We chose the path less traveled for this week’s guests on Left Field. They never graduated from high school but are found in almost every classroom in high schools across the country. Recently they have been quite active in classrooms and will remain active as many students settle in for final exams at the start of the New Year. Today’s guests are the multiple-choice quintuplets A, B, C, D and E. We welcome these m/c answers to Left Field.
Here in Left Field, we take great pride in shattering stereotypes, so let’s jump right in. Is there any truth to the generalization, that B is the best selection when students don’t know the answer? B: I’ll take that one. What kind of lame urban myth is that? When in doubt guess B? Listen, I don’t need any self-pity, but that rumor began in the basement of some procrastinators who spent incessant amounts of time concocting outlandish reasons why they wouldn’t pass a test.
With final exams before Christmas vacation, you guys were probably glad for the Christmas respite. A: You have no idea how relaxing break has been. B, C, D, E and I were subjected to three straight days of assessment. That’s a lot to endure even if everyone does use a number two pencil. Which, of course, they don’t.
E, do you ever feel left out of the equation? I mean you are the throw away answer so often. The teacher attempts to cleverly use A,B,C or D for the real answer and then tosses you in as an afterthought. Do you harbor any resentment by being the academic equivalent of a salad crouton? E: A crouton is crunchy, seasoned and adds to the diverse texture of a salad. This adds up to one tasty, tactile treat.
Don’t go Obama on us and avoid the answer. That may play in the biased halls of ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CBS but here in Left Field we demand our questions be answered. E: Then, no. I harbor no resentment. None, what…so…ever! Happy?
A, what about you. Do you think you are seriously considered as an answer? A: Of course. It all starts with me. I’m the Λlpha and every other answer isn’t.
Since your are all in the assessment business, do you like exams before Christmas vacation, knowing that two weeks of the second quarter are not included? C: Let me give you my perspective as the middle answer. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Yes, two weeks worth of material are not on the exam. So what? That doesn’t mean the students can’t or don’t learn something that isn’t assessed by a final exam. In fact, given the sheer volume of questions being asked during final exam week, the activity itself leans toward short-term recall. How many of us, answers that is, will students remember or learn? Isn’t that the goal of education? Horrors upon horrors if a unit or pages 214 – 221 don’t make it to the final exam. A class’ success does not hinge around the number of questions on the exam or pages covered in the text. Class content is not important because it “will be on the test”. Class content is important because it requires and creates critical thinking and critical application.
Some educators believe that if there is no exam at the very end of the semester, students won’t pay attention because there is nothing to hold over their heads. D: Next to the Lions 0-16 season, that’s the most pathetic garbage I’ve ever heard. That faulty logic alleges that students only learn and pay attention because they will be assessed. Students don’t learn because they fill us in on a test. They learn because they are challenged, engaged and given opportunities to apply their ideas. Students want to learn. Tragically, too many educators believe learning can only take place with tests and so they use it as behavioral leverage. Ugh. Learning occurs in debate. Learning occurs with comparing and contrasting. Learning occurs with predicting and then reevaluating. Learning occurs with analysis and synthesis. Learning occurs by error and revisiting, redoing and reassessing. Asking Johnny to match parts of speech to a list of definitions achieves very little in Learningville. A test is not the only way to determine if students have learned. It's a way, not the way. So if information doesn't surface on an exam there are other ways to assess student learning. Students will pay attention AND learn when they are challenged to think and apply those thoughts.
Are you guys fans of the multiple-answer option?
C: It’s xenophobic.
D&E: We love it.
A,B,D,E: All of the above
Just between the six of us, does it really matter if somebody marks outside the bubble? B: If you are B, C or D it certainly does. If I’m the correct answer and li’l Matilda smudges her geometry answer beyond my barriers and into C’s realm, then grumpy King ScornTron will mark us both wrong.
You don’t acknowledge mechanical pencils? Lighten up. C: I speak for the entire answer platoon when I say we respond best to soft, number two lead pencils. Those sharp mechanical chunks of educational wizardry can rip our surface and deface us forever. Play by the rules or don’t play. Remember that because it will be on the test.