Do Multiple-Choice Exams relate to assessing standards?
by Elaine Gallagher The simple answer: NO! As common as they are, in various countries, (low-performers on the PISA) multiple-choice exams are […]
The simple answer: NO!
As common as they are, in various countries, (low-performers on the PISA) multiple-choice exams are good for only one thing: THEY ARE EASY TO CORRECT.
Do they assess what a student has actually learned? Absolutely not!
Do they measure intelligence? Language ability? Performance indicators? Knowledge of material studied in class? Mathematical ability? Fluency in writing, reading, history, geography or science? No!
If a student is lucky in Las Vegas, perhaps he/she can perform well on a multiple-choice exam, but this in no way implies that the student actually knows the material supposedly being tested.
So why do educators, schools, administrators, testing companies, government agencies, and educational entities continue to use multiple-choice exams to assess and evaluate students when we recognize that «passing» such an exam implies that (1) The student is a good guesser. (2) The student exhibits luck in Las Vegas. (3) The student has memorized responses.
The answer is «economy». It’s much less expensive and much easier to produce and score multiple-choice/true/false/matching exams than to assess using performance indicators, rubrics, observations, and portfolios.
Based on research by University of Pennsylvania professor TheodoreHershberg, standards-based classrooms focus on student performance.
How did you win merit badges in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts? You didn’t take multiple-choice tests. You practiced with the rope, and then you tied the knot in front of your Scout leader.
How do you get a job in photography? or admitted to art school? Once again, you don’t take a multiple-choice job test. You bring your portfolio of photographs or art work with you to the job interview, and you show your prospective employer what you can do with a camera.
How do you check language ability? By discussions, by writing creatively, and by speaking fluently; not by identifying grammatical terms or identifying the leading character in a story.
It’s performance that counts in the real world. In standards-based school reform, our classrooms will be organized around performance and student portfolios that collect student work. In the 21st century, portfolios are «in»; transcripts of grades are «out». Projects, cooperative learning activities, self-organized learning environments, and organized research, as advocated by Sugata Mitra, are examples of where education is moving, allowing students to develop their potential and their talents.
Are you and your school moving towards a new focus, including performance indicators, eliminating tedious, meaningless homework, forgetting the multiple-choice options of the 19th century? Are students getting excited and involved about real learning, using digital technology, seeking unique paths of interest, stimulated by gifted teachers? These are the options for great schools, for great directors, who are seeking world-class performance by students and teachers.
Are you part of change, or are you still resisting?