Essay Exams: Beyond Knowledge and Recall of Factual Information
Presenters: Amy Wilson-Delfosse and Klara Papp
March 24, 12 PM ET
A firmly held belief in medical education is that assessment drives learning. Students generally learn what they need to learn to succeed on required assessments. As part of our curriculum redesign a decade ago at Case Western Reserve University SOM, we switched from almost exclusively multiple-choice to open-ended essay type questions. The switch occurred after vigorous debate. The leadership believed that constructed response-type questions promoted more desirable study methods and required conceptual organization and synthesis of information on the students’ part more so than multiple choice. This shift was supported by our faculty. During this webinar, we will review our experience with open-ended assessments as well as the lessons learned using open-ended essay type questions for the assignment of student grades during Foundations of Medicine and Health. We will share a sampling of our faculty’s comments and insights regarding the assessment of student performance using open-ended essay type questions. We will explore evidence behind the commonly held view that open-ended items require that students both search for and retrieve information whereas multiple choice test items require only that students recognize and pick the correct answer out from among a list of incorrect choices (ironically enough, called distractors), i.e., that different assessment formats place different cognitive demands on students.
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