Assessment Resource Center for History
Weighted Multiple-Choice Items
History does not present learners with discrete answers, but often requires them to make judgments based on evidence that may require a thoughtful interpretation. The items in this section are examples of weighted multiple-choice questions. In weighted multiple-choice items, several possible responses are offered, which are weighted according to defensibility. (VanSledright, 2011)
Teachers can explicitly assess historical thinking skills with weighted multiple-choice questions.
Historians piece together the best description of historical
- comparing the work of multiple historians. (1)
- consulting multiple sources to build an argument. (2)
- seeking believable evidence across multiple sources. (4)
- using only official records to determine what happened. (0)
While several of these responses have some relevance, “C” is clearly the most comprehensive response. Response “B” is certainly an important factor is piecing together historical events, but it does not address the credibility of the evidence. (VanSledright, 2011)
Teachers can also assess the student’s understanding of historical thinking in relation to specific content with weighted multiple-choice questions.
Historians argue that the “Boston Massacre” was most likely the result of
- British soldiers firing into a crowd of angry citizens (0)
- A crowd of citizens who taunted and threatened British soldiers (2)
- Lack of control by British soldiers who fired on innocent citizens (1)
- British solders panicked when confronted with potential violence (4)
Historical evidence from the trial of the British soldiers indicates that “D” is clearly the best response. While “B” has some credibility, it does not address the issues raised in the testimony of the soldiers who describe a confusing and terrifying scenario. Response “C,” while not without merit, discounts most of the historical evidence, which implies that the crowd was far from acting as “innocent civilians.” In addition, it portrays the soldiers as lacking in control or discipline, rather than terrified by an angry, armed mob. Although “A” indicates the crowd was angry, an incident cannot cause itself.
- Cold War/Nuclear Energy
- Grade Level
- High School
- Using the Item
- The question assesses the disciplinary reading skill of sourcing. A key component of sourcing is mining the source citation for information such as authorship (attribution) that might affect the source’s bias, perspective, reliability, etc. The issue of authorship is especially critical to this assessment item. In the process of analyzing the source, students should recognize that the source citation lists a different author than the cover page of the comic book. Students should understand that the citation provides definitive information about that source’s origin. Students should be able to determine that the creators of the comic book, the General Electric Company, and its “silent partner,” the United States Atomic Energy Commission, stood to benefit by persuading the public of the safety and efficiency of nuclear power.
To use this source for assessing historical thinking skills, students should first understand the wartime origins and application of atomic power and the public-private partnerships that characterized post-war nuclear power research.
- This document is a comic book produced by the General Electric Company in 1948.
- This document is a comic book that was produced by the General Electric Company in 1948 at the request of the public education manager at the Oak Ridge (Tennessee) Operations Office of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. At this time, just after the end of the Second World War, the federal government was beginning to search for civilian applications for atomic weapon technology. Laboratories that were established during the war for atomic bomb research and development were converted into facilities for investigating ways to generate electricity through atomic energy. The Atomic Energy Commission contracted with private industry to run these nuclear plants and laboratories and maintained tight oversight on their operation. The concept of nuclear power for civilian use was part of a grand vision for a technological future that included cheap energy to fuel the growing U.S. economy. The comic book was intended to explain the concept of atomic energy to the public and persuade them of the safety and efficiency of nuclear power.
Source: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Oak Ridge Operations Office, Assistant Manager for Public Information. Adventures Inside the Atom. 1948. Records of the Atomic Energy Commission. National Archives Identifier: 281568. National Archives and Records Administration. Accessed November 18, 2013. http://research.archives.gov/
All energy has always come from "out of this world." The far-off sun has given us indirectly the stored energy of coal and oil...the living energy of plants and animals (and of humans, too).
Today, scientists have found the source of almost unlimited power.
Here is the thrilling story of man's greatest adventure into the unkown...and his discovery of nature'S greatest secret!
This comic book was likely produced for what purpose?
- To explain the nature of nuclear energy to the average person (2)
- To promote the virtues of nuclear energy to the public (4)
- To increase sales of the comic book due to the popularity of nuclear energy (1)
- To warn foreign governments about the danger of a nuclear strike (0)
While “A” has some validity in that the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was seeking to educate the public about this new technology, the fact that the comic book was produced for the Commission by a power company that jointly operated a power plant should arouse suspicion about its potential bias. General Electric Company clearly had a financial interest in “selling” the idea of nuclear power to the public, and the United States government sought to allay the fears of citizens frightened of this powerful new technology, whose only application thus far had been military. Because the authors stood to gain from the promotion of nuclear power, “B” is the best response. While comic book sales might have increased due to the popular science topic, “C” is not the most credible response, particularly if the student carefully connects the producers of the comic book as the entities most likely to profit from nuclear power. “D” is obviously wrong in that the comic book is clearly about nuclear power, which was not directly associated with nuclear warfare.