Expertise in critical thinking is a goal for all our students. Application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation are the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy considered as the building blocks of critical thinking Students must be able to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in useful problem-solving and processes. They must analyze vast amounts of information so as to determine what is useful, where a fallacy might be found, how the parts are related, what are the parts that make up the whole. Students must develop expertise in the reverse process in which pieces are synthesized into a whole. And they must make judgments during analysis and synthesis as well as in all instances in which standards create a need to evaluate quality.
Can we assess all students' expertise in these higher order cognitive areas? How about the large classes in which essay tests or portfolios would be impossible to review and grade with given time constraints. Multiple Choice Questions are a necessary part of large classes assessment. That does not mean they have to be relegated to the ranks of factual recall questions only as is evidenced by the examples at: http://web.uct.ac.za/projects/cbe/mcqman/mcqappc.html#C2
Setting up both the background information and the answers so that critical thinking is required can be accomplished by using previous results from smaller classes or by using responses from quizzes or student homework. Reviewing and compressing correct and incorrect responses to higher-order test questions can provide the multiple choice answers. You need not "make up" answers; your students have already done that for you. And if you do want to provide some degree of free response to one or more questions, you can add an "E. None of the above. Correct response is: __________." to liven up the test.
Thus, though you will want students to perform at varying cognitive levels, you can assess all these levels with multiple choice test items and a Scantron or with a classroom personal response system and clickers. Of course, the assessment cycle is not finished until students understand what the correct responses should have been and why they are correct. Quick feedback is another advantage of using multiple choice evaluations. Rather than taking up your time with the scoring, you can focus your time on the content and any necessary reteaching - a better use of your expertise.
In addition to the information included here, we invite you to participate in events focused on Assessment listed in our calendar and to contact the Faculty Center for additional assistance.
Melissa B. Frye
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