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principles

Overview of application of seven principles in relation to MCQs


Figure 2 summarises the ways in which multiple-choice tests can be used to support
learner self-regulation based on the seven feedback principles. The case studies
which follow provide worked examples of application drawn from the research
literature. In the case studies, the feedback principles are identified within actual
Figure 1. Seven principles of good feedback practice
Using multiple-choice tests to good effect 55
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learning designs. The first two case examples highlight the operation of one or two
principles. However, considerable power is gained when a number of feedback
principles are combined within the same learning design. Case studies 3 and 4 show
ways in which this combination can be achieved.
Case study 1: fundamentals of human physiology
A typical use of MCQs is with first-year courses with large numbers of students. Bull
and Danson (2004) describe a ‘fundamentals of human physiology’ module
Figure 2. Mapping the use of MCQs to the seven principles of good feedback practice
56 D. Nicol
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intended to prepare students for their second year of study. Before the introduction
of MCQs there were three coursework assignments. Although many students passed
these three assignments, many still failed the examination. Part of the problem was
that the feedback was coming too late, halfway through the module. MCQs were
introduced as a replacement for one of the assignments and comprised a series of five
computer-delivered multiple-choice tests staged through the duration of the module.
Each test was related to the teaching material for the previous two weeks of lecturing
and the students received feedback on their answers after each test. More
importantly, the lecturer examined which questions students had performed poorly
on and used this information to provide extra feedback support in those specific
areas at a subsequent seminar. Bull and Danson (2004) report that ‘through the
feedback students gained a clear idea of how they were progressing with the course
and were motivated to follow up some of the feedback suggestions regarding further
reading and research’ (p. 10).

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