South evaluates assessments, compares benefits

Kala Jablonski, Staff Writer

There are many different forms of teacher assessments present at South and other schools alike; however, if a student in the hallway is asked what their preferred format of assessments are, chances are they will say multiple choice.

According to a non-scientific Oracle conducted survey of 225 students, 68 percent prefer multiple choice assessments. According to sophomore Fiona Hellerman, multiple choice assessments get down to the specifics of the material without being too difficult.

“I like knowing the general idea of what’s right and what’s obviously not right and being able to cross off [things] in my head,” Hellerman said. “It’s very easy for me; whereas, with the short response, if I’m struggling with the topic that it happens to be on, I won’t be able to come up with an answer as quickly.”

Students are not the only people who feel that multiple choice is better in some instances. English teacher John Allen is a teacher who likes multiple choice assessments, and his reading quizzes are only formatted as such.

“Multiple choice questions […] can be more comprehensive, you can ask more questions, because you can grade them more quickly, and they can be much more pointed at specific things that are going on in the text,” Allen said. “That said, writing good multiple choice reading questions is a challenge […] it’s never going to be perfect or absolutely fair.”

On the other hand, sophomore Alexandra Woo prefers short response questions to multiple choice and feels strongly about the topic. According to the aforementioned survey, 24 percent of students agree with Woo.

“If it’s short answer, you can answer the question in so many different ways that the teacher can see the way that you think,” Woo said. “[Especially] if you really focus on one aspect of the question in a particular way.”

In contrast to students leaning more towards multiple choice assessments, math teacher Steve Farber prefers short answer and show your work problems. He feels that short answer assessments are more indicative of students preparation and learning experience.

“As a teacher, all I get from a multiple choice answer is did they get the answer correct or not,” Farber said. “I don’t know if [the students] understand it; I don’t know how they got there. If they get it wrong, they could have […] done three of the four steps correctly and I don’t know where they fell short.”

According to the American Psychological Institute’s “Stress in America” survey of 1,018 teens, the average stress level was reported to be a 5.8 on a 10 point scale. Sophomore Emily McClanahan relates to this survey, and feels that as a result of the different formatting opinions of many teachers, along with usually having more than one test in a day, the stress really adds up.

“I never know how hard [the tests] are going be,” McClanahan said. “It always feels like even if I know the stuff I can make a mistake and end up not doing as well as I want to.”

To resolve the problem of stress, Woo proposed a more discussion based aspect for some classes. According to Woo, last year her English final was discussion based while still incorporating many of the things they learned throughout the semester such as annotating, which helped relieve much of her class’s stress.

“[At first] we were worried, like what if we were [going to] have to write an in-class essay?” Woo said. “With that one you would’ve had to go in the text and have to find this, this, this, and you would have to prepare yourself for any kind of prompt that [the English teacher] might throw at you. For the discussion, as long as you […] had some major things you wanted to talk about, […] it was a good way to kind of test everything we learned.”

Farber didn’t like the idea of taking out all formal assessments, but he proposed a final project, where students would use what they had learned to produce some other form of assessment.

“[The students] might be doing a report or a survey, something where the math concepts would be wrapped into the final project,” Farber said.  “[…] But even after we’ve done all this stuff and given our grades, I don’t think [the grade] is a fair representation of most students, […] it’s just one snapshot.”