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Multiple-choice Questions: Linking Teaching and Learning

This document provides criteria that may be considered when choosing and creating appropriate multiple choice questions.  Examples are drawn from the Social Studies 20 & 30 programs of study however the criteria and principles are applicable across programs of study.

Category 4: Teacher-developed Questions

These questions were developed for 30-1 and 30-2 by teachers in the Central Alberta Regional Consortium and Calgary Regional Consortium.
 
In constructing examinations with multiple-choice questions, teachers should consider these guidelines.

  • Use a blend of discrete questions and source-based questions.
  • Include a broad coverage of skills and processes and knowledge and understanding outcomes.
  • Include a variety of source types, such as maps, quotations, statistical tables, cartoons and posters.
  • Vary questions according to difficulty so that the majority of questions are of moderate difficulty and there are fewer easy and hard questions.
  • Ensure that the examination has an anticipated difficulty score that is reasonable and appropriate. The anticipated mean score of the assembled examination is calculated by assigning difficulty ratings to each question, adding up the individual question difficulties, and then dividing by the total number of items on the examination.

Sample Question

Use the following sources to answer the question.

SOURCE I

The co-operation and collegiality seen in the daily interactions of people support my belief that people are fundamentally reasonable and respectful of others.  Governments should not rule over people without their consent and the state needs to respect people's rights.

SOURCE II

The fact that war is a constant in human history is evidence that people live with violence and depend on force and cunning to survive.  The only way to achieve peace is for there to be a strong leader who would establish a government demanding complete obedience from the people.  A system of unlimited authority must then be granted to the government.

SOURCE III

When analyzing political perspectives, some argue that the average person is incapable of making responsible decisions, so it is acceptable for them to give up their individual rights in exchange for strong, decisive leadership.  Many would strongly oppose this idea, as they feel that each individual desires the challenge of citizenship, and should be allowed to demonstrate his or her abilities.  As such, they would argue that the leadership must answer to the people as the individuals are not only entitled to replace these leaders but are more than capable of doing so.

SOURCE IV

I believe that democracy, by ensuring that all individuals have a voice in government, would be a detriment to society as a whole.  One cannot ask the uneducated peasantry to make decisions that were previously made for them by the educated nobility.  In fact, the intellectually weak take comfort in the fact that difficult decisions are made for them by those with superior intellect.  This allows them to focus their time on their duties of labour.  If the peasantry were to receive the responsibility of decision making, the nation would face a lack of worldly direction and intellectuals would struggle to survive.

  

    Which of the following research questions is most directly addressed by these sources?

      1. To what extent has history shaped a country's political structure?
      2. To what extent does education play a role in political leadership?
      3. To what extent should a country's laws be constitutionally protected?
      4. To what extent should individuals participate in the political process?*

    Knowledge and Understanding 30-1 outcome:
    1.5 examine the characteristics of ideology (interpretations of history, beliefs about human nature, beliefs about the structure of society, visions for the future)

    Skills and Processes 30-1 outcomes:
    S.1.1 evaluate ideas and information from multiple sources
    S.1.2 determine relationships among multiple and varied sources of information

    Knowledge and Understanding 30-2 outcome:
    1.5 examine the characteristics of ideology (interpretations of history, beliefs about human nature, beliefs about the structure of society, visions for the future)

               

    Skills and Processes 30-2 outcomes:
    S.1.1 evaluate ideas and information from multiple sources
    S.1.2  determine relationships among multiple and varied sources of information
    S.1.9 identify main ideas underlying a position or issue

    This teacher-created source-based question meets all criteria. It addresses knowledge and understanding outcomes as well as skills and processes outcomes. The question requires students to analyze the quotation.

Sample Question

Use the following mind map from a Social Studies 30-1 student's research to answer the question.

    What research question is most likely at the heart of the student's inquiry?

    1. What factors may influence individual and collective beliefs and values?*
    2. What factors serve to undermine individual and collective values and beliefs?
    3. What are the key elements of a society that emphasizes individualism?
    4. What are the key elements of a collectivist society?

    Knowledge and Understanding 30-1 outcome:
    1.3 explore factors that may influence individual and collective beliefs and values (culture, language, media, relationship to land, environment, gender, religion, spirituality, ideology)

    Skills and Processes 30-1 outcome:
    S.1.8 assemble seemingly unrelated information to support an idea or to explain an event

    Knowledge and Understanding 30-2 outcome:
    1.3 explore factors that may influence individual and collective beliefs and values (culture, language, media, relationship to land, environment, gender, religion, spirituality, ideology)

    Skills and Processes 30-2 outcome:
    S.1.8 identify seemingly unrelated information to explain a concept or an event

    This teacher-created source-based question meets all criteria. It addresses knowledge and understanding outcomes as well as skills and processes outcomes. The question requires students to analyze the mind map, rather than simply recall factors that may influence collective beliefs and values.

Sample Question

    Which of the following opinion would most likely be opposed by someone who believes in the principle of self-interest?

    1. Competition between people leads to benefit for the collective good.
    2. Given the chance to do so, people are responsible in making choices.
    3. People operate best when they are given the freedom to think and act independently.
    4. Citizens are naturally motivated to place society's concerns ahead of personal concerns.*

    Knowledge and Understanding 30-1 outcome:
    1.7  analyze individualism as a foundation of ideology (principles of liberalism: individual rights and freedoms, self-interest, competition, economic freedom, rule of law, private property)

    Knowledge and Understanding 30-2 outcome:
    1.7.  examine individualism as a key value of ideology (values of liberalism: individual rights and freedoms, self-interest, competition, economic freedom, rule of law, private property)

    This teacher-created source-based question meets all criteria. It addresses the knowledge and understanding outcomes. The question requires students to apply an understanding of the concept of self-interest, rather than simply matching the term to its definition.

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Last updated: August 31, 2010 | (Revision History)
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