Philosophers' views on the use of non-essay assessment methods: Discussion of an e-mail survey

Stephen Palmquist*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper presents and discusses the results of an email survey which asked participants to share their views on the efficacy of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or matching questions as evaluation methods in philosophy courses. First, the structure of the survey and its contents are explained. Next, responses are broken down along the lines of student responses and teacher responses. In both cases, there was significant disagreement among respondents, though there were notable patterns emerged. Student arguments in favor of non-essay assessment emphasized the expedience; arguments against emphasized the inadequacy of such evaluation methods to the nuances of philosophical material. Teacher responses echoed student responses but included considerations of fairness, ambiguity in student answers, student motivation, and justifications for non-essay assessment in specific contexts. Finally, the author discusses respondents’ opinions on whether philosophy departments should ban non-essay questions. The author concludes by suggesting that the results of this survey merit attention as an indication of how widespread the difficulties of non-essay assessment are and as an indication of the diversity of views on the subject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-391
Number of pages19
JournalTeaching Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1998

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy


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