Multiple Choice — comment on Seth Godin’s piece

I am not a fan of standardized testing in schools.

But that doesn’t mean I am necessarily against a Multiple Choice exam/test/quiz. That’s 2 different things. I’m not sure what Seth Godin’s point is exactly. I guess he’s complaining about bad tests and bad teachers. OK, but…

If one *CHOOSES* to pursue a course of study (whether training to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, auto-repair technician, software or hardware expert, etc) then why not a multiple choice test or quiz along the way. Totally appropriate. If you are looking to be certified. I am glad that there are multiple choice tests for getting driving (and boat driving) licenses. Etc. etc.

I’m sure lots of MC tests are bad. But lots are good or just fine. As with anything I guess… it depends.

2 interesting examples:

1) There are online testing/quizzing systems used for teaching (not just assessing) that have (as part of it)
multiple choice questions with instant customized feedback
depending on which wrong answer you choose–focusing the explanation on
the misconception that may have lead you to the wrong answer.
example: OWL
(I believe there is research that shows that for learning… it’s the instant and customized feedback that matters. Disclaimer. I worked on OWL back in 1996)

2) And there are systems for use in large classrooms (like a big university lecture)
called SRSs (student response systems) that allow a 300-person lecture
to be operated more like a 30-person classroom in that the prof/teacher/instructor is able
to access in aggregate (via MC questions answered by the 300 via clickers) what the thinking of the class is. Are they following? Misconceptions? etc. Granted, you could probably do the same with a lower tech show of hands, but the MC aspect remains useful.

I am of course open to seeing studies (or hearing stories) showing that both are flops! Both seemed pretty OK when I experienced them first hand in the hands of expert teachers really thinking about teaching concepts to motivated and engaged students and not just pushing facts on uninterested students.

As long as the person chooses what they are studying, I am good!

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