Part 1 of a 3-part series
Web conferencing solutions are flush with tools that help you really connect with an audience you can’t see. Polls – web conferencing’s version of a multiple choice question – are among the most popular.
What tools don’t teach you, though, are the skills to use them well. It is skills that separate great presenters and facilitators from the ones we otherwise put on speakerphone while getting caught up on email.
What follows is not an exhaustive academic treatment of writing multiple-choice questions, but it should jumpstart how you add some immediate impact to your use of polls. (Click on the graphic below to better see the example.)
Write the “stem” so it could be answered without the choices
In official lingo, the stem is the question or statement that leads up to the multiple choices. I hope it goes without saying that is should be focus on only one clearly formulated problem. Write the “stem” so it could be answered without the choices
Put most of the wording in the stem
Your objective should be to minimize how many times the attendee or learner has to read each item.
Shoot to make it easy for them to read the stem (the first part of the question before the answers) once and the answers as few times as possible.
Keep all options parallel and grammatically consistent
Inconsistency makes the brain work harder. We do want attendees or learners to have to think (is critical for engagement and learning), but we don’t want them churning brain cycles figuring out something that’s poorly written.
Brush up using this great reminder of parallel structure.
Write answers so they don’t unintentionally give away clues to the correct answer
Is the length of the correct answer in proportion? Is there a verbal or idiomatic clue that relates the answer to the stem? Are the “distractors” (wrong answers) plausible? Are the answers in an order that may give something away?
- Vary the length of all the answers or make them all about the same.
- Make sure there isn’t a word association that gives it away.
- Stimulate thought by ensuring the distractors are reasonably logical choices.
- Arrange the answers in alphabetical or numerical order.
The bottom line
The skill of writing better multiple choice questions is useful, obviously, beyond poll in webinars, webcasts, and virtual classes. What’s a little extra fun is that now on you’ll notice poorly written poll questions everywhere. Even if they don’t know, you do.
And it’s the little things that make big differences.
Welcome to The Grammar Geek Club.