Testing Higher-Order Cognition: MCQs Versus MEQs

The popular perception of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) is that they can only test recall. They are also more often than not used for this purpose. For more “serious” testing—that is, for testing analytical ability and the ability to apply learned material—educators often look to the modified essay question (MEQ). This seems to be true across all testing scenarios from academia to business environments.

It’s sometimes an important question for a course/presentation designer: “How long is the average attention span?” or “How long can a person stay focused on a topic?”

It’s a practical question, and you can make important decisions based on that elusive answer. But stay on the question long enough and you’ll see that there isn’t an answer. “How long is the average attention span?” It depends—on too many things.

Ask “What is the role of colour in our lives” and you’ll get one of two responses -- “Yes, colours influence us in many ways,” and “Hmm, perhaps they do… I don’t really know.”

In military instructional institutions around the world, it is customary to begin lessons with a couple of minutes of jokes. This is done with military precision, so it might or might not have the desired effect of lightening up the audience — but the principle holds. You’ve probably come across instructors who spend a few minutes saying something goofy, cracking a couple of jokes, and then proceeding with the lecture. Why do they do it at all?

Too much multimedia in learning content is analogous to too much Flash on websites. Not in terms of what purpose the multimedia serves, but in the sense of visual/auditory overload.

Should you listen to music while working?

Well, it's an individual preference. While it is scientifically proven that listening to music enhances your ability to focus and concentrate, some individuals work better in complete silence.

This is a follow-up on a previous post about the application of brain research (whether neuroscience or any other) to instructional design, courseware design, and learning in general. There are three things I'm sure about.

Between July 2010 and now, there have been many opinions and posts about brain research and ID, so I thought I'd take a first-hand look at what research I could lay my mouse on.