look at the latter as "overly competitive", while the later look at the former as "spineless jellyfish". I was just taking up an attempt to view the argument from the otherside.

And for 1am, I think you did just fine!
brownboy79
Rikku
Posts: 329
Joined: Sun Oct 02, 2005 7:22 pm

Post by brownboy79 »

I guess I misunderstood your intentions. That is totally my fault, sorry. I happen to agree with the spineless jellyfish and your depictions of how people view one another are accurate. I do not see that many posts in this area in favor of short tossups (perhaps due to the title), but the opposing viewpoint was certainly appropriate.
sweaver
Lulu
Posts: 87
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2006 5:31 pm
Location: West Virginia

Post by sweaver »

Let us not get too uppity about quiz bowl questions. Few can stretch players beyond recall, and it is rare to go far up the taxonomy of Bloom to analysis or synthesis.

There is a place for speed questions like "Who invented the phonograph?" but a longer question demanding more of the listener is preferable.
User avatar
EagleFan
Lulu
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:54 am
Contact:

Post by EagleFan »

It is infinitely preferrable to provide players with questions that allow them to demonstrate superior knowledge. If a specific player knows all there is to know about--say--psychologically challenging Latin-American authors who leave everything to interpretation and leave thousands of students yearly cowering in the dirt, unable to utter a word from sheer confusion and lack of comprehension skills, then that player should be given the opportunity to buzz in early in a pyramidal question about a spy who kills a man to relay a Nazi message or hexagonal rooms (beep!) containing books whose contents consist of entirely random numerals, rather than having to beat the buzzer on a question that consists entirely of:

Name the author of "The Garden of Forking Paths" and "The Library of Babel."
Locked