In this blog post, high-school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano writes about his pride in not having administered a quiz or test in all of the first semester. Several years ago, he decided to abandon multiple-choice tests in favor of giving students multiple ways that they can explore and show what they have learned — which resulted in higher engagement and improved learning, he writes.
As the semester draws to a close, I look back at my grade book and I see all of the assignments, essays and projects I have given and a smile appears on my face. I have not given a test the entire first semester. Not a single quiz or unit exam shows up in a column. My students smile just as wide when they look at their grades as well. It’s been an amazing year so far, why ruin it with an ugly bubble test?
A few years ago, I wanted to see what it would be like if I spent one marking period not giving my traditional multiple choice exams at the end of units and see what would happen if I gave my students options to demonstrate their knowledge. At the end of those ten weeks I saw higher engagement and a much stronger demonstration of skill and knowledge than any multiple choice exam had ever shown me. I think there are a couple of reasons for that that I want to share.
I am pretty sure that my tests were terrible. I think most multiple choice tests are not well-written. I think the primary reason for that is that most teachers do not have the training or experience to write a really good multiple choice test. There are so many things to consider when writing these types of exams, and I know I was not thinking about all of them. I was focused on creating questions that were possible to answer that would show me whether or not they knew the information. It was basically a reading check. When I moved to a project-based system, I needed to evaluate what was important to me. Remembering the character’s hometown was nice, but demonstrating the importance the hometown played in the story is far more important. A multiple choice test cannot do that, at least not the tests that I was capable of writing.