It’s easy to see how using multiple choice questions can test knowledge. Ask a question on a topic with viable answers and if a student selects the correct answer/s then they probably ‘know’ that piece of information (assuming they don’t guess).
We use multiple choice questions in key stage 3 and key stage 4 in different ways but mainly for recall to aid long term learning, not always as diagnosis of what they do/don’t know. Part of all key stage 4 homework is to write their own multiple choice questions. This is a brilliant way to find any misconceptions. In fact, when sitting with our trainee this week to explain how to mark this homework, the first student had done exactly this. She had misunderstood a concept. We immediately cross referenced this with the class notes and could see a general misconception that can be addressed in feedback next lesson.
However, up until now, we have only expected the students to create questions that are content based. Now we are moving on to making the skills more explicit.
For GCSE RS this will be two main new features in the multiple choice questions; use of quotations and evaluating arguments by their strengths and weaknesses.
In a question 4, students need to explain two aspects of religion and then add a quotation somewhere in their answer. So far, when students have answered these questions without prompting, some forget the quotation, which limits them to 4 marks. This is for two reasons: they genuinely forget or they can’t think of a quotation to support either point. Our aim is to rectify the second so the first is less likely. On Monday we have an INSET day and we are going to agree as a department quotations for each topic that we will use and learn. There are so many that could be used, we will aim to narrow it down as much as possible and start to promote, repeat and plan for recall of the selected quotations regularly over the GCSE.
These can be put into multiple questions in several ways:
- To help them remember the wording of quotations
- To help them select an appropriate quote
- To link a quotation to a particular view
To link to a particular teaching
In question 5, students have to write an argument based on a given statement. The skills here are about analysing and evaluating arguments along the way. Some teachers are allowing students to give their own opinions however I am trying to stop students from doing this as I don’t think it helps them understand the concept of evaluation; unpicking the relative strengths and weaknesses of an argument. Giving an opinion can move away from dealing with the objective, logical analysis to personal opinion and potentially, inappropriate criticism of religion.
To help them learn some common evaluations of the issues we study, we are starting to add multiple choice questions on the relative strengths and weaknesses of arguments studied. These will have been taught and discussed in class and so the quiz will be a form of recall and hopefully will help with long term retention of the critiques.
We have gone with the terms ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ to create consistency and ultimately so an examiner can see the clear analysis and evaluation throughout their answer.
These new types of MC question are actually testing knowledge and understanding of appropriate quotations and arguments but their knowledge of these will help with answering questions that require more than just recall of content. I think they’re the best way to practise these important aspects of the skills without getting them to write full answers and requiring me to spend hours marking.
From now on we will require students to include at least one quotation and one evaluation type question in their homework multiple choice questions which will hopefully start to embed these skills. We hope to see their application when they answer questions 4 and 5 and will try to evaluate the impact of this next step in the next year.