Rethink multiple choice testing to better evaluate learning (Opinion)


in a Excellent column, Ray Schroeder, a senior researcher at the Association of Online and Professional Education Leaders, regrets the trend that many teachers rely on test libraries of specific texts as source materials for student evaluation. He said that these queries are not only easy to cheat, but also evaluate low-level, non-localized, and therefore less relevant knowledge, such as names and dates.

Schroeder praised Grant Wiggins for Real evaluation As a preferred criterion for evaluating design. Real methods require judgment and innovation, and students are required to actively apply knowledge and skills in a real environment. “There is no shortcut to prove that you can apply what you have learned to a unique, newly shared situation,” Schroeder asserted. I agree very much. Authenticity is the key.

But this is where things get tricky: Schroeder said, “Obviously, real assessment is never a, b, c, d or multiple choices of true/false exams.” This certainly makes sense. The evaluation of multiple choices is indeed limited.

At the same time, many teachers, especially teachers in teaching-intensive institutions or leading high enrollment courses, do not have time for more rigorous assessment exercises. I have discussed this issue with dozens of colleagues at conferences, and have also discussed this issue in multiple iterations of the online teaching institution that I co-hosted at the university. Many people believe that multiple choice evaluation is logically necessary.

Students like them too. I conducted a survey of more than 1,400 college students in January 2021 and asked them what types of assessments they think work well in online and distance learning environments. The multiple choice test scores higher than any other tool, including various forms of writing, research projects, and presentations.

There are two explanations for this model. The first one is related to academic integrity: multiple-choice assessments may be easier because students can access the Internet in non-face-to-face courses. (Invigilation service can mediate Some cheating, But monitor students during the exam Create new challenges.) The second reason is that multiple-choice assessment is cognitively clear, and when students cannot obtain clarification points from the instructor, it may cause less anxiety. The students told me that both explanations are valid.

How do we solve this dilemma? Authentic assessment is widely regarded as superior in teaching, but multiple choice assessment is generally preferable to teachers and students. At least in some cases, the solution is to rethink the premise that multiple-choice questions cannot meet the true evaluation criteria. What if they can?

Consider this example: I often teach political science research methods. One goal of this course is to develop students’ technical literacy skills, which will help them navigate the often sticky world of political data. To achieve this goal, we studied the science of sampling and the uncertainties it creates. After considering various factors (such as margin of error), it is important that students can explain the substance of the polls they see in the news media.

If I asked you, “What is the standard margin of error for a political poll?” What would you do in an online multiple-choice test? If you don’t know the answer, you will most likely copy the question into a search browser, or if using the Internet violates the terms of evaluation, you will at least try to do so. I encourage you to take a moment to Google the above question.Not only will you find dozens of pages containing answers, you will most likely see the answers in countless pages Preview When you scroll down the screen.

This is a poorly designed multiple choice question that does not meet the above-mentioned true standards. Not only is it easy to search online, but the knowledge it evaluates is not even that is application, Instead of acknowledging the margin of error in opinion polls that really matter. that It’s me who seeks to develop students’ skills.

So, what if I do the following instead: In the quiz, I provide students with actual polls and let them play the role of newspaper editors, choosing headlines for stories about it.

Which newspaper headline most accurately describes the state of the Democratic primary in Texas?

  1. “Sanders voted far ahead of all candidates before the Texas election”
  2. “Sanders and Biden lead, but there is no clear leader”
  3. “Bloomberg’s poor poll performance shows that money is not important in the primaries”
  4. “Warren is the least likely to be the Democratic candidate in 2020”
  5. “Uncertain polls show that Texans are evenly distributed among the candidates”

This question is superior in several respects. First, it is not particularly easy to crack. Candidates cannot easily find the answer to this question online. More importantly, this problem is also more real. It places students in the real world, requires them to participate in an important civic activity, and provides a basis for assessing their ability to apply knowledge related to sampling and opinion survey interpretation.

The same process can be applied to various content. My political science students answered multiple-choice questions on a range of topics, such as determining which vote-counting system is most beneficial to a particular candidate based on the preferences of a group of voters, and suggesting how donors can judge a person’s finances based on campaign spending. Whether speech is protected by the First Amendment.

It should be noted that these high-level multiple-choice questions are not a panacea. Real assessments have certain characteristics, such as integrating feedback or improving products, which are not suitable. For example, I would not use this method to evaluate students in charge of advanced capstone courses that recommend changes to the U.S. Constitution. More generally, I don’t recommend that teachers rely solely on multiple-choice tests—or any single method when assessing student progress.

However, we should not completely ignore them either. For many teachers and students, the reality of higher education makes multiple choice assessment necessary, or at least very useful in some cases. It does not need to be an either-or proposition. Teachers can upgrade-or better yet bypass-multiple choice projects in traditional test libraries.In the process, we also increased the relevance of these assessments with Promote academic integrity. High-level multiple choice assessment can be used as a tool on the assessment tool belt, as well as other tools. Just make sure that all of this is true.


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