Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Assess Deeper With Multiple Choice Questions

 I recently got a new professional book that I am totally obsessed with!

The book, Beyond the Bubble, is about using multiple-choice tests to improve math instruction, but I have been taking it so much further, and I am glad that I have been.

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  Recently I had my students read a passage about the Pony Express from Edhelper.  Then they answered multiple choice questions.  I sat down with each one and asked them to explain WHY they chose their answers.  The book focuses on the why of their answers.  I am so glad that I started doing this because of one particular student's work so far.  Normally, if a student answers questions correctly, I tend to move on thinking that the student "gets it".  But in the case with this student it couldn't have been farther from the truth.

I'm not sure if you can see the text clearly in the picture, if you can't click on it and it should make it bigger.  Anyway, the question she answered correctly was "How many years did the Pony Express run?"  Her answer was C. 18 months. The place in the passage that answers the question is circled in red and states that the Pony Express ran for a year and a half.  When I asked the student where she found the answer she pointed to the two years that were listed (circled in blue), 1840's and 1860.  She said because there were 18s in the years, she thought that meant 18 months.  She lucked into the correct answer without any understanding of what the question really was asking, or how to find it.  If I hadn't asked her directly, I never would have known.

How many times have you used formative assessment in your class only to find that the students who "got it" bomb the state tests?  I know for me it has happened way more often than I would like.  I feel like going deeper into the multiple choice is a great way to really see what they are thinking.  I have also started to give less questions, but asked them to explain in writing why they made their choice.  It has really helped me tease out their misconceptions.

Have you ever asked your students to explain their thinking when taking a multiple choice quiz?

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