I administered multiple choice exams from 1973-78 until I realized how trivial and insulting the questions were. Students needn’t have read the text; Cliffsnotes would’ve done nicely. The exams also encouraged laziness in myself. A quick scoring by machine, a few (or many) clickety-clacks, and the grade was recorded. And I hadn’t prepared the entire exam by myself—parts came from a testing service. In effect I was saying: “I don’t have time to evaluate your progress.” Since then, I have used essay questions that grow out of the discussions, lectures, and readings. I no longer teach to the exam but write the exam based on the teaching. My exams encourage students to develop and sustain a critical argument, identify and outline essentials, subordinate details, and develop a sense of perspective. I have learned to make exams a part of the learning process rather than a mere test of it.
--Dale Salwak, Citrus College, Glendora, California
35 years of teaching