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The effect of two types of assignment on performance on examinations in high school Holt, John Cyril

Abstract

The aim of this study was to compare the effects of two types of study assignment on the achievements of high school students on three types of biology examination. One examination consisted of objective questions, a second of subjective questions of the short essay type, while the third was a combination of objective and subjective questions. One type of assignment consisted of questions of the objective type, the other of questions of the short essay type. Of related interest were the possible effects of a high percentage of objective examination questions, on the use by teachers of essay assignments. An experiment of the matched parallel groups type was carried out. The experimental variable was the type of study assignment given, consisting of either objective or short essay questions. The duration of the experiment was six weeks, the academic subject field was biology, the groups received similar teaching, and comparisons were made on the results of specially constructed tests administered before and after the teaching period. Each test consisted of an objective examination and an essay examination. The mean gains of the two groups on each type of examination were compared. Results on what could be considered a mixed examination were obtained by combining the results of the objective and essay examinations. The objective and essay parts were weighted in such a way that the mixed examination could be considered to resemble the type of examination in biology set by the British Columbia Department of Education. A final comparison was made between students’ results on the experimental tests and on the actual departmental examination. Attempts were made to establish the validity and reliability of the objective test but it was not possible to establish any particular degree of validity or reliability for the essay test. After statistical treatment, it was found that there was no significant difference at the five percent level between the results of the groups on any of the three experimental tests. Some difficulty was experienced in comparing the results of the experimental tests with those of the departmental examination. This was due to the system of recommendation which does not require the top-sixty percent to write the departmental examination, making it impossible to obtain a representative sample for comparison in this study. Certain conclusions were drawn subject to the limitations of the tests and of the general, experimental conditions. Comparing the use of objective and essay study assignments: (1) there seemed to be no difference in the effect on the results on an objective test. Teachers and their students might feel free to use either type of study assignment in biology, (2) nothing in the study indicated any difference in the effect on an essay test, (3) nothing in the study indicated any difference in the effect on a combined objective-essay test of the type used by the Department of Education, nothing in the study indicated that the use of one type of study assignment rather than the other would hamper a student's chances of success on a biology examination of the type set by the Department of Education. In summary it may be said that the type of examination in biology set by the British Columbia Department of Education did not appear to place any restriction on the type of study assignment used in high schools, provided that the assignments were comprehensive in their cover of the material under study.

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