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Re-engineering the multiple choice question exam for social work

Heron, Gavin and Lerpiniere, Jennifer Anne (2013) Re-engineering the multiple choice question exam for social work. European Journal of Social Work. ISSN 1468-2664

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The aim of this study is to devise a multiple choice question (MCQ) exam that provides students with opportunities to engage in a deep approach to learning. Multiple choice assessment is largely unused in social work degree courses in the UK because of associations with techniques such as guessing and rote learning, which do not correspond with deep approaches to learning. Strategies used to enhance opportunities for a deep approach to learning within the MCQ exam used in this study included certainty-based marking (CBM), enhancing the use of formative feedback and giving students responsibility for devising the MCQs. Results show that students use similar levels of deep learning when they completed a MCQ exam compared to those students who completed an essay exam. The deep learning approach for the MCQ exam was, however, less when compared to a different module that used an essay assignment. There is an increasing pressure on Higher Education to provide more robust assessment practices, and findings in this study suggest it may be time for social work tutors to reconsider the role of the MCQ format within the existing range of assessment tools.