Do standardized, multiple-choice exams relate to academic standards and learning outcomes?
The simple answer: NO!
As common as they are, especially in low-performing countries on PISA, multiple-choice or standardized exams are good for only one thing: THEY ARE EASY TO CORRECT.
Do they assess what a student has actually learned? Absolutely not!
Do they measure intelligence? Language ability? Performance indicators? Knowledge of material studied in class? Mathematical ability? Fluency in writing, reading, history, geography or science? Oral fluency?
NO! NO! and NO!
If a student is lucky in Las Vegas, perhaps he/she can perform well on a multiple-choice exam by simply guessing, but this in no way implies that the student actually knows much about the material supposedly being tested.
So why do educators, schools, administrators, testing companies, government agencies, and educational entities continue to use multiple-choice exams to assess and evaluate students? This question is especially important when we recognize that “passing” such an exam implies that (1) The student is a good guesser; (2) The student exhibits luck in Las Vegas casinos; (3) The student has memorized responses having been coached previously on the questions.
So, why do we give these no-brainer exams?
The answer is “economy”. It’s much less expensive and much easier to produce and score multiple-choice true/false matching exams than to assess using performance indicators, rubrics, observations, oral presentations, and portfolios.
Based on research by University of Pennsylvania (USA) professor Theodore Hershberg, standards-based classrooms are focused on student performance.
How did you win merit badges in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts? You didn’t take multiple-choice tests. You practiced with the rope, and then you tied the knot in front of your Scout leader.
How do you get a job in photography? Or is admitted to Art school? Once again, you don’t take a multiple-choice job test. You bring your portfolio of photographs or art work to the job interview, and you show your prospective employer what you can do with a camera or a paint pallet.
How should you check language ability? By discussions, by writing creatively, originally, and by speaking fluently; not by identifying grammatical terms or identifying the main character in a story or the story’s setting.
It’s performance that counts in the real world. In standards-based school reform, our classrooms will be organized around products and student portfolios that exhibit samples of student work. In the 21st century, portfolios are “in”; transcripts of grades are “out”. Projects, cooperative learning activities, self-organized learning environments, and in-depth research, as advocated by Dr. Sugata Mitra at Newcastle University in the UK, are examples of where education is moving, allowing students to develop their potential and their talents.
Is your school moving towards a new focus, including performance indicators, eliminating tedious, meaningless homework, forgetting the multiple-choice options of the 19th century? Are you getting excited and involved about real learning, using digital technology, seeking unique paths of interest, stimulated by gifted teachers?
These are the options for great schools, for great directors, for great teachers, who are seeking world-class performance by their students.
Am I part of this change, or am I still resisting?