Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Problem with Multiple Choice for ADHD and Learning Disabled Students

I know a lot of teachers like the format of multiple choice tests and assessments. For them, it is easier to grade because there is a clear right and wrong answer. No questions, just clear straight results. But for some students, it not so clear. Multiple choice questions and answers present a level of difficulty that is hard for most people without ADHD or learning disorders to understand.

Think of it this way:

Question- There are many colors in the rainbow, but only three are considered primary colors. In the following options, choose the primary color.
     (a)  Green
     (b) Yellow
     (c) Purple
     (d) Orange

For most of non-ADHD and non-Learning Disabled students, the clear answer is (b) Yellow. But for your SES students, there is an internal dialogue happening in regards to the answer. Why? Because when they were learning about primary colors to begin with, they were analyzing the specific colors, referencing them and categorizing them in many different groups, most of which had nothing to do with the correct organizational technique you were probably teaching them. They categorized them in "My favorite color" and "The colors that look pretty together" and "The outside has this many colors when it is raining, sunny, cloudy..."

So let's look back at the question: Primary colors is the focus of the question but when you are looking through the answers, none accurately describe the student's belief about primary colors because they haven't connected that Primary does NOT mean their favorite. It means that it is the basis of all other colors. Even if you repeat this concept over and over and over again in your lesson, they still can't connect it to the answers. They make no sense. It becomes especially difficult when Secondary teachers take abstract concepts that have a multitude of different meanings and connections and ask students to pick factual details out of the general text. It is like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks. The focus isn't there. The attention to detail isn't there. The motivation to memorize factual details isn't there. They group and generalize so differently that is becomes virtually impossible to be able to find the correct answer out of 4.

To answer this issue, I like to make my questions short answer or explanation based. They can meander through their categories until they find the one that makes the correct connections you are asking about without the fear of only one correct answer. It provides them with an opportunity to fell successful when other traditional testing models don't work that well. This is the reason why I don't have students take tests on their reading and focus my efforts on creating analytical questions for the novels I teach.

If you are interested in some of these novel units and trying a different method of teaching, please check out these fun and dynamic novel units.


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