Ideas for writing multi choice questions. A broad view of assessment.

I am not a fan of multi choice questions. Any regular reader will know that it’s one of my least favourite types of so called assessment and one of the things that is most often poorly executed.

And lest you think i’m being critical of others, i should admit that i am as guilty as anyone of carrying out that typical project activity of ‘oh goodness it’s due in three hours and i haven’t written the assessment yet… better do a multi choice‘, then tripping out some pointless questions about ‘facts‘.

There is nothing inherently wrong with asking questions, indeed, it’s a good way of testing knowledge, but it’s just one part of a much larger jigsaw, and it’s often the only part that is laid on the table.

Lets think about the different elements that can make up assessment: diagnostics, knowledge, application, reasoning… there will be more, but let’s go with these for the minute.

Knowledge is one part of the picture, but being able to diagnose what is wrong with situations, being able to recognise when to apply that knowledge, to understand the context, the limiting factors and the relevance, these are also key skills, and harder to assess with multi choice. Diagnosis usually involves looking at ‘real life‘ examples and being asked to identify what can be done differently. Including diagnostic questions (even within multi choice, before we even consider more innovative ways of doing it) is a great way of making the learning relevant. We are immediately applying knowledge to real life situations. Key words here are ‘what, how, why, what do you think?’ Our focus is on exploring individual learner’s views and understanding.

Application is an interesting area to explore. We can look at how knowledge allows us to do things like quantify risk, how it allows us to prioritise activities, how it allows us to stop doing certain things and start doing others. The key words here are ‘prioritise, manage, control, start, stop, change…‘, the key words are actions words!

Reasoning is where we argue our corner. It’s all very well making decisions, but we want to know why those decisions were made and what the reasoning and justification was behind them. We don’t want to just leave the assessment at the diagnosis, knowledge or application stage, we want to explore the reasoning behind the decisions. It’s this reasoning that helps embed the learning. The key words are ‘explain, justify, explore‘. It’s a more reflective phase, harder to do with multi choice, but still worth considering.

Generally, i advocate using different assessment methods where possible, but the purpose of this piece was to explore what can be done purely within multi choice. It might not be my favourite approach, but it does have the advantage of being very quick to write and easy to implement. Maybe i should reassess my reluctance to use it?

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Assessment, Diagnostic tools, Effectiveness, Exploration, Instructional Design, Learning, Multi Choice, Theory and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ideas for writing multi choice questions. A broad view of assessment.

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