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Taking Exams Beyond the Limits of "Multiple-Choice"

Using student response systems to not only gauge student knowledge, but to administer and evaluate long-form tests.

CHALLENGE

A professor at the University of Mississippi, Tamar Goulet's biology class sizes range from 40 to 125 students, so grading exams can be time-consuming. The university offers bubble sheets, but they are designed for multiple-choice items and cannot evaluate fill-in-the-blank responses. To make matters worse, Goulet feels that multiple-choice exams may not accurately assess knowledge of the material she teaches.

"Without knowing the right answer, a student can arrive at it by chance or by eliminating options they know are incorrect," she pointed out. "Knowing the right word to enter requires the student to know the material."

SOLUTION

Goulet decided to incorporate TurningPoint polling software and student response clickers into her courses. The Turning Technologies QT clicker, used throughout the University of Mississippi, features a QWERTY keyboard that enables students to type full words as responses. With TurningPoint polling software, a professor can enter the correct response for each question and quickly evaluate student response accuracy.

Goulet's tests typically include 50 questions, many of them requiring fill-in-the-blank answers. Students use the self-paced mode within TurningPoint on their response clickers to answer these questions at their own pace.

RESULTS

According to Goulet, this approach saved significant time and measured student knowledge more precisely than multiple-choice exams. "Once I discovered how well this worked, I could never go back to using just multiple-choice exams," she said. "I'm not sure many of my colleagues realize this capability of the student response technology."