Alberta Grade 12 Math and Science Exams to be All Multiple Choice

I recently read an article about how the government of Alberta has changed the grade 12 Math and Science exams to be all multiple choice exams as an attempt to save money.

The only good things that I can see out of this is that it will help relieve some of the stress students may be feeling and that exam periods will be shortened.  However, this just doesn’t outweigh the negatives and this may not necessarily even reduce a whole lot of stress from students because some students rely on partial marks from showing work to do well on an exam.

One thing that I found interesting about this article is that they didn’t offer a point of view of a supporter of this change.  They did, however, include an interview with a teacher who is a critic of this change.  I feel that she was spot on and brought up the most important points about how this isn’t a good change at all.  These points include:

  • “It’s not just about the answer, it’s about how you get there.”  I feel that this is the most important point noted because what Alberta is implementing highly discourages students to think about process and understanding and puts a high importance on just getting the answer and not showing work.  Math and Science can teach so many types of thinking such as problem solving and critical thinking but teachers can not properly check if students have developed this thinking if exams are multiple choice and only the answer is marked.  Also I feel that this would completely contradict what we have been taught in my education math classes because there is a HUGE emphasis on placing equal emphasis, if not more, on marking students on their work to solve the problem rather than just the answer.
  • This leads to the next point stated: some skills cannot be tested on multiple choice exams.  “Science is fundamentally about ‘curiosity and wonderment’ . . . and multi-choice exams can’t measure those qualities.”  Not only does multiple choice exams not teach curiosity and wonderment, it also doesn’t test students on their cognitive thinking, problem solving, and retrieval thinking for both Math and Science.
  • “There are better ways of finding $1.7 million in an entire government’s budget than to remove that one portion of the diploma exams where the students can truly show how they can figure things out and get partial marks for what they know.”  Out of $80 million that the government has cut from the education budget, 1.7 million is less than half a percent! This little of a cut from the budget is not worth what usual testing can show teachers.

Overall, I feel that the Alberta government is making a huge mistake in changing grade 12 Math and Science exams to be all multiple choice.  I don’t see the little benefits it has overcoming the large negatives about this change.  This article hit it spot on when discussing the negatives and I see why they only chose to include an interview with an educator who is a critic of the change.

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