Too Little Too Late

Today I had a background feature exercise for Feature Writing.

Topics were posted on Blackboard (uni communications website) at two set times (10am and 2pm). We had three hours to source, write, and submit a story on one of the topics. You only had to complete one story.

I was in class until 10:30am, but looked at the topics when they were posted. I saw one I liked that was easy enough to source and write 800 words on, so I found two sources of my own, plus some secondary ones. I thought I might just be able to write this story and submit it before 1pm, so that I could rest this afternoon.

This was not the case.

My drive home was interspersed with pulling over and talking to sources, so I didn’t make it home until 12:15pm. I rushed inside, put all my sources in lest I should forget to include them, saved the document and opened the Blackboard page ready to submit.

I managed to write just under 600 words in about 30 minutes, which isn’t too bad. But it wasn’t nearly good enough for me to submit as assessment. No way.

Here is my rushed almost-600 words, unedited from when the clock ticked over 1pm, open for your scrutiny.

 

Scraping multiple-choice questions has multiple reactions

In an Australian first, the Central Queensland University of Rockhampton has decided to scrap including multiple-choice questions in their exams. Pro Vic-Chancellor of Learning and Teaching at the university, Professor Rob Reed, says this decision comes from there being “no circumstance in life, except from in game shows, where you make a choice from four listed answers”.

Professor Reed says he asked university staff to give him examples of where you find this in life, and all they could come up with was in game shows or in children’s shows.

The staff of CQU had mixed feelings about the change in exam techniques. Professor Reed said that some members of staff thought it was about time that this happened and that multiple-choice questions have no place in higher education.

“Others said, ‘this is going to mean more work’,” says the Professor. “But really it will mean less work.” He says that you have to think of three extra possible answers for multiple-choice questions, which takes longer than thinking of one question. But he said the university is offering help to their staff if they need it to rewrite their exams.

The change in exams will be introduced in term three. Professor Reed says that the decision to scrap multiple-choice questions was first discussed in March this year, but that they had to wait a term for the decision to pass.

“We were discussing the Learning Teaching and Assessment Policy with the Academic Board,” says the Professor. They decided that assessment should be authentic, and that is one thing Professor Reed says multiple-choice questions are not.

“The first was authenticity,” he said about the three reasons as to why CQU should remove the questions from their exams. “The second was the mathematics of the 50% per cent pass mark.” He says that to achieve this mark students need only know one third of the answers and guess about two thirds.

“The third was ethical,” says the Professor. In essence, a multiple-choice question only includes one correct answer, with the other three answers acting as distracters. These are there to distract students with the wrong answer, and therefore only test the students’ ability to weed out the right answer, not their knowledge.

But students have a different opinion of the multiple-choice questions. “Having some multiple choice can help trigger a light bulb moment when stuck on a short answer question even if that MCQ has nothing to do with the short answers,” says a CQU student who wishes to remain unnamed. “I stress about short question answers and feel more comfortable when there is some MCQ in there. It doesn’t mean I … studied any less.”

Other students are dreading the consequence on their exam results that the lack of multiple-choice questions will have.

But do we really know all we need to about multiple-choice exams? Ainissa Ramirez offers some more in depth opinions and history on multiple-choice tests in her article “The Dark History of the Multiple-Choice Test”.

“While many scorn them because they don’t allow an opportunity for learning, multiple-choice tests have become a staple in the U.S. – from college admissions to the popular television program Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” writes Ramirez. “Yet we know little about where they come from.”

“Multiple-choice tests had their origin in World War 1, when Dr. Robert Yerkes, President of the American Psychological Association, convinced the Army to commission them to test the intelligence of recruits.

 

I went on to include a quote after the paragraph beginning “other students”, and some more information and quotes from Ramierz’s article, just so I could finish the thought process I was in. But I still only reached 689 words.

 

Until next time

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