Bruno: In Defense of Multiple-Choice Tests
With people using a confusing pineapple-related question on a standardized state test to prove the supposed evils of standardized testing, it's probably worth mentioning that multiple-choice tests are not, in fact, inherently flawed. Yes, multiple-choice tests have some limitations in terms of what they can assess. And yes, poorly-designed questions can make them deeply problematic.
By the same token, though, when they are well designed, multiple-choice tests can be very useful for teachers and other educators. Obviously, they're quick and efficient to grade and analyze, which can be important given how little time we have to work with and for our students. Granted, they're often easiest to use to test factual recall, but factual recall is badly underrated by many educators, who sometimes don't appreciate how necessary recall is for "higher level" thinking abilities.
And maybe most importantly, taking multiple-choice tests can help you learn. This isn't just because self-testing is a good way to learn in general, although that's part of it. It's also that in some respects multiple-choice tests are better for learning than open-ended recall tests. As Wray Herbert explains, new research finds that, compared to recall tests, "the learning fostered by the multiple-choice tests was broader, including even material that had not been tested". This is apparently because "the wrong answers were plausible enough that the students had to think about why the correct answer was correct", something students aren't forced to do on an open-ended recall test.
This is one of the reasons I don't mind my students having to spend a couple of hours during the year taking a multiple-choice test for the state. It not only has the potential to be informative for me, it might even be good for them. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)