What can you learn about someone from their play? Quite a bit, we think. Games can be platforms that illustrate the relevance of many of the skills that are taught in school. Even better, they can be effective tests of many of the higher-order skills that are the most difficult to measure with traditional assessments. To top it all off, they can be highly engaging, which encourages learners to put in the time required to realize this potential.
One of the main objections to traditional approaches to assessment is the claim that the testing experience itself is an inherently flawed way to measure many important skills. For example, wouldn’t it be strange if the only thing you needed to do in order to become a dentist was to pass a multiple choice test? Wouldn’t we want to require prospective dentists to actually perform dental procedures before trusting them with our teeth? How about barbers, or bakers, or nurses, or teachers? In each case, there might be some aspects of the job that can be measured effectively with traditional testing approaches, but those approaches would have to be supplemented with an actual (authentic) display of the skill in question.
While multiple choice questions and other traditional question types are often very useful, they can feel artificial. When you’re taking them, you can always tell that you’re “taking a test,” and that process always feels different from anything you’d have to do outside of the testing environment. Complex question types address this problem by simulating the kind of task you would have to perform in a realistic scenario. In this way, they make assessment more proximate to the discipline while allowing learners to get instant feedback. For example, complex question types could ask you to:
Fill-in-the-blank questions are fundamentally different from multiple choice questions in that the examinee provides his or her own answer. This advantages and disadvantages of this question type spring from this essential feature, because coming up with something by yourself is fundamentally different from choosing one of the options that the test creator provides.
Matching, sorting, and sequencing are worth considering together, because they share the same advantages and disadvantages. Essentially, they are all good item types when used appropriately, but they aren't appropriate in every context.
The case for including writing tasks in an assessment strategy has some very powerful arguments on its side. For starters, writing is itself a fundamental skill that is important in a wide variety of settings. Written communication is required for virtually every role in the modern economy, and so it makes sense to want to know whether students, colleagues, and job applicants can write effectively.
Multiple answer (select all that apply) questions share many of the advantages and disadvantages of multiple choice questions, their close cousin. However, instead of asking the learner to select exactly one choice, multiple answer questions ask you to choose all the options that fit the description in the question stem. For example, you could be given a list of numbers and be asked to click on those that are prime, or you could be given a list of animals and be asked to select all of the insects, and so on.
True/false questions are really multiple choice questions with two answers: true and false. They tend to get used in low-stakes assessments, to generate class discussion, or because sometimes learning designers want to include questions that are easier to answer. However, they tend not to be used in high-stakes assessment, for these reasons:
By some measures, multiple choice questions are the most popular question type in assessment.They show up everywhere, across disciplines, across ages, in traditional education, in the business world, in certification exams and seemingly everywhere you look. Multiple choice questions aren’t popular with everyone, though. Students typically have a less positive view of them, and they’re subject to criticism from educators, instructional designers and other avenues.