Multiple-choice questions have been the main type of exercise for testing and evaluating knowledge of the past 100 years. New research by Associate Professor of Education and Psychological & Brain Sciences Andrew C. Butler at Washington University in St. Louis takes the concept one step further. His research shows not only best practice for using multiple-choice questions in tests and assessment, but also of measuring learning performance in general. With digital learning that is making its way into general education where you can measure the learning performance in real time, and the importance of traditional testing diminishing, this is a very interesting approach.
The main conclusion of the study is that: “The overall recommendation from both literatures (meaning best practice for tests and learning with multiple choice exercises) is to create questions that are simple in its format (e.g., avoid use of complex item types), challenge students but allow them to succeed often, and target specific cognitive processes that correspond to learning objectives.” From the result of the research Professor Butler provides six recommendations for best practice in multiple-choice exercises.
Avoid complexity, as digital learning technology gives more opportunities complex multiple-choice (CMC) items has become more common when creating multiple-choice questions for tests and learning. However, as CMC makes the exercise more complicated for the learner, it does not help understanding and higher-order thinking at the same level. The CMC tends to be too much about the form at the expense of content and deeper learning. Another recommendation is to focus on the engagement of specific cognitive processes and make it challenging for the learner, but not too difficult. And again something that has been much easier to create in the digital age, namely focus on qualitative feedback. It is inevitable for qualitative learning with multiple-choice exercises but also works as a formative added value in tests.
Author of the book Learning Design in Practice for Everybody
Also published on Medium.