We are organized creatures, the human race. We like to draw simple connections and classify our facts. Whether it includes dates, historical individuals, key terms, or classifications of scientific terms, facts are simple enough to assess: right or wrong. There are countless ways to test a student on facts, but matching questions can be one of the most effective for content creators as well as students. Let’s dig a bit deeper into why.
The Pedagogical Purpose
Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies the use of the word “match” in a question as Level I: Knowledge. Mastering this first level “exhibits memory of previously learned material by recalling fundamental facts, terms, basic concepts and answers about the selection.” Some instructors believe that a well-worded matching question may even qualify for Level II: Comprehension, if it asks students to truly organize and classify material appropriately.
But not all disciplines are a good fit for matching questions. Because they are firmly rooted in facts, matching questions should be left to the fact-based subjects; think objectivity over subjectivity. So sorry, literature and philosophy, this may not be right for you in many cases.
The Matching Effect
For content creators (and instructors), a matching question takes very little time to actually create, especially if you are working collaboratively with a team. It simply involves pulling together facts that are generally homogenous in nature (dates, for instance), separating the like concepts, and rearranging. They also save space by asking students to demonstrate quite a bit of knowledge in a small amount of real estate. Try testing as much content with multiple-choice questions or a fill-in-the-blanks, and instructors would have a lot more to grade. Space isn’t always an issue these days as it was when we relied on print, but most UI standards generally agree, the less scrolling you have, the happier the user.
The Diversity of Matching Questions
Matching doesn’t always mean there is a single connection to be made between Column A and Column B. Sometimes having more than one option deletes the guesswork and process-of-elimination effect, thus ushering you into Level II of Bloom’s. Consider using a combination of the following:
~Many to Many: This association asks learners to make as many connections to both right and left columns as they deem necessary. This is an interesting exercise when you want students to draw out a more intricate web of connected facts. The more complex the web, the more you may want to consider assigning partial credit.
~One to One: This is a classic for a reason. This association is exclusive, only one concept from the first column relates to one in the second.
~One to Many: This format allows the learner to relate one concept on the left to several on the right, so your columns will undoubtedly be uneven, heavier with content on the right.
~Many to One: This association is the inverse to One to Many and potentially more common as it asks you to pair concepts with larger organizational buckets.
A matching question example in MyEcontentFactory
Match Point: Best Practices in Writing a Matching Question
Just because this question type is easy to create doesn’t mean they can’t be poorly crafted. Keep these best practices in mind when crafting your own:
- Define your columns - Simply saying “match these” is poor practice. Defining the columns as “Date and Event” or “Key Term and Definition” clarifies the connection students need to pull out.
- Group like terms - Use homogenous options. So don’t have a column composed of a person, a date, a thing, a concept, and/or a number. The connections will be too evident.
- Be clear in your instruction - You know now how many options you have for matching. Let the students know that there may or may not be more than one connection available.
- Be brief - Avoid long blocks of text when possible. Longer readings in a matching question distracts the learner from the main point: making meaningful connections.
- Stay objective in your organization - We are creatures of habit, consciously or subconsciously. You may be organizing your matching questions (and their answers) in a similar pattern. Avoid students cracking the code by sticking to an objective ordering system: chronological or alphabetical. You can even look into a system that offers randomization for you, like MyEcontentFactory.
Your assessments speak volumes about your content. Utilizing the content authoring with the assessment building tools in MyEcontentFactory is the perfect match. With so many assessment options available in MEF, including matching, picking the right option for you can be tough. Stay tuned each month through our newsletter as we dissect every type of assessment option and how it can benefit you, the content creator, and the instructors/students you serve.
By Scott Greenan
Have any examples of matching questions you're proud of? Tell us about them in the comments below!