As I walked into the technology lab, I saw a PhD candidate sitting at a computer with a bank of multiple choice questions on one screen and what appeared to be the start of an exam on the other screen. I could see she was copying questions from the bank into her document.
"What class are you taking that you have to create a multiple choice exam? That must be excruciating!" As soon as I asked my question the candidate spun around.
"I'm not in course work anymore! I'm teaching a class--this is for my students so I know if they did the reading or not!"
I was aware she was a quant-y PhDer, but I didn't realize until just then how far apart we were from each other on the educational spectrum. While she submitted her students to quizzes and exams full of multiple choice questions to find out if they did the reading, I asked my students engage in online discussions that centered on the major themes of the assigned readings.
"If you're going to give those kinds of tests, why don't you have your students submit the questions?"
"But then they'd know all the answers!"
"Well you want your students to be successful, don't you?" Her response was full-on, open-mouthed, tears-running-down-her-face, whole-body-shaking laughter. Did I have clown make-up on my face? Did I just tell the funniest joke in the history of the technology lab? Was I not completely serious in my query? What exactly was so funny about the suggestion that her students should create the questions that would be used in an examination testing their knowledge?
Imagine if our students had a (major) role in their own success!
Imagine if we told our students half the test will come from questions you create and submit.
Imagine if they all worked together outside of class to come up with the questions.
And then imagine if creating those multiple choice questions was the exam.
When was the last time your students worked together outside of class on something without being asked? When was the last time your students played an active part in their success? When was the last time a multiple choice test really told you what your students learned?
Although this candidate and I were discussing a 200-level undergraduate course she is teaching, this is possible with secondary students. Our students take enough standardized exams--why not change it up in our classrooms? There are so many observable ways to discover what our students learned from the novel or short story or film or poem they've read in class; so many engaging and creative and fun ways... let's implement those in our classrooms!
What are some exciting and stimulating activities you've used with your students to discover what they know?