Friday, June 17, 2011

Test Questions

First rose of the season from my Grandma rosebush

It is a beautiful day in Michigan. Here I sit in my little office, looking out over my growing garden as bunches of baby birds are at the feeders  trying to figure out how to get to the seed, suit, or sap.  I am writing testbank questions for textbooks. I think I have written a million multiple choice questions over the years. I would rather be outside.  I am sure that anyone who is taking a multiple choice exam for a school midterm or final, licensing or certification would rather be outside as well.  Lots of test anxiety out there. I stuggle with students as they struggle to rise above the fear of a multiple choice exam. Just like those baby birds many sit there at the computer screen trying to figure out how to get to the answer to a question.  Today a baby woodpecker ended up perching on my lawn chair on the porch looking at me right in the window. What a terrified confused look the poor thing had on its birdy face.  That look was similar to students taking multiple choice exams. There is a discussion going on among us so called experts in the field prompted by COMTA- the Commission on Massage Training and Accreditation updating the standards surrounding the deliverly of online education. Many of the massage educatonal community are like that little confused woodpecker when it comes to the new technology. Us old birds did not grow up with computers let a lone tablets and androids and blackberrys and so forth. We have to adapt however or go extinct.  The National Certification Board released more information about the new Advanced Practice exam.

 I am very supportive of this development but guess what- more multple choice exams questions this time designed to measure thinking and decision making instead of remembering definitions and locations of anatomy and the like.  There are different types of  multiple choice questions. Level 1 questions are typically based on remembering what a term is or where something is.  Level 2 questions attempt to measure if a person actually understands what they remember and can put some pieces together.  Most of the questions I have been writing  today are level 2 type.  An example of this kind of question might look like this-

A massage therapist is working with a client that is anxious at night and it interferes with sleep.  Which of the following neurotransmitters could be involved?

a. norephinephrine
b. fibroblast
 c. hypothalamus
d. acetometophin
You have to remember the definitions of all the words first and then you have to understand the relationship of the client symptom to the neurotransmitter.  Well this is easy because norephinephrine is the only neurotransmitter on the list but I had to make sure that it had some affect on the sleep wake cycle become I could use it for a wrong answer.

The Advanced  Practice Exam is being developed with the next level questions.  Level 3 questions are -figure it out and choose the best answer- questions. Those are really hard to write but this type of multiple choice question really can measure the ability to used critical thinking skills necessary in advance massage practice. Advanced does not necessary mean hard and obscure stuff to remember. Advanced means you can take the information  provided by a client or a test question and figure out and justify what is the best way to approach the situation.  This is exciting. That little baby woodpecker was a novice.  He/she(hard to tell when babies) could fly but not very well, knew the feeder was on the porch but was facing the wrong way and when finially finding the feeder the mommy and daddy birds had to show how to get the suet out. This happens every year at this suet feeder.  I am not sure if it is the same nesting pair but the parents line the babies up and show them how to eat from the suet feeder. What a mess they make and these is a lot of waste until the inexperience birds get better with practice.  Makes me thinks of new graduates from massage school.  Not everything can be taught in online delivery but any topic I would lecture or use a powerpoint or where the student was listening instead of doing can be delivered with technology. I responded to the COMTA survey and for the most part I agreed. Where I did not agree it was because the standards appeared too rigid in an attempt to make sure that the online education was done "right". Teaching is not a level 1 or 2 process.     All level three multiple choice questions assume that the text taking has been able to answer the Level 1 and level 2 questions.  If you cannon remember or understand you can't figure it out.  The standards COMTA is proposing cover  the foundational information but just a couple of them would not allow for the development of level three expertise. I have implemented the online anatomy and physiology course that accompanies Mosby's Essential Sciences for Therapeutic Massage. The school is three years into it now and just like the baby woodpeckers we got much better with practice.  We have to make room for practice however to become Advanced.  And this ends my wandering around the topics.  I willl write five more questions and the reward myself with a wander around the garden.

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