Being that assessment is one of the most valuable components in the classroom, teachers can utilize numerous opportunities to evaluate their students. Depending on the design of questioning throughout a particular assessment, teachers may choose to simply check on memorization and recall of facts; they may focus on skill development; they may have questions and methods for strategic thinking or even extend and apply ideas in a more global format. The choice for types of questioning, which depend on the objectives for a particular assessment, must be explored for advantages and disadvantages.
Types of Test Questions
The most popular assessment questions are those of multiple choice. While they have a place in assessment, there are certainly some pros and cons to consider. They are considered a more traditional, basic regurgitation of facts that don’t require higher levels of cognition. Multiple-choice questions really are an exercise in memorization, which isn’t always a negative. Again, it just depends on the nature of the assessment objective.
They provide an opportunity for evaluating which nuggets of information during lessons stood out the most to students in a standardized way to allow for a quick data review. From a teaching perspective, they are much less time-consuming to evaluate and can often be graded quickly based on software programs or through physical machines like Scantron. They also save time in developing. For students, it is a matter of having the information accessible with each choice of ‘a,b,c,d’ and reasoning through the most likely correct answer.
Possibly the most effective use of multiple-choice questions pertains to small summative evaluations throughout a unit to allow teachers to adjust instruction quickly in order to best meet students’ needs. Quizzes or entrance/exit tickets are solid examples.
These types of questions can be problematic for students but beneficial for skill development. The issues that arise in using these true and false questions pertain to the design of the question. While they appear to be easy to create, they actually take quite an amount of thought in order to perfectly encapsulate the ideas an educator is trying to assess. One wrong use of a word or example can throw the entire question out.
As well, depending on the subjective nature of words, in fact, alluding to connotation of wording, students can misunderstand or process incorrectly the intention of the question. More specifically, the same word can be justifiably processed differently by the student and teacher, which becomes tough to grade according to right and wrong.
If an instructor is focusing on developing rhetoric or teaching the importance of vocabulary or grammatical and sentence structuring or even observation skills when it comes to communication, then true and false questions can provide those important opportunities. Students can focus on the levels of thought based on the words provided in a true and false question and how that changes when word selection changes. If that is a teacher’s objective, then it is apparent why this can be respected.
Matching questions are similar in nature to multiple choice in that they are focused on recall and recognition. These often require a bit more time to answer for students, and they benefit educators when the focus is on detailed acquisition of knowledge. They are also quick and easy to create for teachers.
Requiring students to process knowledge on several levels is one of the ultimate goals in education. Short answer questions provide an opportunity to layer several levels of cognition into student assessments. They can be placed and designed strategically throughout the testing to incorporate analysis and prevent students from simply guessing information. Short answer questions allow for more creativity in explaining comprehension of material.
Another advantage for teachers is that exams can be quickly and easily constructed of only short answer questions. If the objective is to get more than one or two sentences from a student, then probing their thought processes with multiple ideas for application is a strong assessment.
If the idea is simply to require students to minimize information in one or two sentences, these are not as beneficial. Short answer questions designed with that intention end up evaluating basic information and/or key facts. The grading of these can be laborious for teachers and, if not designed properly, end up consuming too much testing time for no significant gain.
For instructors who desire to have a complexity in thought by way of analysis and synthesis, essays can be a truly comprehensive method of assessment. These types of queries have an openness that allows for student processing and creativity. Teachers can assess accurately what students understand because it is difficult to bluff on essays.
Essays can be swiftly created by teachers, but they do change the time frame for students. Essays limit the number of questions educators can pose, and they take a much longer amount of time for students to effectively complete because the structure responsibility is on the students. Obviously, a major disadvantage is the amount of time it takes for teachers to evaluate and provide appropriate feedback.
Instructors must design a strong assessment while considering multiple variables, ranging from time limits of a class period to levels of thinking to objectives relative to curriculum and instruction. There are pros and cons to every type of question for educators. And while it seems that on an initial level some of these categories can be completed quickly and easily, when contemplating on the best assessment for classroom information, it becomes yet one more difficult task for educators.