Giving Compass’ Take:
• Experts disagree on the effectiveness of multiple-choice tests, and offer different ways for professors to improve their evaluation methods.
• How can donors support further research on the issue? How can philanthropy support the implementation of improved evaluation techniques?
• Learn more about the future of testing in schools.
Multiple-choice questions don’t belong in college. They’re often ineffective as a teaching tool, they’re easy for students to cheat, and they can exacerbate test anxiety.
That’s the case being made by two instructional designers at different colleges who are encouraging professors to try alternative assessment methods. The pair, Flower Darby, from Northern Arizona University, and Heather Garcia, from Foothill College, presented an eye-catching poster at the Educause Learning Initiative conference this year with the title, “Multiple-choice quizzes don’t work.”
One solution, says Garcia, is for professors to give “more authentic” assignments, like project-based work and other things that students would be more likely to see in a professional environment. After all, she notes, “you’re never going to encounter multiple-choice quizzes on the job somewhere.”
To be fair, not everyone is so down on multiple choice. In fact, two scholars wrote a book a few years ago about their benefits, called “Learning and Assessing with Multiple-Choice Questions in College Classrooms.”
“There is a lot of bad multiple-choice testing out there, but it doesn’t mean that multiple choice is bad,” says Jay Parkes, one of the book’s coauthors, and a professor of educational psychology at University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.
There are rules to writing good multiple-choice questions. For one thing, be careful not to give away the right answer with grammatical cues, like making the correct answer the only one that fits the structure of a sentence. He also tells professors to craft their wrong answers carefully, so that they can get a sense of where students are in their learning by which answer they chose. A carefully chosen wrong answer is called a “distractor.” It’s an answer that does have a rationale, but it isn’t correct.
Read the full article about multiple choice tests by Jeffrey R. Young at EdSurge.
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