The next time your child is working through a multiple choice paper you may care to consider one of the major objections to this form of testing – namely the display of wrong answers may lead to an association developing where the wrong answers may be recalled. If your child is only shown the correct answer – that is relevant to the task in hand – then the correct response is reinforced.
We know that correct answers need to be praised and rewarded – but incorrect answers need to be explained. When your child is sitting in the classroom, and offers the wrong answer, the teacher may not have time to explain why the answer is wrong. It is more likely that the teacher will move to the next child with his or hand up in the search for the right answer.
Of course almost every parent will be explaining and encouraging their child to look for the multiple choice `red herrings’. These are the answers which could possibly be the right answer – but careful analysis should explain why the answer simply can not be correct. The red herrings need to be discarded thus allowing closer examination of the possible answers. I have seen some children actively crossing out the `impossible’ answers thus allowing a closer focus on the more likely alternatives.
Unfortunately not all eleven plus practice papers can be carefully written, tested and verified before they are unleashed on the unsuspecting public. Children sometimes bring in parts of papers they have downloaded from the internet where the multiple choice answers are highly creative – but sometimes downright misleading.
It would be interesting to read research done how much progress children actually make by working through many different styles of multiple choice papers. We hear about children whose eleven plus diet is made up of working through multiple choice papers. It is difficult to know what the impact of this style of learning will have when the GCSE and `A’ level topics are studied. Does a child really acquire a feeling for the structure of the subject if he or she has been exposed to working though little windows of multiple choice questions?
There is no doubt that on-line lessons and on-line multiple choice are part of the present and the future of eleven plus work. It is not so clear, however, what impact this form of learning and examination will have on a child’s perception of what actually constitutes examination preparation.