school, books, experiences: in my own words (more or less).

Location: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Multiple Choice Tests?!


Multiple choice questions belong in surveys, not tests!

I just disagree with the entire teaching philosophy that employs that kind of evaluation device. I mean, it's so out of touch with reality that it would be laughable save for the fact that almost all (if not every) post-secondary institutions (which we pay thousands of dollars to attend) use them. It reaffirms, in my mind, that the primary purpose of junior (1st and 2nd years) post-secondary institutions is to weed out students, not on learning as we see in the later years, evidenced by more critical thinking exercises and evaluation. All of this just points to the simple fact that there are simply too many students to teach, the teacher to student ratio is too high. For interest sake, I'd like to go back to the era of scholars like Aristotle and see how, and if, the teacher as mentor model could be applied to modern educational environments.

I think there is a lot of value being discovered, and yet to be discovered, in group work. For instance, to alleviate the teacher's impossible burden of marking the essays of every student in a large class of potential hundreds, students could taught how to evaluate and mark other's papers within a group. Of course, due to the volume of material covered in early post-secondary years, the papers would have to be short in length, and the questions carefully selected; perhaps they could even be varied, or self-selected from a set of choices by the student. The teacher would provide the grading rubric to the students in advance for both writing and evaluating papers. A paper would get multiple marks, one for each student in a group; the "final" mark would be an average of these. Potentially, a student could even provide a self-evaluation. As part of the marking, each student would justify the assigned grade. The author of the paper could then submit to the teacher a brief statement indicating agreement or disagreement with the final mark, citing appropriate reasons either way. The teacher, and/or TAs if available, would have the final say in the assignment of the final mark. Not only does this teach students valuable skills such as analysis, evaluation, writing, opportunities to demonstrate learning (compared to MC evaluation) but also develops social and teamwork skills. Latent secondary effects could possibly include the formation of friendships, study groups, etc, which would potentially decrease dropout rates through increased social cohesion. Additionally, this would also serve to better prepare students for subsequent years of study, and for occupational realities.

I'm positive this idea is not new. Why don't we see it, why isn't it used?

The course I'm taking, first year Sociology, is extremely interesting in terms of the content covered. The professor also contributes positively to the classroom environment, giving the content voice and perspective. But after forking out almost $1000 CDN (~$100 of which were for fees I had no use for or couldn't use but was still charged for) and then another ~$250 for books, I just don't feel that I'm getting "bang for my buck" with the entire course grade being based on multiple choice exams (save 10% for tutorial participation, which turns out to be attendance, rather). In hindsight, I wish I had bought and read the books. I should note that I'm taking this course for interest, I already have a B. Sc. degree., so I'm not particularly interested in grades per se.

I'm really interested to see how Wikipedia's Wikiversity is going to turn out. That, coupled with a network of bloggers of a similar subject interest, could be your own personal university. I guess time will tell...


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