We are at the time of year where Multiple Choice Tests are on my mind. My South Carolina US History students are wrapping up their actual class and are moving into End of Course (EOC) Examination Mode. In my state students take a 56 Multiple Choice Question test covering 8 standards that range from Colonial America through the Modern Era. That’s right… Nearly 300 years of History (we are US not American) boiled into 56 MC questions. (Actually, since we test in May it is 64 because the state will “field test” 8 questions on this EOC meaning that 8 of the questions that they will expend mental energy on are not actually part of their EOC score. They are questions that are being tested to see if they are any good so that they can be used on a future test.)

Since the EOC is on my students’ minds it is on my mind as well. I know that in edutopia we are not supposed to care about high stakes test but here in the real world I find it educational malpractice not to prepare students for the very real marathon that is coming at them. As I was scrolling through Twitter I came across this little gem from Blake Harvard (@effortfuleduktr)Maximizing the Effectiveness of Multiple-Choice Qs. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Standards Based Grading (thanks to Andrew Kozlowsky @MrKoz31) and trying to tinker with required Multiple Choice to make it fit into a growth based system is really appealing.

I am going to pilot the MAX M.C. in my next (and final) unit that begins with the Civil Rights Movement. As a way to pre-assess the student’s understanding of the era I plan to give small groups of 3-4 students a 8 question multiple choice “quiz”. They can collaborate to answer the questions but cannot “Google”. After a 3-4 minute work time I will then handout a modified version of Blake’s graphic organizer. This is where the maximization comes into play. Instead of giving a correct answer and then moving on students will need to interact with both correct and incorrect answers before they can file the quiz away. Here is the modified graphic organizer (I will print 2 per page – front and back) and an outline of the lesson.

  1. The students will answer all 8 questions on a printed copy of the multiple choice quiz by highlighting the entire answer choice.
  2. I will show the correct answer choices on the board with no explanation.
  3. Cut out the entire question and all answer choices for each individual question and paste each cut out into the space designated on the graphic organizer .
  4. If the question was answered correctly students will write out why they knew that was the correct answer (the memory aid) or sketch an illustration to help them remember the term or important information in the question stem or answer choice. The students cannot write “we guessed” or “Billy knew it”.
  5. If the answer was incorrect the students will complete 3 of the 4 incorrect answer choices boxes – 1 for each separate answer choice. Students will NOT break up the work – every student must work in collaboration on EVERY incorrect answer choice. At this point students may Google information about the incorrect answer choices and/or key terms in the question stem.

The goal of this activity at the beginning of a unit is to determine what the students know and what they need to learn. It should also help them take ownership of the material since they are examining their own weaknesses and making connections to their own lives. One of my superpowers is using notebooks on the final unit tests so these graphic organizers will need to be excluded from the testing since some of the questions would be repeated.

I could also see this as activity as part of a post-required test reflection. These district mandated assessments for each standard are 55 multiple choice questions so I would modify this to only questions missed on the test. I have also modified one of Andrew’s test correction forms (below). Both are an effort to keep the learning going after a supposed summative assessment and to bring a version of standards based grading into a traditional gradebook.