Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stuff Teachers Like #2- Scantrons

This week is “Stuff Teacher’s Like” week on Teaching Underground.  We know the idea is “borrowed” from several other sites that have perfected the “Stuff____Like” model, but we haven’t seen anything out there from teachers.  So, in no particular order, here it is. 

Do I really need to elaborate?  This entry might anger some, but take a minute to think about the benefits of the Scantron.  I know of very few classes that don’t make use of multiple-choice assessments in some form.  Even if multiple choice is not a teacher’s preferred method of testing, at some point nearly everyone will use it.

The main problem as I see it-- teachers who over-rely on the multiple choice assessment and scantron out of laziness.  But in my situation, I have 155 AP Psychology students who will take a multiple choice AP test in the spring.  For every 50-question test I give, that translates to 7,750 answers.  Multiply that by 16 assessments in the school year and that equals 124,000 questions to grade.  If it takes one second to grade a multiple-choice question by hand, that would be over 34 hours of grading this school year. 

Thanks to the magic of Scantron, 155 tests, 16 times a year equals 2,480 tests.  Graded at a rate of one test per second, that adds up to about 41 minutes of grading over the course of a year.  Honestly, how smart would I be if I chose to spend 34 hours grading something that could be done in less than one hour with comparable quality?

Can anyone top that as a time saver?  I challenge anyone to name one piece of technology that has saved you more than 33 hours in a year.


  1. Sorry but I must respectfully take issue with Scantron technology.

    To me the root cause of teachers loving Scantrons is the fact like yourself, teachers are overburden with having too many students to teach.

    In my idea of a perfect world, you would only have 20 students per class and only teach 3 classes a day.

    If that were the case, wouldn't teachers then be less reliant on tests that were graded by machines?

    Of course I am biased. I hated multiple choice test especially the ones that ask for the "best" answer instead of the "right" answer.

    Also, I think the multiple choice test has become a major downfall of education in America as politicians have found it a cheap and easy way to supposedly evaluated teachers.

    Sorry... I respect what you do and admire you having to deal with some many students but if you elect me King I will give you less students and fewer classes but I will also outlaw multiple choice tests. :)

  2. I'll give you all of that, and agree with what you've said. But while you're still just a Knight in the King's army and I'm still assessing 155 students every 2.5 weeks-- you know where I'm going.

    I'll take the trade of 20 students and 3 classes a day in exchange for burning the Scantron.

  3. I like scantrons. I teach social studies and there are a lot of "wrong" answers when it comes to the lower taxonomy(facts). When we interpret the past, that is where the divergent thinking comes in and we get into the right versus best.

    In my case after we give a scantron test we "discuss" them the next class It is an opportunity for students to get feedback on specific questions and also to challenge the validity of questions and responses. They reflect on the difference between the answers in a way I feel is beneficial. They can earn points back by supporting their positions about why a question was flawed or why another answer choice should be correct. Almost like a courtroom, they learn communication skills, logic, reasoning and also how to choose their battles.

    I think as long as they are one part of the teachers toolbelt scantrons are fine. They are efficient for a school as well since they are cheap. Why I hate them is when I have more than one kid fail to put their name on them.

  4. Rich, I like the teacher tool-belt comment. I think that is the key. There is a place for many things in education if used wisely and skillfully. It always seems ironic to me that education professors and educational administrators bemoan lectures, but when they teach or present in class or at conferences, what do they do? You guessed it, show slides and talk.

    Students may not find very many multiple choice tests in the real world, but when facts are important and basic recognition is needed (and it is from time to time) then Multiple Choice is effective.

    But in college, I did avoid the classes that tested exclusively with MC. I never felt that it allowed me the chance to express what I really knew.