While preparing for my presentation at last week’s ConnectEd Summit, I started brainstorming some ideas for using free-response questions with classroom response systems, particularly systems involving mobile devices (especially smart phones) as response devices. As with my last three posts, I’m just brainstorming here, but I think some of these ideas have interesting potential.
Brainstorming – Speaking of brainstorming, starting a class or unit with a question that asks students to generate lots of ideas (good, bad, or neither) can often be an effective way to prepare students for subsequent discussion or problem solving. Multiple-choice questions don’t facilitate brainstorming, but free-response questions certainly do.
Create Questions - Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives has six categories–recall, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. It’s possible to ask very useful multiple-choice questions that fall in the first five of those categories, although writing analyze and evaluate questions can be challenging. However, multiple-choice questions just don’t work for asking students to create something. Free-response questions, however, have the potential to target this higher-level learning objective.
The Long Tail - Clickers do a great job of helping instructors identify common student misconceptions and difficulties. This is useful because it helps instructors make efficient use of limited class time, addressing questions shared by large numbers of students. But what about less common student misconceptions and difficulties? Particularly ones not anticipated by instructors and thus not included in answer choices to multiple-choice questions? Free-response questions can help to surface these less common student difficulties. You might call this the “long tail” of student questions about a particular concept.
These are fairly basic uses of free-response questions. In my next post, I’ll share a few uses that are perhaps a little more innovative.