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Neil McLeod


Module III

1. Formative assessments are any grades, homework, or quizzes that give

information to the student, teachers, and parents about the learning progress of the

student. In previous assignments the benefits of having formative assessments

were discussed.

Formative scores are just that. They are scores given to represent the

progress of the student. However, formative scores should generally not be used for

giving an actual grade to the student. This is because the scores are developed as

the student is learning. They do not represent the actual culmination of knowledge

and skills that a student gains throughout a course.

One of the main problems that I see with using formative scores for grades is

that every student learns at a different rate. Some students can learn and pick up

new knowledge very quickly while other students learn relatively slower. At the end

of the unit both students could very easily have the same level of knowledge and

skill. It would be logical that both of these students should receive similar grades in

the course. However, if a traditional grading system were used where a student

received grades throughout the unit the slower learning student could very well

receive a low B or a C while the quicker student received a high B or an A. Obviously

this situation represents a clear example of where using formative scores as grades

ends up in an unfair grading schema.

2. Assessments are a great tool to let teachers get information about the

progress of their students. Its fairly obvious that to most that a students grades
gives an indication as to the learning progress of that individual student. Depending

on how the grade is determined the grade can show the students progress to the

actual criteria of the class, or their progress compared to their peers. These scores

can also be used to help teachers identify students that are struggling and lagging

behind, or even students that are excelling and need to be pushed harder.

Not only can assessments be used to help teachers identify the needs of

individual students, they can also be used to help a teacher identify ways that the

teacher can improve. A key to making sure that insight gained from scores is to use

criteria based assessments. This will allow teachers to make specific observations

about the topics that students are struggling with as a whole. By looking at the

performance of students across the board, teachers can also gain an idea of how

effective their current teaching methods are with their students. If the students are

not meeting the criteria that have been set, then one reason that this could be

happening is because the teachers methods are not connecting with the students.

If students are meeting the criteria then its safe to assume that the methods are


This is a subject that bothered me consistently as I worked through my

Bachelors degree in Chemistry. Averages on exams throughout my four years were

consistently around 50%. As a student I was surprised that most of my professors

didnt seem upset by that trend. In fact, some of the professors seemed almost

proud when their averages dipped significantly below 50%. I think a truly effective

teacher would realize that their teaching methods were not effective for the

majority of their students. Although it would have been more work for the

professors and assistants, I think in many cases it would have been beneficial to

adjust the classroom structures in order to increase the learning of the students.
3. There are several reasons why a teacher would want to design an effective

multiple choice test. A well-constructed test should test specifically the learning

requirements of the course. The two items to remember when designing any type of

test is reliability and validity. The teacher must make sure that the test will give

students the same grade regardless of various factors that may interfere with a

students test taking ability. Also, the test must actually test and show quantifiable

evidence of a students knowledge in relation to specified learning goals. Therefore,

a multiple choice test should also meet these criteria.

In a High School level class, I would expect students to have developed

multiple choice test taking skills in previous classes. Therefore, I would aim to

create a multiple choice exam that might be similar to ones they will have to take in

college. As a chemistry and physics teacher, I view one of my responsibilities is to

help prepare students for college level educational experiences. I expect to

challenge them in order to help them learn how to learn so that they can be

successful right out of the gate at a university.

Its important to make sure that a multiple choice exam does not contain

trick questions. In my mind, there are two separate ways to make sure that this

does not occur. The first is the stem of the question, and the second is the choices

of the question.

The stem of the question is the part of the question that asks the question,

and might give additional information. A good stem question should mean

something when its stated by itself. This means that the question should ask for

specific information as opposed to a generic question like which of the following

are true. A main benefit of having meaningful stems is that it allows the teacher
and student to identify the specific learning goals that the question is aiming to

address. Also, because the stem must be clear, all un-needed information should

not be included in the stem. This will help to reduce perceived trickiness inherent

within the test. Finally, Ive found that its almost always better to phrase the

question in a positive statement or question, instead of a negative one. A student

that knows the material may get the negative question wrong because they once

again get thrown off by thinking that Ive tried to trick them.

Because students will have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of multiple

choice tests before entering my classroom it is important for me to realize that they

have probably become very good at playing the test. Meaning, they can use

elimination and other patterns in order to figure out the correct answer without

actually knowing the material. Because I want my test to be valid, I need to make

sure that the test actually measures a students knowledge in relation to the

learning goals. Therefore its important to make all the choices of a question be

potentially correct. For questions involving numbers, Ive found it helpful to give the

correct answer, and then give answers that are close to it, or could have gotten by

doing a step incorrectly in the work. Chemistry and physics also deal a lot with

significant figures, which means your answer should have a specific number of

digits depending on the data given in the problem. Therefore, I can give choices

that give the correct answer, but with the wrong number of significant figures.

Thus, I can truly test a students knowledge of the content without giving them

undue hints as to the correct answer. When listing the choices I try to keep the

choices in numerical order or in alphabetical order. Therefore, the student must

actually know the correct answer, because there was no input bias from me when

designing the test.

By following these simple guidelines I can make sure that I test my students

knowledge of the material, while not creating tricky tests that would erode a

students trust of me or tests in general.

4. In this module I learned a lot about how to correctly write assessment items.

This was something that Id struggled with in the past but I hadnt realized why. I

think there are a lot of bad habits present in the hard sciences in relation to writing

multiple choice tests. And, because these tests were the most recent examples that

Id had I had also picked up some of those bad habits without realizing it. Spending

time reading, watching, and thinking about how to write good test questions really

opened my mind to some of the major pitfalls that Ive created in past tests and

how I can avoid those.

One thing that I want to look into further is how to create multiple choice

tests that effectively test a students higher level thinking. As Ive learned more

about standards based grading, Ive become more enthralled in the idea of having

students really earn an A in my classes by proving that they understand the

material at a high level. It would be really nice to be able to assess that thinking

effectively and quickly through a couple of multiple choice questions on an exam so

that students that have worked hard to master the material get a way to show off

their knowledge.