Are You Designing Effective Questions for E-Learning?
Over the years we have come to think of tests as necessary bench marks. Ones that, right, wrong or indifferent are part of the learning process and an indispensable facet of progressing through any type of education.
And, while this may be true, some of us probably are not stopping to think about whether or not we are doing it right. I mean, sure, the students have to worry about that each and every time they sit down for an exam … but what about us (the teachers/trainers of the world)?
It is our responsibility to share the information, so is it not also our responsibility to also test effectively? To not just throw out questions, but to test for comprehension? For true understanding and mastery?
I think that it is. And, to do that, we need to learn how to do much more than just slap together a test that checks the box. We need to create exams that are both comprehensive and effective.
So, today I am going to talk about just that. And learn how answering just three simple questions can make the difference between an effective question and an obsolete one.
Three questions that I think you should ask yourself as you create questions for you E-Learning initiatives:
- Why am I asking the question?
- What is the question asking?
- Is the question appropriate?
Now that we know what the questions are, let me explain what I mean by them.
Why are we asking the question?
The automatic response for this one is easy, “to see if they know the answer.“ But let’s dig a little deeper. First, is it a question that checks for comprehension? Or is it a question that tests the recall of facts?
Which one do you think is more effective?
Think back to your own school days. How many times can you remember cramming for a test? Putting hours into the books until you could name off every name, date and event that World History had to offer. You would walk in and ace the test. But then? A week later you couldn’t answer the first question about it! With this type of test, it’s not about comprehension or understanding, its about regurgitating facts that don’t matter two days down the road. It’s short term memory and your mind is happy to let those memories go the moment you are done with them.
That’s not learning! That’s not effective teaching or testing!
So, when you create a question, have a goal in mind. Are you checking for mastery? Are you trying to determine a starting point for your course? Are you checking for comprehension? Any of these are good answers, just make sure that the goal is understanding of knowledge and not just a knee jerk recall reaction.
What is the question asking?
In short, is the question relevant? Or was it just easy to write? I’ll admit, I am guilty of this one. More than once I have thrown together a 100% multiple choice fact based test for no other reason than it was easy to make and easy to grade. Any student that half-way read the chapter titles could wade their way through and I was okay with that.
But did it help my students? Probably not. It was a check the box test on both ends of the spectrum. Why? Because my students gained nothing by taking it and I learned nothing about what they either learned or retained from my class. It was a grade, nothing more.
The answer to this question is to write the questions that matter. Write the questions that jump straight to the heart of the subject and cover the true objectives of the course at hand. Do this and not only will your students learn more, they will also stand a better chance of remembering it!
Is the question appropriate?
Every class has a different demographic and is generally made up of a wide range of ages, skill levels and expertise. When you create a test, you want to make sure that it is meeting your students where they are, not where you feel they should be. Is it a class for teenagers? Then the test should reflect that. Is it a class for first time E-Learners? Maybe start slow. Is it a task for young college grads? Show them no mercy! Whatever your demographic, just make sure that your questions reflect that.
At the end of the day testing may be a necessary evil, but it does not have to be an ineffective one. The difference is us. It is in how we prepare and what we expect from our students. If we take the time to design effective questions then not only does the class improve, but the overall experience does as well. They might not thank you for it at the time, but when a year from now they can still talk about what they learned? Then the value will be clear.
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