In the meantime, here's rule one of turning standardized testing or in fact any teaching into a good learning system for retention. I believe this three-step bit of cornballadvice comes from some old Borscht Belt comedian, I'm told it's from Henny Youngman although I've not confirmed it, but it is great advice for any speech or any teaching unit: (1) Tell em what ya wanna tell em. (2) Tell em. (3) Tell em what ya told em.
I'm going to use the multiple choice tests in my ten-minute Coursera class in this way, as a great way not just to find out what students have learned but as a way to summarize what the unit is about....to tell em what I told em.
Here's a tidbit from the segment "audition" I'll tape next week onon multiple choice testing. I'll pass on advice from my friend Jonathan Sterne, a professor in media studies and one of the brilliant theorists of sound I know. He teaches huge lecture classes at McGill University and spends a lot of time thinking about effective pedagogies even within that highly restrictive form. This year he blogged about his workaround for the end of grade multiple tests that he knows, from his extensive reading, are limited. His learning solution to a rigid form is simple, brilliant, effective. If you subscribe to the Chronicle of Higher Education, you can find his column here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/multiple-choice-exam-theory/45275for To summarize, he invitest students to bring in one page of notes that they sign and hand in with the test. They could be an art exhibit! But the real learning opportunity is the cognitive challenge of reducing an entire course to one page, and organizing it for the text, not the test itself.
That's my goal in this upcoming "History and Future of Higher Education" course. I hope HASTAC network members will contribute their ideas too so we can spread the word.