Subverting Multiple-choice Questions for Deep Learning

Lee-Ann Sequeira

Parallel session 3, CoLab 3.6

Short Abstract
The aim of this workshop is to show through examples and evidence how online formative multiple-choice questions (MCQs) can be used to promote conceptual understanding and peer learning for students studying in and away from the classroom.

By the end of the workshop, participants would have:
• Understood how formative MCQs can be used to promote deep learning in face-to-face and distance learning
• Completed a short online formative MCQ quiz to see how it works from a participant’s perspective
• Begun to construct an online formative MCQ quiz

Back to event programme

Detailed Outline
An online formative MCQ has key features that distinguish it from a traditional MCQ that is used to test recall of information.

• The topic for the MCQ should be complex and difficult to understand. It should be fundamental to that field/module, such that it is a conceptual building block on which more advanced concepts are built (eg. threshold concepts).
• As the aim is to further the learner’s understanding, it is advisable to create a set of MCQs – about five-eight MCQs – on a single topic that explore different aspects of that topic and/or increase in complexity.
• Similar to traditional MCQs, formative MCQs have a question stem, correct answer(s) and distractors. Distractors (incorrect options) are key as they help to identify areas of confusion or poor understanding.
• MCQs can have varying levels of pre-programmed, automatic feedback, for example, referring students to a particular topic in the text or explaining certain problematic parts of the question or inviting them to attend a mop-up tutorial to discuss problematic areas identified in the MCQs.
• MCQs are often created in a virtual learning environment (VLE) which tracks the learners’ responses and generates reports showing the learners’ attempts by question, user, overall class performance, etc. in real time. These metrics can be used by the tutor to diagnose which questions or topics the students are finding problematic and accordingly focus her/his efforts in that direction.
• Learning activities such as online discussion fora and webinars can be used to explain and clarify issues identified in the MCQs (determined by the metrics) and increases opportunities for learners to ask follow-up questions and discuss them, thereby advancing the learner’s understanding.

In this way, online formative MCQs are compatible with a variety of pedagogical purposes – peer learning, the flipped classroom, self-assessment and revision, etc. Examples and evidence will be presented from a number of disciplines – economics, health sciences, physics, education, etc., including feedback from students and staff who are involved in a pilot study.

This is the proposed outline for the CoLab session:
• Introduction to MCQs
(Types and features of MCQs, merits and limitations)
• Quiz time!
(Participants take an MCQ quiz to get an idea of how it works from a student’s perspective)
• Hands-on activity: DIY MCQ
(Participants begin constructing an MCQ quiz using the guidance provided.)