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Written Justifications to Multiple-Choice Concept Questions during Active Learning in Class

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International Journal of Science Education Volume 38, Number 11, ISSN 0950-0693


Increasingly, instructors of large, introductory STEM courses are having students actively engage during class by answering multiple-choice concept questions individually and in groups. This study investigates the use of a technology-based tool that allows students to answer such questions during class. The tool also allows the instructor to prompt students to provide written responses to justify the selection of the multiple-choice answer that they have chosen. We hypothesize that prompting students to explain and elaborate on their answer choices leads to greater focus and use of normative scientific reasoning processes, and will allow them to answer questions correctly more often. The study contains two parts. First, a crossover quasi-experimental design is employed to determine the influence of asking students to individually provide written explanations (treatment condition) of their answer choices to 39 concept questions as compared to students who do not. Second, we analyze a subset of the questions to see whether students identify the salient concepts and use appropriate reasoning in their explanations. Results show that soliciting written explanations can have a significant influence on answer choice and, when it does, that influence is usually positive. However, students are not always able to articulate the correct reason for their answer.


Koretsky, M.D., Brooks, B.J. & Higgins, A.Z. (2016). Written Justifications to Multiple-Choice Concept Questions during Active Learning in Class. International Journal of Science Education, 38(11), 1747-1765. Retrieved January 29, 2020 from .

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