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Are your students reading? Use multiple choice

Multiple Choice. The mere mention of this form of evaluation causes: A) students to shudder; B) professors to lament; C) graders to experience relief; or E) all of the above.

Multiple choice is by no means a perfect tool for evaluation. It is a narrow tool for measuring facts rather than the application of ideas. Despite this, I challenge you to name a more efficient and effective way to measure whether students are doing their readings.

Students are engaging less with academic literature than ever before. Curating a broad selection of relevant scholarly work is no simple task and it is frustrating when a reference to a particular scholar or theory is met with blank stares. One of the most effective ways to measure whether students are doing their readings is to test them with multiple choice.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was not always on top of my readings during my undergraduate studies. One of my majors was English Literature, so I have a pretty strong grasp of the limited number of narrative themes. Come exam time I may not have read a particular work by Shakespeare, but I would be able to use my knowledge of tragedy to convince the professor that I did. In hindsight, the only person I was fooling was myself.

In another class we were assigned a number of weekly readings spanning the discipline’s body of knowledge. The professor gave us a 10% multiple choice exam on these readings and the class average was 40%. The message was received and the class average was 80% for the next test.

When students do their readings they are better equipped to integrate theory into practice. Multiple choice may not always be the ideal form of assessment but it can be argued that it is an effective way to determine whether students are doing their readings.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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