Multiple-Choice Versus Short Answer Items in Assessing Students’ Mathematical Skills: Evidence from Secondary Schools in Tanzania
Assessment plays a crucial role in improving teachers’ classroom practices. The information gathered from the assessment informs teachers about students’ learning progress. Multiple-choice items (MCIs) as one of the assessment tools have been used to assess mathematical skills at different educational levels in the world, including Tanzania. However, there has been an outcry that some pupils pass the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and join secondary education without mastering basic mathematical skills. This study aimed to (i) determine the extent to which MCIs and Short Answer Items (SAIs) assess students’ mathematical skills and (ii) determine whether there is a difference in assessing students’ mathematical skills in secondary schools between MCIs and SAIs. 387 Form I students from four public and two private secondary schools participated in the study. Data were collected using two equivalent mathematics tests and analysed using descriptive statistics. The findings revealed that MCIs had a high mean score of 30.44, and SAIs had a relatively low mean score of 26.2028. The study further found that only 7.49% of students-maintained scores in MCIs and SAIs, while 81.65% and 10.85% had scored higher in MCIs and SAIs, respectively. The study recommends that an effective assessment tool should contain more SAIs than MCIs due to their relative advantage in assessing students’ mathematical skills as opposed to MCIs
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