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SDUUP | Newsletter March 2021

Multiple Choice Questions as a Teaching Activity

Mette Marie Hougaard Christensen has integrated multiple choice questions (MCQ’s) directly into her teaching. She describes MCQ’s as a great tool for engaging students and explains that you can avoid many of the challenges of the format if you spend time researching its strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, she explains that it is easy to get started using MCQ’s in teaching environments.

Background knowledge about the MCQ format improves the quality of questions

Mette Marie has used MCQs in many of the courses she teaches – but it was not until she acquired more background knowledge about the format through the Lecturer Training Programme (LTP) that she learned how to use MCQs to work with applied knowledge:

I have always used MCQs in my courses, but without really knowing anything about the format. After finishing my LTP, I was way better suited to working with MCQs and thus chose to return to all the questions I used in my courses and update them. This has absolutely made a difference in the quality of my questions, as I have started to work much more with applied knowledge at a higher taxonomic level. In my teaching team, we have also gotten better at creating the questions, as we have certain quality criteria for them – I also have a chart which I check to make sure my questions are posed in a pedagogical manner.

Multiple Choice is a great tool for creating engaging teaching formats

Mette Marie sees the fact that MCQs can be used to support engaging teaching formats as a huge advantage and also points out, that using MCQs can make it more accessible for students to contribute in class – however, taking advantage of the format requires some background knowledge, which she and her team has gained through SDUUP:

Using MCQ in teaching is no walk in the park, as it certainly requires you to have some background knowledge. To acquire this, I have used SDUUP’s course and have also had them guide my colleagues, which means that we have built up a great knowledge base as a team and are able to help improve and comment on each other’s questions, while we continuously help each other work with MCQs in the best way possible. I find that MCQs support learning in a great way as they are both engaging, help create small breaks in the lecture and create a safe space for students to contribute during lectures.

Important not to view MCQs as a one-size-fits-all solution

Mette Marie points out, that because the MCQ format appears easily accessible, it is sometimes viewed as a one-size-fits-all solution. However, this is far from the case:

One of the challenges of MCQ is that it is too easy to test factual knowledge instead of applied knowledge. And especially during COVID-19, where a lot of exam forms had to be changed, I have experienced cases, where MCQ was used as a one-size-fits-all solution without considering in which kind of knowledge, you want to test the students, or how to ask the best questions. When you do that, MCQs lose a lot of their value. Another challenge to MCQs might also be your own skills and creativity when coming up with the questions – as it is not exactly easy to pose a great MCQ.

Getting started with using MCQ is easy

In spite of the challenges in using MCQs and the importance of having knowledge about the format before you start using it, Mette Marie still recommends that teachers use MCQs in their courses – especially since she does not find it that hard to get a hold on:

I have especially used SDUUP’s courses and the tools and resources I gained through the course to improve my MCQs – and through those resources I have also been able to introduce my colleagues to ways in which they could improve their own MCQ. Thus, I find that it does not take much to raise the bar for the questions you create – and I can absolutely recommend getting your colleagues to look through your questions. One of the things that was of great help to my teaching team is that SDUUP also support clinical departments, which has given us great opportunities for working with MCQs and has created more unity within our team.

About the Teacher

Mette Marie Hougaard Christensen is a Chief Physician and Clinical Lecturer at OUH and has used MCQ’s when teaching Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Southern Denmark.

Editing was completed: 24.03.2021