Objective Items

"The best hockey player in Canada is ______". Wayne Gretzky.

Objective Item Advantages and Disadvantages.

  • Survey a wide variety of material, in very little time

    • SAMPLING --students can write 60 multiple choice in an hour but only 1 essay

    • means they are generally more reliable

  • Students CAN'T BLUFF their way around the question

  • no "bs"ing as you can "write around" the question in essay --> teachers hate giving 0 for essay even when it doesn't say anything on topic

  • Writing skills, spelling and neatness don't get in child's way

  • my friend the dyslexic loves multiple choice....

    by same token, spelling, neatness don't get in marker's way either

  • old Social Studies exams, 50% of the variance in student's mark could be accounted for by spelling and mechanics even though these were not supposed to matter -- so prejudicial

  • Can use statistical analysis on individual questions or groups of questions to identify:

  • strenghts and weakness of test (before you hand it back)

  • specific strengths and weakness of individual students

  • topics that need to be retaught; areas where course needs work

  • Unbiased in sense that teachers' preconceptions of student's work can't influence marking

  • Answer key is unambiguous so two observers come to same conclusion, unlike essay where same essay can go from 0 to 100%

    "there's that right-wing jerk arguing in favor of Hitler again"

  • Fairly useful as pre-tests

  • since it is fast and you're probably not looking for higher level thinking so much as knowledge of the area

  • or diagnostic testing where you can reuse year after year because individual not class

  • Fast to mark:

  • so you can do large groups, especially when the teacher's time is limited

    [but then again its a pain in the behind to write, so it balances out in the end]

  • cheap to mark--> machine score --> why government uses them so much

  • Most types are limited to factual recall

      Not necessarily the case --> I will teach you how to get higher level thinking out of objective questions

      Most people don't have the know-how to make objective items which go beyond mere recall of facts

        even those who know how, often lack the time to build good ones

    • a higher order multiple choice can take 3 or 4 hours per question to write--> not worth the trouble unless you know you're teaching this for 20 years

      consequently, often low level recall only

  • Students need the opportunity to practice and demonstrate writing skills ---> if there is an over-reliance on objective testing, students will not have this opportunity.

    • Before provincial exams I had a university student who didn't know that a sentence started with a capital and ended a period. When I asked how he got through high school, he said that he only had to write four papers in three years; he failed those, but was brilliant on everything else...now we don't get that problem because teachers have to use essays and therefore the problem fixed before it gets to me.

    • Objective items should therefore be balanced with other forms of evaluation

        --> why there is written response on Diploma Exams

      • multiple-choice good enough to predict student ability, but need to include to enforce writing on teachers

  • Objective items often test skills other than those that the teacher intended

      e.g.--> cause and effect relationships, when teacher thought was straight recall

  • Can become a straight reading test If time is limited, while student spends little time writing, spends a lot of time reading and thinking.

  • May be inappropriate for Grades 1-3; grade 4 is iffy
    • (except True/False)
    • requires too much reading comprehension and abstract thinking

        "Piaget says 'No'"

    • matching, multiple choice definitely beyond them; maybe short answer

    • MAYBE true/false if careful about reading level

      -->Ultimately, it may be better to use non-test instruments for these grades

  • wording is crucial because only one specific and predetermined answer is acceptable.

      --> easy to become "guess what I am thinking" question

  • VERY time consuming to construct

  • Reusing tests may be problematicbut since time consuming to write, you'll want to reuse them --> item banking is ok

    • suggests that you're not doing diagnostic teaching because you should be custom making exam to current group...

    • means that a "leak" can be devastating

    • case at UofA where student wrote to her old campus to get copy of old exams to "study"

  • Promotes guessing (gets 25% for choosing all 'a's; 50% on T/F)

  • Test-wiseness often a problem means a student can get the right answer without really knowing.
  • Not suitable for language skill testing

      regardless of whatever test salesmen try to tell you

  • Does not reveal thinking process

    • in math, for example, the teacher wants to see WHERE child went wrong as well as if he or she got the right answer

    • if students can't display higher thinking, teacher's can't observe it, so limited diagnostic information available

  • Often fail to provide a learning experience for students because only deal with recall
  • Over-reliance on objective item tests will encourage rote memorization

      Again, there is a danger of sabotaging the neat things you are doing in your classroom if students learn that none of that higher thinking class discussion counts and all you are testing for is names and dates

        "What year did Picasso begin his Blue period"