Creating and administering tests is used as an important gauge of student learning by teachers, parents, and administrators. It’s not the only way, but it’s probably the most common. In my classroom, when I have to give a test or quiz, I do not use multiple choice, ever. And here’s why:
- Multiple choice requires less thought. With short answer, students cannot guess. They don’t have clues for the process of elimination. Plus, with well written questions, they’ll also be using support for their answer, which is not even possible with multiple choice questions. I like to make them prove their answer. This makes them think and provide support, which are important in the classroom and beyond.
- In ELA, there is not always one right answer. Making them think rather than pick steps away from using one right answer or interpretation, moving more into creating meaning and thinking critically. Higher level thinking, yo.
- Requires me to be selective with my questions. Short answer take longer to grade than multiple choice. So, to offset, I work to generally pick questions that are the best– ones that address specific concepts from the text (say, drawing attention to use of a literary concept or event in the text) or those that require greater thinking and support.
- Too easy to cheat. Copying a single letter or circle on a classmate’s work is very easy. I at least want them to work for it (and maybe on reading their classmates answer to copy will mean some information sneaks in). And since many of my students in alternative ed address their for credit, rather than learning, I have to be cognizant of the draw of cheating to just get that credit.
- Too hard to catch cheaters. Many of my students don’t copy all the answers from a classmates. Only some. That means that usually have enough difference between papers to look coincidental. More so if they have parents who think they’re kid can do no wrong– those differences become the focus and the vindication.
–>With short answer questions, I can compare word choice, word order, order of ideas, and even spelling to build a case. I also grade by laying answer sheets side by side and grading all question 1, then all question 2– this method really makes it easy to catch those “similar” answers. I read another like it 2 second ago and can find it easily again.
Of course, several of these things are a big factor in why I much prefer projects and activities rather than tests. But at least if I have to give a test, I can make it model the reading and discussion questions done in class by using short answer and allowing access to the texts read. It’s something.