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I don't think tests are particularly good at assessing learning.  They are great at making sure students have memorized whatever they need to, but there are there better ways to assess true learning.  This blog for the Center for Teaching Excellence has some good ideas about alternatives to traditional testing.

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Hi Jan,

Thanks for opening this discussion. There are some great ideas on these websites.

Two of my colleagues in history and English who are in a learning community created a scavenger hunt. They gave teams of students questions and sent them out to the library and the computer lab to find data. The students had to include citations in MLA style and annotate their answers.

At my college, we use reflection quite a bit. I gave my clinical students reflection questions at the beginning of the class. We had formative and summative reflection sessions for which I used rubrics that are also being used in classes in other disciplines.

This semester, I'm working with an English class and a nursing class on an interdisciplinary multi-media project. The English class will read a short story that has healing as an aspect of its theme. Each student will post 5 paragraphs of personal reflection in wikis on ePortfolio, then students from my class and the nursing class will respond with "gifts," ie, comments, music, poetry, quotations. Then the English students will create PowerPoint or Camtasia multi-media productions with the wiki content. So far, in other semesters, students have created some fantastic projects. A collaboration between an English class and an acting class created some wonderful stuff.

Since my community college is in Queens, it's broadly diverse, so working across disciplines and among people from various cultures gives a massage student a pretty expansive education.
Lisa, I think it's important to come up with assessment ideas that have relevance to the real world, even using something as simple as a group discussion of a case study would be more useful than a multiple choice quiz. I used Digicationn (an e-portfolio) in my master's program and it was amazing the feedback I got from people, even from outside of my cohort. We are captives of grades in this culture.

Currently I'm enrolled in PLENK2010 which is a MOOC (massive open online course) and we are discussing and learning about personal learning environments (PLE) and personal learning networks (PLN). Fascinating stuff and far from traditional education.

It would be fun to think about developing something like this for massage educators--someday.
I agree with you. I find myself having to teach students how to use a problem solving model to address multiple choice questions. I have written thousands of multiple choice questions and attempt to have each question not only test but also teach. In order for this to be effective the student has to understand not only why the correct answer is right but why all the wrong answers are wrong. I doubt that many students are challenged to explain why a wrong answer is wrong. I drill students in multiple choice questions because they have to pass multiple choice tests for licensing and certification. However I believe that comprehensive practical exams that includes having student explain what they are doing and why. We use a rubric for self evaluation. We also use case studies.

It frustrates me and saddens me that many excellent graduates are limited because they struggle with multiple choice tests. Past experience with traditional testing leads to test anxiety. I have dyslexia and the b B and d D drive me crazy.
Besides doing the more creative kinds of assessment projects I mentioned above, when I give multiple choice tests, which I use b/c the licensing exam is multiple choice, throughout the test under some of the questions, I ask, "Why did you choose this answer?" with space for a written explanation. Students have told me that they appreciated this.
Lisa, what would you say is your ratio of MC to other methods of assessment? Just curious. I like the idea of asking why an answer was chosen. Even if they say, "I'm guessing," at least you have some good information about where they are.

I would think that post secondary students know the MC type test quite well before they get to massage school, but I guess that depends on where they went to school. I know that it is, in some instances, the best way to test knowledge and make sure people have the basics (e.g. attachments sites), but overall they are lousy indicators of students' understanding of integrated material.

It goes back to how we teach and how people learn (learning theories). Teacher training--but that's a different discussion.
Here is another great blog to follow for those interested in thinking about education differently.
Jan,

You're right, the world is full of multiple choice tests -- all the standardized tests through elementary and then there's the PSAT and the SAT...

I've been using multiple choice (with some matching and fill in the blank questions) for both midterms and finals in my beginning massage class and my business class, but using reflections in my clinical class. This semester, in beginning massage, I think I'm going to try something new at the midterm -- one of the ideas in these links you're posting. That should be interesting.

Jan Schwartz said:
Lisa, what would you say is your ratio of MC to other methods of assessment? Just curious. I like the idea of asking why an answer was chosen. Even if they say, "I'm guessing," at least you have some good information about where they are.

I would think that post secondary students know the MC type test quite well before they get to massage school, but I guess that depends on where they went to school. I know that it is, in some instances, the best way to test knowledge and make sure people have the basics (e.g. attachments sites), but overall they are lousy indicators of students' understanding of integrated material.

It goes back to how we teach and how people learn (learning theories). Teacher training--but that's a different discussion.
I think multiple choice exams do not develop our students to the right direction in terms of clinical thinking and communication skills

Lisa Mertz said:
Besides doing the more creative kinds of assessment projects I mentioned above, when I give multiple choice tests, which I use b/c the licensing exam is multiple choice, throughout the test under some of the questions, I ask, "Why did you choose this answer?" with space for a written explanation. Students have told me that they appreciated this.

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