For children, following politics is usually a passive activity. They are too young to vote, and it isn’t easy for them to actively participation in a political campaign. Knocking on doors and making calls to strangers well into the evening isn’t something we want little kids to do. Still, there are things we can do to help children become active participants in the political process. One way to do this is to hold an in-school election, and our new enhanced version of Election Edge lets you do just that.
“. . . wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”1 —Thomas Jefferson, 1789
What can you learn about someone from their play? Quite a bit, we think. Games can be platforms that illustrate the relevance of many of the skills that are taught in school. Even better, they can be effective tests of many of the higher-order skills that are the most difficult to measure with traditional assessments. To top it all off, they can be highly engaging, which encourages learners to put in the time required to realize this potential.
One of the main objections to traditional approaches to assessment is the claim that the testing experience itself is an inherently flawed way to measure many important skills. For example, wouldn’t it be strange if the only thing you needed to do in order to become a dentist was to pass a multiple choice test? Wouldn’t we want to require prospective dentists to actually perform dental procedures before trusting them with our teeth? How about barbers, or bakers, or nurses, or teachers? In each case, there might be some aspects of the job that can be measured effectively with traditional continue reading
While multiple choice questions and other traditional question types are often very useful, they can feel artificial. When you’re taking them, you can always tell that you’re “taking a test,” and that process always feels different from anything you’d have to do outside of the testing environment. Complex question types address this problem by simulating the kind of task you would have to perform in a realistic scenario. In this way, they make assessment more proximate to the discipline while allowing learners to get instant feedback. For example, complex question types could ask you to:
Fill-in-the-blank questions are fundamentally different from multiple choice questions in that the examinee provides his or her own answer. This advantages and disadvantages of this question type spring from this essential feature, because coming up with something by yourself is fundamentally different from choosing one of the options that the test creator provides.
True/false questions are really multiple choice questions with two answers: true and false. They tend to get used in low-stakes assessments, to generate class discussion, or because sometimes learning designers want to include questions that are easier to answer. However, they tend not to be used in high-stakes assessment, for these reasons:
Matching, sorting, and sequencing are worth considering together, because they share the same advantages and disadvantages. Essentially, they are all good item types when used appropriately, but they aren't appropriate in every context.
By some measures, multiple choice questions are the most popular question type in assessment.They show up everywhere, across disciplines, across ages, in traditional education, in the business world, in certification exams and seemingly everywhere you look. Multiple choice questions aren’t popular with everyone, though. Students typically have a less positive view of them, and they’re subject to criticism from educators, instructional designers and other avenues.
The case for including writing tasks in an assessment strategy has some very powerful arguments on its side. For starters, writing is itself a fundamental skill that is important in a wide variety of settings. Written communication is required for virtually every role in the modern economy, and so it makes sense to want to know whether students, colleagues, and job applicants can write effectively.
Multiple answer (select all that apply) questions share many of the advantages and disadvantages of multiple choice questions, their close cousin. However, instead of asking the learner to select exactly one choice, multiple answer questions ask you to choose all the options that fit the description in the question stem. For example, you could be given a list of numbers and be asked to click on those that are prime, or you could be given a list of animals and be asked to select all of the insects, and so on.
Assessment is measurement, and there are many things worth measuring in learning environments. We want to know what learners know and what they can do so that we can tell whether learning objectives have been achieved and what role learning experiences played in helping people accomplish those objectives.
Writing good assessments is of course a major part of learning design, but before anyone writes any questions, it’s worth putting some thought into deciding which question types you want to include. You may want multiple choice questions, but you might want other item types as well. Or maybe you want something completely different. To make sense of this decision, we’ve constructed this overview of the process of choosing item types, and in subsequent posts we’ll provide an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the most common (and even some of the less common) item types.
When we design assessments at Second Avenue Learning, we remember our experiences as learners. As learners, we remember when tests were fair, clear, and well-connected with what we were supposed to be learning. That doesn’t mean that we necessarily enjoyed the testing experience, but we could tell when a test was well designed. We also remembered what it felt like to take tests that were confusing and arbitrary.
Imagine that you’re a visitor from another world, examining the US education system. Much of the experience would be pretty close to what you might expect of Earthlings, but you might be surprised to find out how much time we spend on tests. And it isn’t just taking the tests, either. It’s also the time preparing for the tests, reviewing key concepts, practicing under realistic and time-pressured conditions, and getting students ready for the psychological aspects of testing.
Gamification is trending these days. Or is it game-based learning? Or serious games? Or something else? Does it really make a difference? It’s possible to create an intricate matrix of terms and definitions on this subject,1 but does that really help anyone?
Recently, I joined our CEO, Tory VanVoorhis, on a panel to discuss the potential of games in the world of assessment. We explained what games can do, how to build them, and key questions to get you started. To motivate the discussion, we asked the attendees to identify the skills that they might like to measure with games. Here are the skills that were mentioned most often:
Realizing the potential of learning design is no simple task. Still, at Second Avenue, we’ve found that there are principles which, if applied, make successful outcomes more likely. Here are some of the most important learning design best practices:
When we design, we unite purpose and action by determining how to best accomplish our goals. When we design learning, we do everything that needs to happen to ensure that learning experiences are effective, efficient, and relevant to learners. This includes:
In Edtech Is Trapped in Ben Bloom’s Basement,1 Jared Silver identifies a paradox in learning technology: technically, our gadgets and software are more sophisticated than ever, but the learning goals that this technology serves tend to be stuck in the basics. Educational technology should be helping us analyze the world around us, evaluate claims, and create new possibilities, but too much of what we do is focused on memorization, paraphrasing, and simply following instructions.