June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.461.1 - 23.461.17
Effect of Multiple Choice Testing on Student Performance in an Introductory Engineering CourseThis study is intended to investigate the effect of multiple choice (MC) testing on studentperformance in an introductory engineering course. Most of the engineering educationalliterature is focused on the development of quizzes and web based questions. The main questionthis study intends to answer is: Does the use of multiple choice questions on an exam adverselyaffect the students’ performance? MC questions would allow instructors to test a broader rangeof material on the exams than the traditional open-ended problem approach. A possible drawbackof using MC questions could be that it will tempt the students to guess instead of solving aproblem. This study aims to compare student comprehension of introductory statics material bycomparing the exam scores of students who are given both MC questions and constructedresponse (CR) questions to see whether the type of exam question makes a difference in studentperformance and understanding.The sample population was taken from students enrolled in an introductory engineering course.Students from four majors are required to take this course, Computer Systems Engineering, CivilEngineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, as well as undeclaredengineering majors. One of the main topics covered is an introduction to engineering statics,including free body diagrams, and calculation of resultant forces. For the final exam, four staticsquestions were given, each in two formats: MC and CR. Two versions of the exam were made—Exam A and Exam B—and each exam had a different combination of the four statics questionsrepresented as two MC and two CR questions. Seventy-five students did either a MC version or aCR version of each question, resulting in MC answers and a control group of CR answers to eachstatics problem. The students were also polled for feedback regarding their preferences of testquestion format at the end of the semester.All the exams were graded by one professor, and the results showed little difference between thescores on the MC versus the CR versions of a question. The average score for the MC versionwas 80%, while the average score for the CR version was 76%. The high success rate on the MCversion shows that the students are not guessing, and are exhibiting an understanding of thematerial tested. Feedback from the students indicates that only 12% of the students are temptedto guess, while 75% are not tempted to guess. In addition, 68% of the students indicated that theyprefer MC to CR exam questions. Fifty-eight percent of the free answer comments from studentsindicate that the students like to be able to check their answer, get new ideas from the answers,and feel that the MC questions boost confidence during the exam.While MC questions may not be appropriate in all circumstances, the high performance on theMC questions, and similar performance on CR questions indicates that not only do students notguess at the answer, but also are able to show understanding of basic statics problems. MCquestions are good at testing calculations, but are poor at testing problem set up. The perceptionof easier exams may induce less studying by students, but reducing fear and text anxiety, andbuilding confidence in freshman engineering students can also encourage more students tocontinue in engineering, and therefore could improve engineering student retention.
Peuker, J. M., & Brock, J. M., & Peuker, S. (2013, June), Effect of Multiple Choice Testing on Student Performance in an Introductory Engineering Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/19475
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